There are three basic aspects of the wholistic approach to medicine. First, disease prevention is emphasized by placing responsibility with the individual as self-healer to use his own resources to promote health, prevent illness, and encourage healing. Secondly, wholistic medicine considers the patient as an individual and unique person, not only as a symptom-bearing organism. Finally, wholistic practitioners choose from the many available diagnosis, treatment, and health methods, including both alternative and standard medical methods.
Wholistic medicine does not disregard conventional medical practices
Contrary to common belief, wholistic medicine does not disregard conventional medical practices. In fact, most wholistic practitioners view the use of standard medical practices as only one of many ways in which to achieve well-being.
Wholistic diagnosis can include standard laboratory tests, as well as other diagnostic methods, since the interrelated physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities in the whole person are major health determinants. A practitioner may, for example, watch the way patients stand, sit, and walk, as well as look for the physical expression of an emotional state. Health-care treatments are usually provided in the context of the patient’s culture, family, and community.
Wholistic medicine addresses not only the whole person, but also the person’s environment and involves various healing and health-promoting practices. Wholistic medicine does not have one widely used diagnostic procedure or treatment because it is primarily an attitude about health and healing. Thus, traditional physicians, nurses, specialists, and other health-care professionals may be wholistic practitioners depending on their practices but often times hard to find by patients seeking a wholistic approach. Many times these practitioners embrace the approach but not the label for fear of criticism from their peers. This will change more and more as the public demands to be treated wholistically, rather than partially or symptom by symptom.
In recent years a variety of traditionally trained medical professionals have examined the ideals and documented benefits of wholistic medicine. Some still criticize the fragmentation of the wholistic medical movement and blame it for promoting medical quackery and in some cases this may be true. However, one can not disregard the existence of “quackery” in the conventional medical establishment as well. Unfortunately there are some persons willing to prey upon the lack of knowledge of others or simply misdiagnose due to tradition. Others, calling for physicians as consolers and healers, as well as technologically trained practitioners, embrace the humanistic approach offered by wholistic medicine.
Wholistic medicine is designed to use all known health related knowledge
Although many wholistic practitioners make use of available technical equipment and statistical analysis, the emphasis is on each patient’s genetic, biological, and psychosocial strength and uniqueness. Wholistic practice is designed to use all known health related knowledge to mobilize the individual’s self-healing capacity. Surgical or medical intervention is not disputed in wholistic medical practice, but is de-emphasized as the cure all and end all. Rather, the emphasis is on preventive self-care and self-education.
Wholistic medicine’s common principle is that patients should be active participants in their own health care since all individuals are believed to have the mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical capacity to heal themselves. After years of over specialization and use of dehumanizing pure scientific practices by the conventional medical establishment, a more common sense approach was of course necessary and inevitable.
In recent times, the “Family Practitioner” or “General Practice” doctor almost disappeared from the conventional medical establishments. Patients were sprinted off to specialist after specialist with no one really supervising the overall health of the patient.
In recent years, concern has risen over the settings in which health care takes place. In wholistic care, emphasis is placed on out-patient care as opposed to hospital stay except in most warranted cases. Since hospital settings often overwhelm and intimidate, many wholistic health-care facilities have been located outside but near conventional hospitals. With this arrangement, specialized hospital personnel and technology are readily available when necessary and the patient can avoid stressful hospital stays.
The use of touching is another major element of wholistic medicine. Many body therapies, including massage, chiropractic manipulation, and rolfing, or systematic massage, use physical contact. These touch-oriented therapies are based on a wholistic approach to human functioning. Touch is used to promote greater relaxation, to improve body alignment and functioning, or to enhance sensory awareness.
Other methods used in wholistic medicine
Other methods used in wholistic medicine may include acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, modern fluid replacement, ancient energy balance, psychic healing, hypnosis, and spiritual and physical disciplines and surgery. But again emphasis must be placed on the whole rather than just one aspect.
Wholistic medicine views health as a positive state, not as the absence of disease. Such a positive approach to treating existing diseases is currently being used by many researchers and physicians. This positive-attitude approach to medical care has been used in cancer therapy by having patients think differently and positively about chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Another wholistic health therapy called psychotherapeutic body work was first developed by Wilhelm Reich. It has greatly influenced the field of bioenergetics. Once an illness has been identified, it is viewed both as a misfortune and as an opportunity for discovery. Wholistic medicine emphasizes the idea that psychosocial stresses, such as unemployment, divorce, or death of a close relative or friend, may contribute to ill health.
Using a common sense approach, one sees that a patient should be treated using whatever method achieves good results. The conventional medical establishment argues that the existence of “alternative methods” many times prevents the patient from seeking standard treatments, and in some cases this may be true. However, medical history has firmly documented many cases of misdiagnosis and mistreatment even by conventional methods. This is not to say that perfection is approachable. Only that the goal of modern medicine should use the methods that treats the person rather than the disease.