Integrative Medicine (Integral Medicine) : A closer look at a new way to marry conventional western medicine and natural alternative healing modalities.
Dr. Steven Hall is a pioneer of Integral Medicine. He is a Medical Doctor residency-trained in family practice and is an adjunct professor at an acclaimed university. For over 20 years he has refined his integrative medical practice to incorporate nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, hypnosis, functional medicine, osteopathic manipulation, and Craniosacral Therapy, as well as conventional western medicine. Dr. Hall was gracious enough to speak with Allied Health World to help us gain a deeper understanding of the unique and dynamic world of integrative medicine.
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine, also called Integral Medicine by Dr. Steven Hall, is the integrated melding of the scientific methods of conventional western medicine with the wisdom, human connectedness, and intuition of alternative healing methods. It was born of the highest ideal: To create and promote healing and sustained wellness by addressing the whole of the human condition and thereby isolating and treating the core issue behind physical ailments, and not just the manifested symptoms. Dr. Steven Hall explains, “Everything has an impact on your health. Even the rock in the field is leaching minerals into the soil, which feeds the plants that you eat. Because the planet is so interdependent like that, everything in your life impacts your health: belief, perspective, language- everything.” He went on to say, “There are certainly valid concepts of healing in conventional medicine. There’s a time and a place for the tools of conventional medicine. And there are a lot of good valid concepts and techniques in the various types of natural medicine. The best thing is to use what’s most appropriate.”
Integrative medicine schools present the idea that the Integral Worldview represents the ultimate in medical integrity because it seeks to define and promote physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual wellness in a collaborative effort between physician and patient. Integrative medicine in practice combines the scientifically substantiated aspects of western medicine with alternative modalities that have been proven effective in bringing about healing and sustained wellness. As Dr. Hall explained, “Integral Medicine has a home in it for every valid concept that we know about healing. It’s a way to seamlessly combine the best of what we know about natural medicine, with the best of what we know about psychology, environmental medicine, and conventional medicine.”
Dr. Hall elaborated on what is at the very hart of this groundbreaking approach to medicine: “Integral Medicine is much more than just a combination of conventional and alternative medicines. It is a system of medicine based on two main observations: First, everything and anything in your life; such as diet, exercise, work, beliefs, attitudes, the environment, and your family, exerts some influence upon your health. Therefore, we need a medicine that is based on a broad science that can take all of these factors into account, as opposed to a medicine based on a narrow science of only the physical. Second, we as human beings are more than just biochemistry. We are body, mind, energy, beliefs and creative consciousness all functioning simultaneously and interdependently while being immersed in a social and environmental milieu. We need a system of therapeutics that can treat all of these aspects and interrelationships simultaneously and effectively. These are the goals of Integral Medicine. “
What is the Wellness Process versus the allopathic process?
Practitioners of conventional western medicine, and even practitioners of natural medicine who do not hold to the Integral Worldview, most often engage their patients in treatments intended to suppress symptoms enough that people can go about their normal lives. The symptom is effectively treated as if it were the actual condition. This usually means treating a symptom repeatedly rather than bringing about healing and final resolution of the core issue. This symptom-oriented treatment is known as the allopathic process.
For example, a person might visit a doctor complaining of headaches so severe that he or she is unable to focus on work. This person’s doctor would most likely prescribe a powerful pharmaceutical-grade painkiller that the patient would be instructed to take at the onset of one of these headaches. The prescribed drug effectively dulls the pain enough that the patient is able to continue working. According to the allopathic process when the symptom is abated and the patient is able to resume his or her daily routine, the problem is solved.
However, when embracing an Integral Worldview, the allopathic process as described here is very limited in its ability to bring about actual healing and sustained wellness. Conventional medical physicians and practitioners of natural medicine who adhere to the allopathic process are resigned to the fact that headaches will continue to plague the individual in our example, so they seek only to make life bearable by helping to alleviate the pain.
The Integral Worldview takes a much broader perspective and sees symptoms as clues that may indicate a deeper issue. Integrative medicine seeks to eliminate the occurrence of the symptoms indefinitely by addressing and resolving the core issue, rather than just making the symptoms easier to live with. This is what Dr. Steven Hall calls the Wellness Process.
The Wellness Process may involve looking to the symptom’s history to identify specific events or life-changes that immediately precipitated the onset of the symptom; headaches in this case. If it is discovered that the headaches began when the patient started his or her new job, which involved exposure to toxic chemicals or new levels of chronic stress, it may be concluded that the job itself is the source of the headaches.
Sometimes the core issue isn’t physical at all; it could be psychological or emotional, and brought on by certain circumstantial or environmental factors.
Dr. Hall explained, “Symptoms are clues that something somewhere in your system is out of balance. The part of you that detected the imbalance knows the answer, and when the balance has been achieved, the symptom goes away. The symptom goes away by virtue of treating the actual issues.”