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+ A Quick Guide to Alternative Therapies

Reiki, Watsu, naturopathy—more and more destination spas in Asia are offering non-traditional treatments. But how do you make sure you’re getting the real deal? JENNIFER CHEN offers these practical tips on how to approach complementary and alternative medicine for those who are interested.  

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH Before you take the plunge, research what kind of therapy is best suited for the issue you want to resolve. Back problems? Acupuncture might do the trick, whereas stress-related issues might require a multi-faceted approach. “Do what feels natural or what you’re interested in,” suggests Tina Horrell, an Australian naturopath who works at Bangkok’s Tria Integrative Medical Institute. She also adds that patients should take into account their level of commitment—some therapists might ask you to make extensive lifestyle changes. Whatever therapy you pick, look into what it involves, any research that shows its efficacy, and above all, any warnings and possible side effects. Also, ask a practitioner how many treatments you need.
 
2. CHECK OUT YOUR PRACTITIONER’S QUALIFICATIONS In the West, naturopaths are required to register with a governing body and masseurs are required to obtain licenses. But in Asia, only traditional Chinese medicine is rigorously regulated. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of unqualified people out there passing themselves off as experts,” admits Emma Scasni, a naturopath at Kamalaya wellness resort on Koh Samui. Take Hong Kong, where naturopaths regularly style themselves as “Doctor,” despite not having a doctorate. Don’t be shy about asking for qualifications and experience. Honest practitioners will be upfront—Horrell points out that she has her degrees printed on her business cards to reassure patients. It’s also worth noting that well-established resorts—such as Kamalaya and Chiva Som—will only hire therapists and counselors with proper qualifications.
 
3. SAFETY FIRST Qualifications are essential to make sure you don’t suffer any injuries in any therapies. If something doesn’t feel right, stop immediately. When it comes to acupuncture, it’s vital that disposable needles are used.
 
4. LET YOUR DOCTOR KNOW Some alternative therapy practitioners would disagree with this point, claiming long-standing prejudices makes most doctors skeptical. Conversely, some in the alternative medical world have a chip on their shoulders when it comes to conventional medicine, convinced that their methods are the one true path. Still, attitudes among mainstream medical circles are slowly changing, and your doctor might be better informed and more open to alternative therapies than you think. If you’re on medication, tell your doctor that you’re exploring alternative therapies to make sure there are no adverse reactions. “Even diet changes could have an impact,” warns Scasni. Think of both your doctor and therapist as part of your healthcare team—for a team to work smoothly, it’s best that all sides know what’s going on.

 

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