5 Non-Medicinal Treatments for PTSD

The National Center for PTSD explains that the most effective treatments for post traumatic stress disorder involve medication or different types of therapy. While research has proven that various medications drastically improve symptoms, there are many non-medical alternative approaches that are just as beneficial. Five such non-medical alternative treatments for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, sound therapy, mind-body medicine and practicing mindfulness.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This non-medicinal treatment method focuses on helping individuals recognize and overcome destructive thoughts. Negative thoughts and faulty coping methods further exacerbate PTSD symptoms, and refocusing these thoughts with more accurate cognition has shown to be highly effective. Various strategies like mindfulness and mind-body medicine are used to help overcome anxiety and fear. This method relies on active collaboration between the therapist and patient, so the patient must be willing to share his or her experiences with a trusted therapist.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a technique that has been approved by the American Psychiatric Association and U.S. Veterans Administration as an alternative, non-medicinal approach to treating PTSD. The practice involves the patient thinking about the negative image or thoughts and the body sensations they feel. While doing this, the patient is asked to move their eyes back and forth and follow the therapist's fingers. This technique allows the patient to re-experiencing their trauma in a safe environment, without being required to verbally tell someone sensitive details. A comprehensive list of international EMDR practitioners can be found on EMDR Institute's website.

Sound Therapy

Psychologists have found that certain sounds, especially music, can greatly impact mood and behavior. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recently begun researching the effects of music therapy on veterans suffering from PTSD. Their initial pilot studies have shown positive results including reduced depression and an overall improved quality of life. Naturespace, an innovate 3-D holographic sound app, works as a tool for managing anxiety by playing calming nature sounds. This sensory mindfulness subconsciously tells the brain that the surrounding environment is safe, which triggers a calming bodily response. Those who suffer from chronic anxiety have found the app very beneficial.

Mind-body Medicine

Mind-body medicine trains your mind to focus on the body. These techniques use the power of thoughts and emotions to influence your overall physical well-being. Western medical views and practices stand in opposition to such practices and tend to focus on the opposite, yet many individuals find relief using these methods. Meditation, acupuncture, yoga and other exercise training all fall in this category. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that around 40 percent of those diagnosed with PTSD use alternative, non-medicinal treatment methods to address their problems. Mind-body treatments, such as meditation or exercise therapy, were the most frequently reported alternative or complementary therapy method.


Mindfulness is a state of mind in which the individual maintains a moment-by-moment awareness of the body, surrounding environment, feelings and thoughts. This technique requires the patient to actively practice staying in the moment. Recently, the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System united to study the impact of mindfulness. The results were astonishing. Researchers could physically measure changes in brain activity in MRI scans of those veterans who went through mindfulness training.

Five non-medical alternative treatments for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, sound therapy, mind-body medicine and practicing mindfulness. Trauma symptoms are very specific for different individuals, so not all types of therapy may be appropriate in every case. Various medications are certainly not discouraged, but there are plenty of alternative options for those suffering from PTSD.