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Long medical waits fuel interest in alternative therapies

Personal problems and longer waiting times for traditional healthcare services are causing more Finns to turn to alternative treatments. Instead of going to a doctor, some search out preventative therapies before a health problem arises.

Avoin kämmen
Interest in alternative therapies is growing in Finland. Image: Pekka Sipilä / YLE

Various alternative treatments have become more common in recent years, as Finns want to have more influence over the kinds of treatments they undertake. Increasingly longer healthcare queues for examinations and treatments in the public health sector have also added to the move to alternative.

“Our sense of community is dwindling and people don’t receive the same support from their family as they used to. The constant sense of being in a hurry has also gotten people more interested in seeking out spirituality. For some, spirituality can be found in religion, while for others it comes from natural treatments or therapies,” says psychotherapist Riitta Launimaa.

According to Launimaa, a person's life situation often determines whether or not they believe in the supernatural.

“If you’re experiencing a difficult time and you need to do some work such as psychotherapy, some people find it easier to resort to alternative therapies. Then you may not need to think so much and delve so deeply into your own affairs, instead, someone else can instill a sense of wellbeing on you,” she says.

Departures from traditional school of medicine
Psychologist Risto Siivola says that a psychologist never questions someone’s belief in the supernatural, as every experience is each person’s own - even if there's a medical or psychological explanation for such a belief.

“It’s only dangerous if a sensitive person becomes too absorbed in the supernatural or medical examinations and treatments are abandoned in favour of alternative treatments,” says Siivola.

According to Siivola, when resorting to alternative treatments it should be remembered that traditional medicine is safer because the person is a registered healthcare professional whose operations are monitored. It’s important to be aware of the background and expertise of someone carrying out alternative treatments.

“Alternative therapies can be also be used as a supplement to mainstream treatments. However, you do need to pay for them yourself, as opposed to those psychotherapy treatments supported by Kela,” he says. (Kela is the national social security programme in Finland.)

Talk therapy growing in popularity
The high number of recent job layoffs in Finland is showing in the number of crowded reception rooms, including those of Launimaa and Siivola. More and more people feel that they need a different forum for help.

"In the United States you are asked who your therapist is. While in Finland it's becoming more common to go for therapy, most Finns would like to keep it to themselves," say Launimaa and Siivola.

One of the more popular treatment is so-called preventive therapy, in which problems and issues are discussed before they escalate or result in depression.

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