Holistic medicine is a form of healing that looks at the whole person (i.e. body, mind, spirit, and emotions) rather than focusing on one part that is ‘faulty’ when seeking to promote optimal health and wellness. Full balance in life is seen to be the key.
Practitioners take the following elements into consideration during diagnosis and treatments:
Holistic medicine practitioners believe 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
Principles of Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine is based on the belief that a person is ultimately responsible for his/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 and this can therefore create long term change.
A holistic (or sometimes called integrative) medical doctor (or veterinary surgeon) may use a number of forms of health care, from conventional medication to alternative therapies, to treat a patient.
For example, when a person suffering from skin problems pays a visit to a holistic doctor, instead of walking out solely with pharmaceutical medication, the doctor will spend a good amount of time on the consultation. He/she will take a look at all the potential factors that may be causing the problem such as other health problems, diet and sleep habits, stress and personal problems, and so on. The treatment plan may include drugs, herbs, remedies, or dietary changes to relieve symptoms and also lifestyle modifications to help prevent the ailment from recurring.
Those who practice holistic complementary and alternative therapies are not always medically qualified. Many disciplines have their own registering bodies, certification requirements and training processes.
There are many different modalities out there – here are some examples:
- Whole medical sytems – Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy.
- Mind-body medicine – cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), music, sound healing, meditation, prayer.
- Body manipulation – chiropractic, schiatzu, osteopathy, massage, Tellington TTouch
- Biological – herbs, herbal supplements, foods, diet, Zoopharmacognosy, essential oils.
- Energy medicine – Acupuncture, Qi Gong, Shamanic Healing, Reiki, Bio-resonance
When I trained as a homeopath, a broad spectrum of topics was covered to take us from Joe Bloggs member of the public to being a practicing homeopath at the end of it. The training turned the lay person’s understanding of healing on its head – from thinking of cures for specific ailments to looking at the person as a whole.
Although I had been using homeopathy for twenty or more years (and had a science degree) when I did the training I was really stretched by the amount of learning involved. It was a steep learning curve and yet so rewarding and inspiring that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here are the sort of topics covered:
- Anatomy and physiology was a separate course for those who needed it (fortunately my science degree covered sufficient of that).
- The principles of holistic healing – Herrings law of cure and other such principles.
- The chakras and energy body/healing, including shamanic healing, were also covered at the Lakeland College which has proved very useful to me.
- Nutrition, herbal supplements to support the homeopathy at a physical level.
- The remedies and essences themselves – each has specific affinities and characteristics that we had to understand.
- How to use homeopathy in practice – supervised case work.
- Personal development – we had to keep journals to map our own development through the process. We changed significantly as people through seeing life from a more holistic viewpoint.
Chosing a holistic therapist
The important thing is to find someone who you feel comfortable with and confident in. Unfortunately, there are people out there who promise the earth yet can’t actually deliver. Other than by referral it is hard to find a (non-medically qualified) practitioner who specialises in any medical condition because we are not allowed to claim we can diagnose, treat or cure them (as I mentioned above).
This is actually not such a problem because holistic therapists work on the person as a whole so, using homeopathy as the example again, the homeopathic remedy which stops eczema for one person may not work for another (even twins) because the underlying person and contributing causes can be so vastly different.
I do work on my family and animals and also use other holistic therapists if necessary. Animals bodies work differently from humans and we are not allowed to diagnose or treat other people’s animals. My elderly Goldie has acupuncture from a local vet, massage from a local member of the Canine Massage Guild, and homeopathic remedies and supplements from his homeopathic vet based in Yorkshire. This lot keeps him happy and healthy. Oh, I have been allowing him to select some Zoopharmacognosy nutritional supplements and oils recently too!
Note: In the United Kingdom, holistic therapists are not allowed to claim they can treat/heal/cure any modern western diseases. There is also legislation specific to cancer treatment which makes it illegal for anyone other than a medical doctor to treat cancer – it is an imprisonable offence to make such a claim.
This is why the websites can seem a bit bland and why when a therapist is asked if he/she can cure x, y or z the answer is actually “no” because the body is what does the healing, the therapist is triggering that to happen.