Category Archives: The Holistic/Integrative Paradigm

Holistic Health Care VS Conventional Health Care

Is holistic health care, also called integrative health care, gaining momentum

and if so, what are some of the reasons? Health care in the United States is mainly

concerned with symptom management, using drugs and/or surgery as the major

tools. (This form of management is referred to as sick care by many because

this system focuses on illness rather than on health.) This focus, termed

conventional or   allopathic health care, is allowed to dominate due to

multiple socioeconomic factors including the proliferation of profitable

pharmaceuticals, diagnostic and treatment equipment, and advanced

surgical techniques; insurance reimbursement practices; physician

education programs; and the public’s silent complicity as quick fixes are

often accepted if not outright demanded.


Conventional or allopathic health care is often termed reductionist

by those of a more holistic outlook as it tends to look at parts rather than

the whole. It often excludes factors such as spiritual and psychosocial

components of a person’s life which are deemed unimportant to the

diagnosis. The importance of feelings of powerlessness, stress, isolation,

hostility, and grief are rarely considered as risk factors for disease. This model

tends to suppress symptoms rather than look for the underlying cause(s)

which might provide more sustainable results.


Symptom management, while affording sometimes necessary,

often life- saving care, neglects the uniqueness and wholeness of the

individual. It fails to consider the interrelatedness of body, mind, and spirit

in the spectrum of wellness to illness and thus also misses opportunities for

meaningful relationship between practitioner and client. Symptom management

also fails to provide the necessary framework for preventative                                                     558547_4578177100835_30429429_n[1]

strategies that might mitigate or eliminate the need for drugs or surgery. Preventative

strategies, notably lifestyle changes, call for a new approach, one that fosters

relationship between the consumer of health care and the health care professional.

Mutual respect and trust which develops in a model of caring rather than curing

allows empowerment of the client who is presumed to be a partner in their

health care. It also fosters compliance as the relationship is built on trust

and the consumer has a voice and a choice in their health care strategies.


Consumers often feel victimized by the impersonal conventional health care system as

well as by the disease. It is well known that feelings of victimization contribute to

disease rather than healing; in order for true healing to take place, the person needs to

feel empowered. People under the care of conventional health practitioners are

seldom taught to become responsible (and thus empowered) for their own

health care needs – engaging in self-care practices, for example.


Unfortunately, conventional health care  fails to recognize

that the most powerful weapon in their arsenal may very well be the

person with the disease. By engaging the health care consumer as a

partner in their recovery, thus fostering collaboration, conventional

practitioners might find more compliance, symptom reduction, and overall

improved health and wellness. Methods of engaging the client include mindful

listening where the practitioner puts aside his/her own agenda and is fully attentive

to the needs and concerns expressed by the client. This shift in focus,

from the practitioner to the client, fosters trust and relationship which can

set the stage for true healing.


The recent shift of some practitioners to a more holistic/integrative model of

care attempts to address the inadequacies of conventional medicine.

 Bernie Siegel, a holistically oriented physician, author and speaker, often discusses the need for

“reparenting” of health care consumers; genuine love and caring allows deep

connection with the client, improving self-esteem and fostering true healing. The

holistic model tends to regard illness as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.


The newer model of holistic health care, functional medicine, recognizes the

interrelationship between environment, genes, and lifestyle in disease manifestation. It

also recognizes the importance of higher needs such as values-based living, loving

relationships, fulfillment, and purposeful work in addition to physical needs of rest,

relaxation, and nutrition.


The solution to the challenge of moving into a more (w)holistic model of health care is

multifaceted. I believe it ultimately begins with the consumer of health care who is

beginning to demand a more personalized, less cookie-cutter approach to their health

care needs. Consumers are beginning to understand that they have a large responsibility

in maintaining and/or improving their health and are seeking alternative methods and

practitioners to help them. Economics are also involved here. Perhaps Obamacare

is setting the stage for mainstream preventative health care which will reduce our need

and dependence on symptom-based health care.