Holistic medicine is a healthcare discipline that approaches healing from an organic point of view, which means that it views optimal health as an interaction between body and soul. As such, one of the main goals of holistic medicine is to achieve proper balance.
In a holistic clinic, health practitioners seek to heal patients by balancing various disciplines. To this effect, holistic clinics may incorporate alternative treatments that are not normally practiced in conventional medicine.
Understanding the Mind-Body Connection
Holistic clinics are a relatively new concept in the United States, a country where conventional medicine has pretty much been the norm for centuries. Conventional medicine, sometimes referred to as “Western medicine,” follows the scientific method and adheres to general theories of disease and specific treatment. Constant research and adoption of technology are important aspects of conventional medicine, as is specialization on certain conditions or body systems.
In a holistic clinic, conventional medicine may be practiced alongside homeopathy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, meditation, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, and others. Many of the disciplines practiced at holistic clinics predate conventional medicine; for example, herbal medicine is an ancient healing art from China, and meditation is based on spiritual healing, which is often considered to be the most ancient form of medicine.
The mind-body connection is a central focus in holistic clinics. For example, a woman who complains of frequent headaches might be evaluated as a potential migraine sufferer and given medications to treat the condition symptomatically. On one hand, conventional physician may schedule a follow up visit to determine if the medication was effective or to determine if a preventative regime should be applied as well; on the other hand, a holistic practitioner may inquire about the woman’s sleep patterns, her emotional life and the environment she lives and works in.
Whereas a conventional doctor may not suggest aromatherapy as a treatment option for a migraine patient, a holistic practitioner may schedule a session and suggest meditation as well. These recommendations are based on an assessment of the mind-body connection of the patient, who may not be actually suffering from a neurological or vascular disorder after all. In some cases, migraine-like headaches are experienced as a reaction to certain stress agents; this can be alleviated by restoring the holistic balance.
What to Expect from a Holistic Clinic Visit
Holistic approaches to healing are more common outside of the United States. In Germany, for example, public health clinics are likely to prescribe homeopathic treatments. A similar situation can be observed in some regions of India, where public health clinics practice Ayurveda.
A visit to a holistic clinic is very similar to that of a conventional clinic. The evaluation and diagnosis stage may or may not include laboratory tests, but it is likely to include an interview about eating habits, sleeping patterns, work conditions, family life, exercise and physical activity, etc.
Some of the therapies recommended by the holistic practitioner may take place at the clinic. Meditation, massage and aromatherapy may be practiced on site, it all depends on the facility. Herbal medicine prescriptions can be filled at a shop, unless the clinic carries them. Counseling and other activities such as yoga and acupuncture may be performed externally by recommended specialists.
One important thing to remember is that holistic clinics do not write off conventional medicine. If a patient arrives at a holistic clinic with an advanced diabetic condition, she will likely be referred to an endocrinologist right away.
Todd Nelson, D.Sc. trained at the International Center for Natural Health and Medicine, graduating with both a Naturopathic Doctor degree and a Doctor of Holistic Health Sciences degree. Aside from heading the Tree of Life Wellness Center in Denver, Colorado as a naturopathic doctor, Todd is also a co-author of 3 books.