Holistic medicine is an approach to healing that considers the whole person; not just the body, but also the mind, spirit, and emotions. It seeks to find a balance in the body’s physical and emotional state that will optimise health and wellness.
Some people believe that the word holistic should really be spelt ‘wholistic’, meaning that the doctor has information about a patient’s whole life situation.
Holistic medicine uses all forms of health care to treat a patient, from conventional medication to alternative therapies.
The five aspects of holistic medicine
Practitioners of holistic medicine believe that there are five aspects of a person’s health that must be treated to maintain wellness and create a condition of well-being in the patient, whether or not a disease is present. These are:
Doctors who practice holistic medicine also believe that the patient is in charge of their own health and must be a partner in their own healthcare. This means that the patient may need to work on changing their lifestyle, habits and beliefs to facilitate healing.
Most importantly, holistic medicine focuses on fixing the cause of the condition, not just alleviating the symptoms.
What to expect
If you visit a holistic doctor, you can expect them to ask you a lot of questions that you may not think are directly related to the condition you have come to have treated.
Your doctor will want to try to understand you as a whole person, and not just a disease. They may ask questions about your diet, exercise habits, sleep, your emotions, close relationships, your religious beliefs and more.
Types of treatments
Holistic doctors have a whole arsenal of treatments at their disposal because they do not limit themselves to traditional western medicine. Your treatment could include some or all of:
- Changes to your diet
- Exercise programs
- Psychotherapy or other mental health counselling
- Relationship and spiritual counselling
- Complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, physiotherapy or chiropractic care, massage therapy, homoeopathy or naturopathic medicines
- Western medications and surgical procedures.
Does it work?
True holistic medicine is very successful in treating patients because it considers the patient as a whole person and not just as a disease. It looks beyond the confines of what can be treated using medication to identify the true cause of the problem.
While conventional (Western) medicine is effective at treating issues that are obviously physical (such as broken bones) it is not always as successful at helping with complex health issues that have multiple causes and may need specialised or long-term attention. Issues such as chronic pain or anxiety are not always effectively treated with medication alone; in fact, this type of treatment can cause other problems, such as drug addiction.