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Holistic Approaches to Mental Health for Active Duty Military and Veterans

written by Chateau Health & Wellness

reviewed by Austin Pederson (Chateau Director)

The mental well-being of active duty military personnel and veterans is a matter of utmost importance. Serving in the armed forces often exposes individuals to significant stressors and traumas that can have lasting effects on their mental health.

While traditional therapies play a crucial role in treating mental health issues, holistic approaches have gained recognition for their ability to complement and enhance the healing process. In this article, we will explore holistic approaches to mental health treatment, including mindfulness, art therapy, and equine therapy, and how these methods can work alongside traditional therapies.

The Need for Holistic Mental Health Approaches

The unique challenges faced by active duty military personnel and veterans, such as combat-related trauma, deployments, and separation from loved ones, can contribute to mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

While traditional therapies like psychotherapy and medication have proven effective, holistic approaches offer a complementary avenue to address these challenges more comprehensively.

Mindfulness-Based Practices

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, focusing on thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. It has gained popularity for its effectiveness in reducing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD. Here's how mindfulness-based practices work:

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Veterans and active-duty military personnel can benefit from mindfulness meditation, which involves guided sessions focused on relaxation, self-awareness, and stress reduction. These sessions can help individuals regain a sense of control over their thoughts and emotions.

  • Yoga and Tai Chi: These mind-body practices combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. They promote relaxation, improve physical fitness, and enhance emotional well-being.

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR programs offer structured mindfulness training and have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a creative approach to mental health treatment that allows individuals to express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences through artistic expression. For active duty military personnel and veterans, art therapy can provide the following benefits:

  • Emotional Expression: Art allows individuals to convey feelings that may be challenging to express verbally, making it particularly useful for those with PTSD or other trauma-related conditions.

  • Stress Reduction: Engaging in creative activities can reduce stress and provide a sense of relaxation and accomplishment.

  • Self-Exploration: Creating art can lead to self-discovery and a deeper understanding of one's emotions and experiences.

Equine Therapy

Equine therapy, also known as horse therapy, involves interactions with horses to promote emotional growth and healing. It can be especially beneficial for veterans and active-duty personnel dealing with trauma and mental health challenges:

  • Trust Building: Working with horses fosters trust and emotional connection, which can be especially important for individuals with trust issues stemming from trauma.Emotional Regulation: Interacting with horses can help individuals learn to manage emotions and cope with stress, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms.

  • Physical Activity: Equine therapy combines physical activity with emotional healing, promoting overall well-being.

Worker Compensation and VA Benefits

Many holistic approaches to mental health treatment may be covered by worker compensation or VA benefits. It's essential to explore these options to ensure access to the care you need. Here's how these benefits may apply:

Worker Compensation

In some cases, individuals who develop mental health conditions as a result of their service may be eligible for worker compensation benefits. This compensation can help cover the costs of holistic approaches like mindfulness-based programs, art therapy, or equine therapy.

VA Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes the value of holistic approaches to mental health and often provides coverage for these therapies. VA benefits may cover:

  • Mindfulness-Based Programs: Some VA medical centers offer mindfulness-based programs as part of their mental health services.

  • Art Therapy: VA facilities may have art therapy programs or provide referrals to community-based programs.

  • Equine Therapy: The VA occasionally partners with organizations that offer equine therapy, making it accessible to veterans.

It's important to note that eligibility for these benefits may vary based on individual circumstances, so it's advisable to consult with VA representatives or worker compensation specialists for guidance and assistance.

Holistic approaches to mental health, such as mindfulness, art therapy, and equine therapy, offer active duty military personnel and veterans valuable tools for addressing mental health challenges.

These approaches can complement traditional therapies by providing alternative avenues for self-expression, relaxation, and healing.

Moreover, the potential coverage of these holistic treatments by worker compensation and VA benefits underscores their importance in the comprehensive care of our nation's heroes. By embracing a holistic approach to mental health, we empower those who have served to embark on a journey of healing, resilience, and improved well-being.


Chateau Health & Wellness

We are a specialized treatment center focused on providing therapy and recovery programs for first responders and professionals. We understand first responders are exposed to traumatic events on a daily basis. Our trauma-trained staff provides evidence-based treatments and holistic therapies for substance abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety and PTSD.


  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): NCCIH, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), offers information on complementary and integrative health approaches, including mindfulness and other holistic therapies, that can benefit military personnel and veterans.

  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) - Whole Health for Life: The VA's Whole Health program incorporates holistic approaches to care, emphasizing personalized health plans that consider physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It provides insights into how these approaches benefit veterans.

  3. Military Times - Here's Why These Vets are Turning to Yoga: This article discusses how veterans are using holistic approaches like yoga and meditation to manage PTSD and other mental health challenges, providing real-life examples of their effectiveness.

  4. Psychology Today - Mindfulness Topic Page: Psychology Today offers articles and insights on mindfulness, which is a significant component of holistic mental health approaches. It can provide a broader understanding of the subject.

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