Wholistic Integrative Care

How do we combine or integrate traditional western medicine with wholistic integrative care? Thank you so much to the wonderful explanation below…


Here’s an interesting article from Wholistic Healing Research:

There is a heightened interest in integrative care – the blending of complementary/ alternative medicine (CAM) with conventional medical practice. On the one hand this is motivated by patients’ demands for services that complement conventional medical care, and on the other hand by health care providers’ awareness of economic opportunities and to a lesser extent by their awareness of the benefits of complementary therapies.

Wholistic approaches empower patients to participate in their own health care. They enhance the integrity and the spirit of dignity in the healing encounter between careseekers and caregivers – who are increasingly under pressures of time and monetary constraints that are eroding their roles as caregivers. Complementary therapies introduce philosophies and methods of health care that promote whole-person care and acknowledge the place and needs of the caregiver in this process.

While a growing number of medical and nursing schools have courses on CAM, many presentations lack important elements of these approaches. For example, very few courses focus on wholistic approaches that consider the person who has the illness rather than upon the illness the person has. In addition, the courses often focus on complementary therapy methodologies (e.g. inserting acupuncture needles at certain points to control pain) without the associated CAM philosophies of health care.

CAM introduces five broad themes

1. CAM therapies are potent interventions that can enhance health and help to treat many illnesses that conventional medicine has limited means to treat. Illnesses that can be helped include allergies; arthritis; asthma; heart disease; backaches, headaches, and other pains; irritable bowel syndromes; menopausal problems, urinary tract dysfunctions; neurological disorders (including post- traumatic brain disorders, such as cerebral palsy and strokes); cancers; AIDS; chronic fatigue syndrome; and many more.

Members of the public are rapidly learning the benefits of complementary therapies and are voting for them with their dollars in a big way. Several surveys have shown that just about as many dollars are paid (out of pocket) for complementary therapies as are paid (mostly out of insurance) for conventional medical care. Public pressure has been a major driving force in accelerating the pace of development of integrative care.

2. Wholistic and CAM therapies offer ways to humanize medical care. Both health care professionals and the public often complain about the dehumanization of conventional medical care. In the name of efficiency, and under the combined intense pressures of information overload, departmentalization/ mechanization/ bureaucratization of medical care, and financial pressures, doctors and nurses are being limited in the types of treatments they can offer and in the units of time per patient allotted to provide them.

a. Patients are dehumanized by conventional medical care. Patients are stripped of their responsibility for their own care when they come for examination and treatment. They are expected to follow the routines, orders and prescriptions of institutions, of doctors and of nurses and hospital orderlies without question. Under this system, you are described as “the chronic backache in bed 7” rather than “the person with the backache in bed 7.”

Members of the public are also choosing complementary therapists because they feel that doctors focus too much on their diseases and too little on themselves as people. CAM therapists spend 30-120 minutes per session with their clients, compared to 10-30 minutes for visits to doctors. Conventional medicine focuses on your symptom and disease management of your medical or surgical problems, while CAM therapies focus on you as the person who has the problems.

Some nurses and doctors who are sensitive to this aspect of medical care take wholistic approaches – which they might identify as good bedside manner. However, very little of wholistic philosophy is taught in medical schools. Under financial pressures nursing staff have been eliminated and the work load of the remaining few nurses has been increased and has been shifted towards more administration and less direct patient care. Nursing schools are more sensitive to this, but many nurses find that they are unable to apply these principles because their jobs have been pared down to focus increasingly on mechanized ministrations to patients’ physical needs, with little time permitted in their schedules for attention to psychological and spiritual needs.

b. Health care professionals are dehumanized by conventional medical care. Medical and nursing students very frequently complain that their professional studies are stultifying and dehumanizing – discouraging and squelching their idealism and sensitivity to feelings in themselves and in their patients.

Excuses are given by medical educators that the enormous load of information that must be studied in medical and nursing school leaves no time for “inessentials” such as discussions of stresses and feelings. Nursing and medical students are expected to ignore their feelings about patients, such as anxieties about caring adequately for their patients, dealing with patients’ grief, and dealing with fears about their own mortality — again with the excuse of time constraints.

The same applies to doctors and nurses after graduation. The pressures of heavy workloads and clinical responsibilities are taken as excuses for not budgeting time for self-care. This is certainly a major reason why medicine as a profession has one of the highest rates of burnout, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

Wholistic healing emphasizes self-care of the cargiver as a preventiion to such problems. Self-care that includes wholistic integrative care introduces health care practitioners experientially to these approaches.

3. Wholistic, integrative care empowers you to assume greater responsibility for your self-care. Conventional medical care disempowers people from taking responsibility for their own health. Health care professionals are the diagnosticians and prescribers of treatments for problems.

Wholistic approaches provide whole-person care – addressing people rather than diseases, caring rather than curing, using all possible therapeutic modalities rather than a limited few, and empowering respants wherever possible to use self-care approaches and to be active participants in decisions regarding their health.

The very word patient suggests a passive person who patiently waits for treatment. Bernie Siegel proposes that we use the word respant, designating people with problems as responsible participants in their own care.

4. Wholistic integrative care awakens and nurtures intuitive and spiritual awarenesses.
The western medical model is mechanistic and reductionistic. It assumes that physical causes will eventually be identified for all illnesses, just as they have been with infectious diseases, hormonal, and genetic disorders. It is a linear, either-or model.

Wholistic and integrative approaches are both-and models. While they acknowledge the contributions of conventional western medicine, they also include contributions of emotions, mind, relationships (with people and the environment), and spirit as vital factors in health and illness.

Wholistic care introduces concepts and practices that include the body-mind and person-spirit aspects of health and illness.

The importance of intuitive and spiritual awarenesses extend far beyond the therapeutic encounters of individuals. These awarenesses are vitally needed to address the ills of society and of Gaia, our planet.

5. The philosophies of wholistic integrative care enrich the lives of health carergivers and respants. Wholistic care
includes the cultural traditions and philosophies that accompany the complementary therapies. In many cases these suggest lifestyle changes – such as diet, meditation, yoga, and the like – that you may find pleasant and helpful.

Many clinics and hospitals now offer some CAM modalities. Growing numbers of medical schools are offering courses in complementary/ alternative therapies. For the most part, aspects of these therapies are transferred into the medical model and are presented as methodologies that address symptoms. For example, acupuncture, chiropractic, and osteopathy are used for pain; Chinese herbs for eczema; and so on. The rich theoretical and philosophical contributions of these therapies are largely ignored, as well as the understanding of dis-ease that contributes to disease.

Knowing that there is an alternative to the Western medical model, particularly as it is practiced under managed care, may alert you to new, productive, more satisfying options through integrative care. There are many such models and practices.


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