There are any number of definitions offered to help pinpoint what holistic medicine really is, and in most cases they have a few elements in common. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
• An approach to healing that takes into consideration the patient’s mind, spirit, and body
• Integration of both traditional medical treatments and alternative therapies
• Focuses both on prevention and treatment of disease
• May involve a range of diagnostic and treatment strategies
• High quality holistic care is a partnership between patient and provider with each responsible for active participation in the process
• Takes into account physical, social, emotional, spiritual, nutritional, environmental, and lifestyle issues and influences
As you can see, holistic medicine emphasizes an all-encompassing approach to health care and illness prevention. The full range of holistic approaches may emphasize a variety of techniques and philosophies that cover the entire spectrum from very traditional to extremely new age.
A word about certification and training
What should you look for in terms of certification and training? How do you know if a holistic practitioner is qualified and trained to practice this type of medicine?
This is where holistic medicine becomes somewhat vague when compared to traditional medicine. There are several holistic medicine associations that offer various certifications and accreditations, but these also cover a wide range of requirements. Certified holistic practitioners may be licensed physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, or any other of the familiar and traditional medical occupations. However, certified holistic practitioners may also be people whose expertise developed via non-traditional treatment approaches such as acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, psychotherapy, massage, and nutritional therapy just to name a few.
So let’s go back to the original question above, what certification and training should you look for in a holistic medicine practitioner? The answer depends on how traditional versus non-traditional you are when it comes to medical treatment.
For instance, if you prefer someone who uses traditional medical treatments but also incorporates holistic principles of treating the whole person then look for a licensed medical doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner who has additional training in the holistic approach. On the other hand, if you prefer to step away from traditional medical treatments and focus instead on non-traditional and alternative medicine (homeopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc.) then look for a practitioner who has certification from one of the reputable holistic medicine professional associations.
These two examples represent the full spectrum of holistic medicine, from traditional medicine adding in holistic principles to alternative medicine using holistic principles. Before you make the switch from your current medical provider to a holistic medicine practitioner be sure to thoroughly research the people in your area who use the holistic approach and determine very specifically what kind of certification and training they possess.
Who should consider holistic medicine?
This is another tricky question to answer because it depends a great deal on your own philosophy and approach to health and wellness. Some people dismiss holistic principles as new age nonsense, while others take the same very negative view of traditional medicine with its emphasis on science, medication, and diagnostic procedures. If your own perspective fits with one or the other of these two extremes then it should be fairly obvious whether or not holistic medicine is something you should consider for yourself.
If, however, your own perspective falls somewhere between these two extremes then the choice to consider holistic medicine should be a very careful one. You must balance your own health needs and medical conditions against your willingness to consider a range of traditional and non-traditional approaches. Part of your decision making process should be to research about this topic in more details, give careful consideration to the advantages and disadvantages of making changes, and find a practitioner whose approach and perspective is a good fit with your own.