Caveman Therapy: Thoughts on Supporting Wellness with Ancient Wisdom

The pace and structure of modern life are undeniably different from the picture of daily living experienced hundreds of thousands of years ago. While we’ve accomplished many spectacular and meaningful things as we’ve progressed as a civilization (as well as some not-so-positive bits and pieces), we’ve also dramatically changed the way we live, from the most overarching principles of dwelling and working to details such as diet and sleep. When you take into account the fact depression has exponentially multiplied in many modern populations, with rates sometimes doubling within the space of a single decade, it’s not too much of a stretch to wonder if these two major changes in mankind’s way of life have any telling relationship.

The investigation of what this relationship might look like has been the focus of a few academic inquiries into modern therapy and related topics lately, and a project at the University of Kansas has recently been exploring how recreating some conditions of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle could potentially improve clients’ lives. The project encompasses a range of habits and practices, encouraging participants to spend more time outside in the sunlight and to eat omega-3 fatty acids, substances commonly found in fish which have significantly decreased in many world populations. Participants are also involved in a regular exercise program, and make sure they receive a healthy amount of sleep. Through engaging activities, they achieve a higher level of social interaction than previously experienced, as well.

While these measures are not intended to replace or somehow negate the benefits of psychotherapy, the Kansas University team hopes to amass evidence showing that the return to some primitive practices can improve and support mental health, with the potential to supplement counseling.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cora


    June 8th, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    getting back to the basics. . . now that is what I like to hear

  • Zillah


    June 8th, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    I can’t see what this could hurt. Sounds like it could be a good idea.

  • Debbie


    June 9th, 2009 at 1:37 AM

    Good so see Kansas University going at this. I don’t know how they can go back and live the Caveman way or practice unless they do a lot of research and get it down pat.

  • Sally


    June 9th, 2009 at 3:50 AM

    So many times we get all caught up in keeping up with the Joneses that we lose sight of the important things in life. That may be one of the biggest reasons why people today suffer from depression at much higher rates than the cavemen did for example. All they had to worry about was having enough food to feed their bellies and the ways to keep them and their families safe and warm. There of course was no added concern over where to send the kids to school, what kind of SUV to buy, and how to get the most bang for their buck on the stock market. Yes technology has made our lives easier- I do not think that there are many people who would disagree with that. But there are times when it would be nice to go back to a simpler way of living and getting back to those things that truly are important and not worrying so much about the superficial fluff that seems to give all of us so much anguish.

  • Pauline


    June 10th, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    Exercise can make all the difference when it comes to getting and feeling healthy.

  • Georgia


    June 11th, 2009 at 3:38 AM

    Sorry but the caveman way of life does not appeal to me at all. Give me yoga any day to cut down on stress, not foraging for roots and wild game!

  • Samantha


    June 12th, 2009 at 2:56 AM

    I’m much into the modern things in life and although it may be a good idea to test this theory of the caveman days out, I prefer to stick to the modern way.

  • Shannon


    June 12th, 2009 at 3:51 AM

    Georgia I agree with you but the idea behind the study makes a lot of sense. Maybe it is not feasible for those of us today to actually go back to this way of life but it does come with the lesson that there is always something valuable that we can learn from the past and hopefully this will at least give us some ways that all of us can better cope with the stresses of twenty first century living better than we are currently doing.

  • Theresa


    June 13th, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    I’m usually open minded, but I don’t know about this.

  • Selena


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    Although I don’t know much about the Caveman days, it seems they probably had less stress and focused on what was important at that time which was food and shelter. As Sally says, there is so much more we have to think about today, especially due to the economy and the major update on technology than they way it was way back then.

  • Jamie


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    Why not Theresa? What could be wrong at trying this? It gdoes not really seem all that radical to me. It actually makes a lot of sense. Take away the stresses of today and you could have a great situation on your hands in terms of mental health!

  • Jill


    June 15th, 2009 at 2:45 AM

    I have always heard “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” To me, that can be said the same here.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on