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What does a holistic medical doctor do?
The work of a holistic medical doctor represents the best of both worlds — a unique blend of conventional Western medicine and alternative medicine. These M.D.s incorporate at least one type of complementary medicine — perhaps acupuncture or herbal therapy — into their medical practice.
The holistic doctor offers the perfect solution for patients who want to benefit from both the technological advances of Western medicine and the preventive, natural approach advocated by complementary modalities.
Meeting with a holistic doctor will involve the two of you discussing in-depth your medical history and treatment options. Diagnostic tests (blood-pressure, blood work, urinalysis) may be required to check your health. Your initial visit could last for more than an hour since this is your first opportunity to establish a working relationship.
In the case of holistic medicine, physician and patient work as a team. You can discuss the extent to which you’re willing to try the natural, non-drug alternative therapies and at what point you wish to have access to prescription drugs.
Key principles of holistic medicine
The underlying philosophy for holistic medical doctors is that no one health care modality offers all the “answers.” This is truly medicine for the 21st century, since it accepts wisdom from many different cultures and healing belief systems, including drug intervention when deemed necessary.
In addition, holistic medicine fosters a cooperative relationship between doctor and patient as the two mutually explore the possibilities offered by a number of modalities. For instance, a patient might be undergoing radiation therapy for cancer while also benefiting from immune-boosting Chinese herbs and the practices of biofeedback and visualization.
Which types of conditions are best treated by holistic medicine?
People with complicated health issues often seek out a holistic medical doctor because they believe in the power of the body to heal itself (one of the basic tenets of natural medicine) but they also need a physician who can prescribe drugs if needed.
Other people come to holistic M.D.s for treatment because they have exhausted all the options of conventional medicine. A holistic physician will be able to factor past treatments into a new health regimen and may be able to guide you through ways to improve your health through alternative means.
You might see a holistic physician for any of these health problems:
• heart disease
• HIV or AIDS
• high blood pressure
• menopausal symptoms
Holistic medical doctors have earned the post-graduate degrees of either medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), and they have completed their three-year residency doing patient care. In addition, the practitioner has several years of study and clinical training in one or more alternative therapies, including biofeedback and stress management, body work, nutrition, herbal medicine, spinal manipulation, homeopathy, and acupuncture.
What to look for when choosing a holistic doctor
First and foremost, you need a practitioner you can trust who shares your philosophy of health. A holistic medical doctor should ideally help you choose from several health care modalities so that you have powerful methods for self-care at your disposal. You must feel comfortable talking with the practitioner and be confident that she or he will explain therapies to you.
If the doctor is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association, she or he abides by a high ethical code. Here are some of the criteria by which you can judge a holistic medical practitioner:
1. The practitioner is devoted to treating the whole person: body, mind and spirit.
2. Treatments are always done in the best interest of the patient.
3. The practitioner continues to improve his or her skills and knowledge of both medical science and alternative modalities.
4. The doctor allows the patient to share in decision-making regarding treatment. Their job is to educate patients and help empower them to take responsibility for their care.
5. The doctor acts responsibly in delivering both medical and alternative treatments. He or she does not make outrageous claims or promise a “cure.”
6. The practitioner guards patient/doctor confidentiality.
7. The doctor donates some time to giving medical care to those who cannot afford treatment.
You can find out more about holistic doctors by checking www.holisticmedicine.org on the web. You can also call the American Holistic Medical Association located in Virginia at: 703-556-9245
Questions to ask the holistic doctor
• What complementary therapies do you use in your practice? Are those therapies appropriate for treating my condition?
• What training do you have in alternative medicine?
• Why do you think it’s important to blend complementary and conventional medicine in one practice?
• What will be my role/your role in healing my condition?
• How much say will I have in deciding the course of my treatment?
• How will I know that a particular type of treatment is working?
• How often will I need to come for an office visit?
• Do you accept medical insurance?