Holistic medicine, as an approach to health, has been gaining ground rapidly over the last ten years. It focuses on how the mind affects the body. That means creating an integrative plan that supports a patient’s mental health throughout the entire treatment process- including follow-up care.
Holistic Medicine – A New “Whole Person” Medical Approach
The Holistic medical approach, now most frequently referred to as “Integrative Medicine,” has evolved from a variety of alternative medical approaches. Its standout feature is the fact that the medical practitioners, or team of practitioners, treat each patient in a comprehensive capacity. They look for “imbalances” in a person’s day-to-day activities, mental health, and physical health. They may even take spirituality and strong personal beliefs into account on a case-to-case basis.
This “whole person” approach can lead to differences in things as simple as scheduling. For example, in a Western medical setting, it’s usual for patients to be assigned a time slot of about 15-minutes per visit. On the other hand, holistic medical practitioners may spend an hour or more with each patient. This approach allows them to develop a lasting, therapeutic relationship and develop a comprehensive treatment plan. While shorter visits may make sense to some patients and can be ideal for check-ins and updating prescriptions, some patients feel that they need more attention, or that their condition can’t be addressed in short bursts.
Borrowing from Eastern, Western, and “Conventional” Medical Traditions
Holistic, integrative medicine takes a little bit of everything from every possible health tradition. This approach has a firm scientific basis, considering all of the physical signs and symptoms and researching all known diagnosis and treatments to match.
Holistic medicine then diverges sharply and involves the patient, along with their value and opinions, in the entire process.
By doing so, holistic medicine shows that it has respect for the sanctity of every person’s health- something that’s more often seen in Eastern medicine.
How Holistic Medicine Supports Mental Health
- Looking at the Big Picture – Each person is more than just the product of their DNA. With advances in epigenetic research, doctors are learning how profoundly a person’s physical appearance and health status are influenced by their thought patterns and life experiences.
- Treatment and Medication Balance – Holistic medicine tends to favour procedures that don’t involve medications but their use is never ruled out. For some, the right prescription can work miracles. If that is the case, then a holistic approach would be to continue using that medication but also bolster it with additional therapies. So, if you are likely to have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) a doctor taking a holistic approach might ask you to make changes to your home or lighting in addition to taking a look at any current supplements and medication.
- Accepting Alternative Therapies as Valid – In a similar vein as the above, if you aren’t responding to a given treatment, a holistic medical practitioner will listen to your reasons why and help you develop an alternative solution. If you feel strongly about a particular therapy, that, too, will be taken into account. In the long run, a more holistic approach may lead to more resources given to therapies that people feel have the most substantial impact, like talk therapy.
- Seeing Spiritual and Mental Needs as Relevant – Chronic stress, from work, home, unfulfilled needs, or a significant life event can lead a person to develop a physical illness. By seeing a patient and considering their mental health needs, a doctor has a higher chance of identifying the cause of a given symptom, although it is hard to know.
- Treating You, the Patient, Like a Person – Patients should be listened to and educated about their treatment options. A holistic medical practice will allow patients to have more time with their doctors and specialists.