Why Do We Need Integrative Holistic Medicine?

(This is part 3 of new contributor Dr Alan Mease‘s series on Integrative Holistic Medicine. Part 1 and part 2 are here)

Integrative holistic medicine is the emerging medicine of the future. Its values are significantly different and are best described by The Declaration for a New Medicine from the Bravewell Collaborative.

Declaration for A NEW MEDICINE

  • We value the treatment of the individual in a holistic manner and the fulfillment of the needs of mind, body and spirit.
  • We recognize the sacred and healing nature of the relationships between patients and healthcare providers and acknowledge that humanism, compassion and caring are central to health and healing.
  • We believe that the empowered patient is the responsible central actor in healing, self-care and prevention and that a person’s emotions, trauma and stress levels directly affect the risk and course of disease.
  • We will work for a healthcare system that creates an environment which supports healing relationships and recognizes that in order to be healing and empowering, healers themselves must be restored and whole.
  • We will support truly integrative medicine that offers the highest standards of excellence in a full and complete array of care modalities.
  • We embrace the spiritual dimension of life and acknowledge the importance of context and intention in the healing process for patients, caregivers and healers.
  • We acknowledge that the risks of many serious illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, can be reduced with scientifically based nutrition, exercise and mind-body interventions.
  • We believe in giving voice to the patient, in the openness of healers, and in honest and supportive communications among all members of the healthcare community.
  • We will support the efforts of healers to develop integrity and spiritual qualities, which are as important as medical knowledge and technical skills to the process of healing.
  • We dedicate ourselves to the change necessary to bring about the new medicine in an optimal healing environment.

Health care is in a time of crisis- a crisis of care, confidence and cost.  The NEW MEDICINE is emerging based on these values.  This has not been without obstacles.   The primary obstacle to this emergence has been a lack of a comprehensive conceptual framework.  The modern-day philosopher Ken Wilber’s four-quadrant model now provides a powerful tool for conceptualizing health and illness, investigating the efficacy of different treatment modalities, informing research methodology and medical education.  It offers a way to clarify the otherwise vague concepts of “integrative” and  “holistic”.  This model will be reviewed in Part 4.


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4 thoughts on “Why Do We Need Integrative Holistic Medicine?”

  1. That's a fascinating declaration, it's like a new Hippocratic oath for doctors. I do agree that modern Western (allopathic) is very focused on technical matters and medicines, and really does a poor job of preventive medicine, or even looking at a patient in a more full biopsychosocial model. So I think any attempt to fix this defect is good…but I'm a little bit sad thinking that this is a "new medicine". Did Western medicine really stray so far that we need to reaffirm that we should listen more to our patients and give them more voice, and also provide more spiritual outlook?

  2. It is sad. The reason for this is the incredible success of the objective scientific approach. We physicians have neglected our most powerful tool that of our own personality. Before modern medicine it was the only tool. Now we are rediscovering its power the power of the doctor patient relationship. Integrative holistic medicine must also be evidenced based but the type of studies required are necessarily more difficult due to the complexities of the human experience. I will discuss the increasing evidence for integrative holistic medicine and the philosophical unifying hypothesis in the remaining 2 articles of this series.

  3. I'm very excited to see this declaration for New Medicine. It would be wonderful to have a doctor who abides by these tenets. I think that allopathic medicine has historically compartmentalized and isolated everything from microorganisms to body parts. It’s hard to look at the big picture and to treat a person holistically (body, mind, spirit) when the focus is on a fraction of the whole. What I find especially exciting is the inclusion of themes related to spirituality. I personally feel this is a fundamental part of who we are as human beings and therefore at times essential for a doctor to address. Interestingly, these tenets capture the same spirit of the naturopathc oath (http://www.drpincott.com/about_us/oath.htm), but in an effort to achieve a greater, wider acceptance, naturopathic medicine has chosen to distance itself from the spiritual side of things. Instead we are focusing on the evidence based quantifiable data that’s easily reproduced in the fear of not appearing “scientific” enough. I find it very sad because I don’t think one excludes the other. As Dr. Mease has stated a different methodology is needed. I would be very interested in hearing more about your ideas on this subject Dr. Mease.

  4. Damjan from chinahealthblogblog asked a good question:

    “Dr. Mease, you are probably fully aware that integrative medicine’s biggest hurdle on the path to wider acceptance is presenting experimental evidence which supports its effectiveness. Have there been any attempts to measure the above mentioned “subtle forces”? What were their results? are there any theories as to what these energies might be?”

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