Sometimes when asked what realm of medicine the work I do falls within, and I reply with the term "Integrative Medicine" or "Holistic Medicine", a strange look of confusion sweeps over the person's face. Many people get it, love it and want only to deal with this route medically…yet there are still some who this is fairly new to. Wherever you may be on the spectrum, hopefully reading this blog will help!
Holistic Medicine, dating as far back as Hippocrates, refers to the consideration of the WHOLE or complete person (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) during management and prevention of disease. I treat my own clients holistically because I firmly believe in the notion that our over-all wellbeing relies not only on what’s going on with us physically in terms of illness, but also on the close inter-relation of this with those other realms. They’re all equally important and should be managed or BALANCED together. In order to treat clients this way, during consultations, I gather information on the client’s WHOLE life situation.
THE DIFFERENCE FROM CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE
Just like Conventional Medicine, Holistic Medicine also treats symptoms and diseases. However, Holistic Medicine takes things up a notch by also looking for the UNDERLYING CAUSE of these symptoms. Sound confusing? Well, think of it this way…when I am treating a symptom, I am always looking for the story behind the story. For instance, if pain is the symptom, rather than just giving my patient something to take to get rid of it (giving them temporary relief), I’d get to the bottom of what his/her body is trying to communicate to us with the pain signals in the first place. This way, I can address the root cause of the pain (giving them PERMANENT relief).
THE USE OF CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE
I never want to paint the picture that I am “anti” conventional medicine. I have received a wealth of education and training in it, and feel that it definitely has its place. I also feel that natural therapies have their place, as well. The key, and the benefit to being trained in both sides, is knowing the balanced dance to do between the two worlds to achieve optimal healing and well-being for my patients. Now, I will say that I do use natural healing techniques majority of the time for disease management and prevention. Conventional Medicine usually prevails in circumstances dealing with trauma, emergencies, surgical procedures, severe infectious disease, etc. Holistic Medicine is a route of healing that incorporates MANY treatment approaches. Nutrition, exercise, supplements, homeopathy, prayer, acupuncture and meditation just to name a few, may be used alone or even with conventional medicine as part of a holistic approach.
Well, I’m sure you’ve already done the math. If I have to dive into all of these different realms of your life, and implement multiple modes of treatment approaches, you can imagine that the usual 10-20 minute consultation times associated with Conventional Medicine just wouldn’t cut it. I spend on average about an hour with each patient, almost two for new patients (initial consultations). Great listening and communication skills are crucial during the consultation in order to gather and organize the patient's story. I also encourage patient participation in the doctor-patient relationship, because we are a team. I am there as more of a coach or accountability partner, empowering the patient to take charge of his/her health with my assistance.
THE TERM “INTEGRATIVE”
As I said above, holistic medicine can incorporate some conventional medicine. Typically, any healthcare practitioner can practice holistically, from nurses to chiropractors to naturopaths. My belief is that when you have someone who was originally educated and trained in conventional medicine (as I was in medical school), and then this individual decides to incorporate or INTEGRATE many holistic therapies in their protocols (as I do now with my patients), this person is now termed an Integrative Medical Doctor or Integrative Practitioner. There’s a heavier emphasis on those holistic therapies with a strong tradition of documented effects, careful research and ongoing study. Interested in what Integrative Medicine can do for you? You're more than welcome to come to my Integrative Medicine practice (Mind Body Spirit Wellness Center) located in the Brookhaven area of Atlanta, GA. Check out the website (mbswellness.org), call to book time to speak with me, and let’s get your wellness journey started together!
Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA
Returning to Nature, LLC.