The label, doctor, has come to have the associations to it that are given to a priest. It carries an aura of knowledge, wisdom, and power to heal. On the positive side, this mantle of authority vastly enhances the placebo, or self-healing potential in all medical interventions. Patients come with the expectation that they will be given a cure, and this produces self-healing that will respond in about a third of cases to any treatment whatsoever.
Sadly, on the negative side, power corrupts. There are many within the medical profession who have assumed that their methods of healing are the only true methods, all others being the work of infidels. This attitude, plus economics and politics have led doctors to lobby successfully over the past century for exclusive legislative license to declare who should treat and how treatments should be given.
A major segment of the public, not fooled by this arrogance, has voted with its feet and health care dollars in a big way for therapies that have been outside the knowledge and competence of the medical profession. Awareness of the billions of dollars spent out of pocket for complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) has encouraged medicine to begin to integrate these approaches into medical care, and is encouraging legislation that allows the public freer access to these treatments.
Therapists provide treatments much as doctors do. They are the experts, dispensing advice, psychotherapy, herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower essences, providing acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, massage, or other interventions.
Coaching is instruction for executives in human relations, to develop smoother team efforts in the workplace. This term has facilitated the acceptance of what is essentially counseling, which is not well accepted because it carries the implication that the executive that needs treatment. By using coaching, there is no implied criticism or suggestion that there may be something wrong with the executive.
In many of the CAM modalities that promote self-healing, the caregiver is more a teacher than a therapist. Respants are instructed in lifestyle changes, meditations, relaxations, imagery exercises, and other self-healing approaches that they practice on their own.
I have come to perceive myself primarily as a teacher or guide in most of my interactions with my psychiatric psychotherapy clients. In addition to instructing them in their options with various medications, I often introduce self-healing approaches – particularly acupressure techniques that are rapidly and potently effective in dealing with stress reactions, pains, and allergies.
Healer and Healee
There are people we call healers who have gifts of intuitive awareness and abilities to facilitate wholistic changes in body, emotions, mind, relationships and spirit. In Western society, many healers and their patients have modeled aspects of their interactions on the conventional medical system. Healers are perceived as intervening to identify problems and provide the necessary treatments. This mode of interpreting healing is reinforced by the media, who like to headline unusual cures that occasionally result from healings. Some healers promote this perception of healing, thriving on a sense of power, providing their healing as a medical doctor would perform surgery, with every bit as much ego inflation.