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Toward Understanding the Usefulness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses: Classification of Perceived Benefits

Russinova, Zlatka PhD*; Cash, Dane PhD (Cand.)*; Wewiorski, Nancy J. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: January 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 1 - p 69-73
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31819251fe
Brief Report

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been gaining interest among individuals with serious mental illnesses. Yet, very little is known about how CAM may be beneficial to mental health. This study explored the specific benefits attributed to CAM by a national sample of 255 individuals with a serious mental illness who experienced CAM as having a positive impact on their mental health. Data about the CAM benefits were gathered through open-ended questions embedded in a mail survey that examined the patterns of CAM use in this population. Qualitative analysis revealed a wide spectrum of benefits that encompassed all major areas of human functioning, including physical, emotional, cognitive, self, social, spiritual, and overall functioning, and addressed both the improvement of psychiatric symptomatology and the promotion of functional recovery. Study findings provide useful information that can guide both everyday clinical practice and future research on the efficacy of CAM for psychiatric populations.

*Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; and †The National Center on Family Homelessness, Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

This work was supported by a grant (H133B90023) jointly funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Center for Mental Health Services, a division of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, USA Department of Education.

Send reprint requests to Zlatka Russinova, PhD, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University, 940 Commonwealth Ave West, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail:

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of NIDRR or the CMHS, but are the sole responsibility of the authors.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.