Holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person -- body, mind, spirit, and emotions -- in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to the holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health -- the primary goal of holistic medicine practice -- by gaining proper balance in life.
Holistic medicine practitioners believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health.
A holistic doctor may use all forms of health care, from conventional medication to alternative therapies, to treat a patient. For example, when a person suffering from migraine headaches pays a visit to a holistic doctor, instead of walking out solely with medications, the doctor will likely take a look at all the potential factors that may be causing the person's headaches, such as other health problems, diet and sleep habits, stress and personal problems, and preferred spiritual practices. The treatment plan may involve drugs to relieve symptoms, but also lifestyle modifications to help prevent the headaches from recurring.
Principles of Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine is also based on the belief that unconditional love and support is the most powerful healer and a person is ultimately responsible for his or her own health and well-being. Other principles of holistic medicine include the following:
- All people have innate healing powers.
- The patient is a person, not a disease.
- Healing takes a team approach involving the patient and doctor, and addresses all aspects of a person's life using a variety of health care practices.
- Treatment involves fixing the cause of the condition, not just alleviating the symptoms.
Holistic Medicine: Types of Treatments
Holistic practitioners use a variety of treatment techniques to help their patients take responsibility for their own well-being and achieve optimal health. Depending on the practitioner's training, these may include:
- Patient education on lifestyle changes and self-care to promote wellness. This may include diet, exercise, psychotherapy, relationship and spiritual counseling, and more
- Complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, massage therapy, naturopathy, and others
- Western medications and surgical procedures
Holistic Medicine: Where to Find a Holistic Provider
Holistic providers may include medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and homeopathic doctors. To find a holistic practitioner in your area, visit the American Holistic Medical Association web site. There you can use an online provider search to find a practitioner near you.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a holistic provider:
Don't go to just anyone. As with all professionals, there are those who are good at their jobs and those who are not as good. Before choosing a holistic medicine doctor, get a recommendation from someone you trust, or contact a credible health organization and ask for a recommendation.
Do your homework. When selecting a holistic doctor, find out as much as you can about that person’s training, experience, specialty, and association with professional organizations and hospital affiliations. Is he or she board certified in holistic medicine by a credible medical board? Also, consider the doctor's treatment philosophy. Is it similar to your own views?
How do you feel? Consider how comfortable you are with the provider. Does he or she make you feel at ease? Is the provider respectful of your concerns and beliefs? Remember, holistic medicine takes a team approach, involving you and the provider, so make sure you feel comfortable and respected and that he or she is someone with whom you would like to work.
Appointment time. Choose a provider who will spend enough time with you so that he or she can gain a full understanding of your needs.
Are the right questions being asked? In order to understand you as a whole person and not just a disease, be prepared to answer lots of questions, including questions about your diet, exercise, sleep habits, how you feel emotionally, your religious beliefs and practices, close relationships, and more.
Treatment options. When determining a treatment approach, does the wellness plan go beyond pills? Make sure the practitioner examines all lifestyle factors, along with medical factors that could be contributing to your illness.