What is Integrative Medicine?

The words “integrative medicine” may seem complicated and difficult to understand the first time you hear them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Integrative medicine is actually one of the most natural things in the world, as it looks at what it means to be “healthy” in the way that most people already do.

Integrative medicine is, at its core, the practice of looking at health as not just the absence of disease or infirmity. Healthiness, as most of us have come to realize, also involves mental, social, spiritual and emotional well being. Integrative medicine realizes this and approaches care by putting the patient at the center and addressing all of the needs together to create an environment most conducive to healing.

This means that each patient receives a personalized care strategy that employs interventions from across an array of scientific disciplines. By doing so, integrative medicine seeks to address all the causes of an illness, not merely its symptoms. This allows for practitioners to help their patients develop long-term solutions for the important interplay between behavioral, biological, psychosocial and environmental influences.

Although it may be easy to mix them up, integrative medicine is much different than alternative medicine. While alternative medicine approaches healing without conventional methods, integrative medicine brings together many different approaches to healing, including conventional methods. In fact, practitioners can become certified in integrative medicine through the American Board of Physician Specialties.

So what can you expect when receiving integrative medicine? Some of the defining principles, as outlined by Duke Health, include:

• Practitioner and patient working together as partners in the healing process

• Body, mind, spirit and community are taken into account as factors that influence disease, health and wellness

• Natural and less invasive effective interventions are used whenever possible

• Good medicine is open to new paradigms and rooted in inquiry and good science

• Practitioners facilitate the body’s innate healing ability by using all healing sciences

• Health promotion and the prevention of illness, along with treatment, are held paramount

• Personalized care is developed to best address the patient’s unique circumstances

• Practitioners of integrative medicine commit themselves to self-development and self-exploration.

Patients trust integrative medicine for how personalized treatment plans are. It is natural for patients to feel more secure in their healthcare when they know that it has been tailored to include all the unique elements of their lives. Acknowledging that health is about so much more than just the physical condition is certainly a good start to increasing wellness as we move forward.

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