Complementary/ Alternative/ Integrative
Alternative medicine is the term most commonly used for therapies that have been outside the spectrum of conventional medical care. These include therapist-administered treatments such as acupuncture and massage, as well as the self-healing techniques of relaxation, meditation and imagery (the latter three have been combined as psychoneuroimmunology). When expertise is required in learning the methods or in choosing remedies, as in aromatherapy, flower essences and homeopathy, the approaches and therapist/ respant relationship can be fairly similar to those found in conventional care. The self-healing approaches are often practiced under the guidance of trained practitioners.
Holistic has been in use for several decades, used generally to indicate a focus in treatment that extends beyond physical problems as addressed by conventional medicine. In some instances holistic includes what I term wholistic, but in most instances it refers to the addition of some aspects of CAM therapies to medical care. Often this sort of holism includes bits and pieces of therapies, such as needling particular acupuncture points for pain relief, or providing massage for relaxation and post-injury rehabilitation.
Holistic may overlap with psychosomatic, including psychological aspects of illness, as reflected in emotional responses to the physical problems, in mental aberrations that occur as the result of disorders of the body (e.g. psychosis that may result for hormonal abnormalities), and psychological influences on the body. Minimal mention is made of the psychological contributors to disease and psychosomatic medicine has been grossly neglected in medical training at most medical schools.
Wholistic refers to whole person care, including body, emotions, mind, relationships and spirit. Where CAM therapies are modalities for wholistic care, wholistic healing acknowledges the broader philosophies of these approaches. For instance, acupuncture includes a complete system of biological energy diagnosis and treatment. This is fundamentally different from Western medicine, addressing the biological energies of the body as avenues for diagnosis and treatment. Western medicine tends to discount and discredit acupuncture (and the theoretical and philosophical cosmologies of other CAM modalities), ignoring that many of these have served the larger portion of our world’s populace, and continue to do so.
Many varieties of bioenergy therapies are available within the wholistic healing spectrum (Benor unpublished)
Integrative care – in its highest form – seeks to blend the best of conventional and CAM modalities, respecting the approaches of each modality. However, this term, too, may be used to cover token selected CAM interventions that are lifted out of their original contexts into Western settings.
Congruence of caregivers with their teachings
Within all of the variations on the theme of caregiver, we often tend to focus on the content of their ministrations. The family doctor prescribes medicines, the surgeon cuts and sews, the herbalist prescribes plants, and so on. We should not overlook the importance of caregivers as healing agents, in and of themselves. Within wholistic frameworks, caregivers are an essential part of the healing.