Integrative Holistic Medicine

Until comparatively recently, medicine tended to focus narrowly on a specific ailment and its particular symptoms. Treatment was closely aligned with that compartmentalising approach and probably included use of invasive procedures and medication. The patient was usually the passive recipient of treatment. As the established norm in society, it became referred to as conventional medicine to distinguish it from so-called complementary medicine and alternative medicine that emerged to become ever more popular in the last century.

Drawing from the best of both worlds to serve the patient appropriately

As its name suggests, complementary medicine works with conventional medicine, while alternative medicine chooses to maintain a distance from conventional practices. When taken together, complementary and alternative therapies are often referred to simply as CAM. With its focus squarely on what will be helpful and appropriate to the patient at the time, Integrative Medicine aims to draw from the best of both worlds: conventional and CAM approaches. To ensure doing so in a discerning way, it pays close attention to the question of scientific validation for any therapy employed.  In its philosophical orientation it is neither hostile to conventional medicine nor uncritically accepting of the alternatives. Advocates would say it was neither dogmatic nor ideological.

The person as a whole – mind, body, spirit

While the phrase Integrative Holistic Medicine is commonly used, Integrative Medicine is by definition holistic. This means that rather than segmenting the picture of the patient and restricting itself to concentration on a specific presenting pathology, it considers the person as a whole. It is inclusively concerned with the person’s mind, body and spirit and the interrelation of all three in the promotion and restoration of health, as well as the prevention of illness. It embraces the notion that the natural potential for healing is more likely to be realised in these circumstances, using the most natural and least invasive interventions whenever possible. Social context is thought vitally important and Integrative Holistic Medicine takes everything into account, including life style, family and community that might be having an influence on the person’s health and wellbeing at the time.

Integrative Holistic Medicine – a role in addiction treatment

Addiction is characterised by fragmentation and isolation. Treatment once followed suit, compartmentalising its processes such as detoxification which was administered separately from psychosocial interventions and therapies applied to enhance spiritual wellbeing. Integrative Holistic Medicine now has an important role to play in the treatment of addiction and related disorders. Where formerly the focus tended to be on the identified problem alone with treatment targeted accordingly, a more encompassing perspective now informs approaches to treatment and recovery.  This includes assessing, nurturing and enhancing the existing personal and social resources that will help promote healing and recovery.

Simultaneously, treatment has become less paternalistic, shifting away from the previous normality of the aloof expert “doing something to” the patient to a much more collaborative approach.  The quality of the therapeutic relationship or partnership plays a vital role in Integrative Holistic Medicine.

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