Integrative Medicine The Specialty
What is Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine is the practice of medicine that focuses on the whole person and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
It combines state-of-the-art, conventional medical treatments with other therapies that are carefully selected and shown to be effective and safe.
The goal is to unite the best that conventional medicine has to offer with other healing systems and therapies derived from cultures and ideas both old and new.
Integrative medicine is based upon a model of health and wellness, as opposed to a model of disease.
Principles that define Integrative Medicine
1 Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
2 All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
3 Appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods facilitate the body's innate healing response.
4 Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
5 Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
6 Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
7 Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
8 Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
Coordinating all of the care given to a patient is a cornerstone of the integrative medicine approach. Your primary care physician should work in tandem with such practitioners as your integrative medicine physician, integrative health coach, nutritionist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist.
How to choose an Integrative Medicine Practitioner
If you're considering supplementing your conventional medical care with a complementary or alternative therapy, or if you're already practicing a nonconventional therapy, you should speak with your doctor. First, he or she may be able to recommend a qualified practitioner. Second, if your doctor is kept informed of your CAM therapies, he or she can provide medical oversight and consider those therapies when moving forward with your overall healthcare strategy.
Because integrative medicine practitioners include physicians of every specialty as well as doctors of osteopathic medicine, mental health professionals, mind-body specialists, and practitioners such as massage therapists and acupuncturists, their educational and accreditation requirements vary widely, as does the regulation of their fields.
Don't hesitate to ask about a practitioner's training and experience. Those worth their salt will have nothing to hide and should be happy to refer you to the professional organizations that trained, licensed, or certified them if you have additional questions about their qualifications.
Experts recommend that prospective patients look for practitioners who fundamentally believe in integrative medicine's mind-body-spirit-community philosophy. A useful litmus test for screening CAM practitioners is to ask about their willingness to collaborate with conventional healthcare professionals.
Patients should avoid practitioners who automatically advocate all CAM therapies or discount all conventional medicine practices. Likewise, use caution with conventional medicine practitioners who instantly write off integrative medicine or automatically advocate all mainstream medicine therapies.
Experts also suggest that prospective patients take a cue from what many of us do when choosing a conventional practitioner: Talk with people whose opinions you respect. Ask friends, family members, and coworkers to share their experiences and make recommendations.