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
The holistic concept in medical practice, which is distinct from the concept in the alternative medicine, upholds that all aspects of people’s needs including psychological, physical and social should be taken into account and seen as a whole. A 2007 study said the concept was alive and well in general medicine in Sweden.
Some practitioners of holistic medicine use alternative medicine exclusively, though sometimes holistic treatment can mean simply that a physician takes account of all a person’s circumstances in giving treatment. Sometimes when alternative medicine is mixed with mainstream medicine the result is called “holistic” medicine, though this is more commonly termed integrative medicine.
According to the American Holistic Medical Association it is believed that the spiritual element should also be taken into account when assessing a person’s overall well-being.