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Tai Chi and Qigong for the Treatment and Prevention of Mental Disorders

May 7, 2013

This summary covers a book chapter published in the text Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Psychiatric Disorders. The chapter was written by Dr. Ryan Abbott, MD, JD, MTOM, an associate professor at Southwestern Law School, and Dr. Helen Lavretsky, MD, MS, a Professor In-Residence in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA.

While pharmaceutical medicines have revolutionized the treatment of serious mental disorders, they are ineffective or only partially effective in a significant number of cases, and they can also cause serious side effects. By contrast, mind-body practices tend to be less costly and cause fewer side effects, and they can enhance the effectiveness of prescription drugs or reduce the necessary doses. Identifying safe and effective mind-body practices is therefore important to providing quality mental health care.

To that aim, the chapter by Abbott and Lavretsky summarizes the evidence-base supporting the use of Tai Chi and Qigong in treating and preventing psychiatric disorders. Tai Chi and Qigong are traditional Chinese exercises that are widely practiced for their health benefits and as martial arts. The article notes that evidence suggests that these practices may be effective at treating a range of physical health conditions, and at improving health-related quality of life. Furthermore, that evidence from randomized controlled trials suggests that Tai Chi and Qigong may be effective in reducing depressive symptoms, stress, anxiety, and mood disturbances. Minimal research supports Tai Chi and Qigong as promising treatments for Parkinson disease, traumatic brain injury, insomnia, substance abuse, and cognitive impairment. The authors state that indications for Tai Chi and Qigong include inadequate response to other evidence-based treatments, physical comorbidities known to be responsive to Tai Chi and Qigong, patients interested in exercise-based or mindfulness-based interventions, and in geriatric patients who are more susceptible to adverse effects from pharmacologic therapies.

This chapter is an essential resource for health care providers and patients. To view the Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Psychiatric Disorders text, click here 


  1. Abbott R, Lavretsky H. Tai Chi and Qigong for the Treatment and Prevention of Mental Disorders. Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Psychiatric Disorders 2013;36(1):109-119. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2013.01.011
    Available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0193953X13000129.

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