About Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine includes a variety of approaches and therapeutic modalities, requiring different types of schooling and certification. Practitioners may specialize in certain health conditions or focus on specific types of treatment, such as homeopathy or Chinese herbal medicine. What unifies them is the underlying belief that healing is about more than just identifying diseases and using medication to reverse them.
Doctors with a holistic approach in medicine may integrate alternative methods with traditional allopathic methods, for instance to achieve both short-term relief and long-term healing. They seek to identify the root cause of a health challenge and address that, rather than looking for a "quick fix" to eliminate symptoms. These practitioners also understand the relationship between the mind and body and the influence of emotional and environmental factors on physical health.
The focus of holistic medicine is on the individual rather than the condition. This is particularly true in homeopathy, where the practitioner chooses an appropriate remedy based not only on the specific symptoms observed, but also on the conditions that bring them on, the patient’s overall body type and temperament, and other factors specific to the individual. Similarly, Ayurvedic practitioners first determine a person’s body type or dosha, and then choose remedies and treatments appropriate for that type.
Working With a Holistic Practitioner
If you are visiting a holistic practitioner for the first time you may be surprised at several aspects of the visit. In contrast with the typical office visit with a conventional physician, you will not spend much time explaining your health history and current problem to a technician or nurse practitioner, nor having such an individual take your vital signs. In fact, you may find that a physical exam is not even part of the experience.
You should also be prepared for the visit to last much longer than what you are used to. This is due not to a long wait time, but rather because holistic practitioners stress the value of working directly with you, the patient, to understand your overall health and lifestyle. Your practitioner will ask you questions to understand as much as possible about your current health problems, any issues you’ve had in the past, your lifestyle, and what you have already tried.
A holistic doctor may offer you several options for your treatment and work with you to determine which are optimal for you. Nutrition, physical activity and meditation are as likely to be included in your treatment plan as are specific remedies such as herbs, ointments, or homeopathic formulas. Your doctor may also recommend one or more healing techniques such as biofeedback, chiropractic manipulation, energy work, acupuncture or acupressure.
The remedies used by holistic practitioners are usually gentler than prescription drugs, with far lower likelihood of side effects. They are also often less expensive than conventional prescriptions and therapies. However, in many cases services from a holistic provider are not covered by health insurance plans. So while the basic cost of an herbal remedy may be well below the actual cost of a prescription medication, you may find yourself paying the full cost of both the office visit and the tests and treatments provided.
Overall, the holistic approach in medicine provides for a more empowering experience for patients, and the focus on healthy lifestyle and addressing root causes increases the likelihood of achieving wellness over time.
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Sources & Resources
American Holistic Medical Association: https://www.holisticmedicine.org
American Holistic Health Association: https://www.ahha.org