“The only journey is the one within.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
What is health?
At first thought, most people would define health is the absence of disease. However, many people live with disease — diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases — and many people living with disease consider themselves healthy.
In fact, the most commonly quoted definition of health formalized by the World Health Organization (WHO) more than half a century ago asserts the definition of health as: “A complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Health is not simply the absence of disease, or DIS-ease.
Conventional or Western medicine has long since adopted and operated under the guidelines of the WHO definition of health. Western medicine treats diseases and symptoms of illness with prescription drugs, radiation, and/or surgery. Although modern, conventional Western medicine has achieved enormous success in healthcare treatments, patient dissatisfaction with treatment is a common complaint. Western medicine does not include the patient centered care commonly used in alternative medicine, does not deploy holistic treatments, and is limited in that it is still a patriarchal model of health care. For example, a doctor might enter a room and ask a patient, “Where is your pain? Is it sharp? Is it dull? Is it sudden?” This leaves the patient trying to describe his or her experience in just a few words.
Alternative treatments are a range of medical therapies that are not regarded as orthodox by the conventional Western medical establishment and are not governed by results of clinical studies. Alternative medicine focuses on mind, body, spirit, and emotions — the whole person — to govern alternative care, and natural or holistic remedies are preferred. Alternative medicine defines optimal health as achieving proper balance; as a person is made up of interdependent parts, if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. Alternative treatments create a patient-centered model where, given time, the patient will begin to describe the pain (for example, “It feels like a burn, starting here and spreading out.”) This technique, known as “motivational interviewing,” works on facilitating and engaging intrinsic motivation within the patient by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. A patient-centered model improves the dialog between patient and healthcare professional, which in turn improves the level of care provided.
Historically, patients have been forced to choose between conventional Western medicine and alternative holistic treatments. An adversarial relationship between the two practices made patients fear disclosing treatments that overlapped the two modalities to healthcare providers for fear of reprimand and/or ridicule.
Integrative Medicine changes all this. In hopes of simply providing “Good Medicine” (Rakel, 2012), Integrative Medicine aims to combine conventional Western medicine with alternative, holistic treatments.
Integrative Medicine is quickly becoming an established field of clinical medicine. Patients are no longer forced to choose one over the other, and today have alternative options available to combine with their conventional medical treatments. This integration empowers patients who have discovered alternative treatments and want to discuss these options with their physicians who are accepting of such integration and able to treat within its parameters.
The Western medical establishment recognizes “the deterioration of the patient-provider relationship, the overuse of technology, and the inability of the medical system to treat chronic disease adequately” (Rakel, 2012). It is for this reason and also because physicians want more time and options to care for their patients to achieve a better outcome that Integrative Medicine has been welcomed with success in Western medicine.
Integrative medicine is not a one-size-fits-all treatment; rather, it’s a delicate balance of incorporating care that focuses on an individual patient’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Integrative health is both the goal and the result of integrative medicine, focusing on wellness, healing, and patient-healthcare relationships.
At HealthArt Integrative Medicine, our aim is to help people achieve their optimal health. We utilize all elements of Integrative Medicine in patient assessment and treatment: MindBody Spirit, Nutrition, Sleep & Importance of Dreaming, Movement and Positive Fitness, Energy Work, Environment and Lifestyle, Spiritual Healthcare, and Holistic Modalities.
At HealthArt, we ask questions using the motivational interviewing technique; approach patient assessments from a full mind, body, and spirit model; assess the mind from the mental and emotional perspective; gather patient nutrition and exercise information; and, finally, review and evaluate a patient’s spiritual viewpoint.
Mental health is an important Integrative Medicine component at HealthArt. We review mental disease aspects, if present, and assess anxiety, depression, and stress prevalent in a patient’s everyday life. Emotional distress in a patient’s personal life, including family issues such as problems with children, a job, and/or within a marriage, are taken into consideration for treatment. Integrative Medicine can offer hypnosis, nutrition, the importance of choosing Omega 3s over Omega 6s, laughter therapy, acupuncture, sleep and dreaming, and the idea of neuroplasticity to address and combat mental illness.
We take a good look at the body, including nutritional assessment; obtain a review of physical exercise; and recommend a regimen to improve nutrition and exercise in collaboration with the patient’s lifestyle and health goals.
Last but not least, we evaluate a patient’s spirituality. The Dalai Lama “believes that the purpose of life is happiness and also teaches that happiness can be achieved through training of the mind,” (Weil, 2013). Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop defined spirituality as “the vital center of a person; that which is held sacred.”(Craigie, 2010). Many of us have local beliefs and practices but “ultimately the understanding of what is vital and sacred is uniquely our own” (Craigie, 2010).
We pose searching questions that evoke thoughtful responses. For example, an Integrative Medicine practitioner might ask a patient, “What makes you feel alive?” The answers “will be in the unique language, drawing on the unique personal experiences, of individual people” (Craigie 2010). Since spirituality is related to wholeness and health, the patient’s answers will give insight to a practitioner about the patient’s possible health behaviors and the reality of successful changes to lifestyle.
HealthArt Integrative Medicine integrates the arts of Eastern holistic and conventional Western healthcare modalities, focusing on wellness, healing, and patient-healthcare relationships.