The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Friday, January 5, 2013) in its “your health” section entitled, “Whole-body Healing” written by Ken Alltucker. The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine. Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard. While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM). As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”. This is a breakthrough article for this column.
The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease. Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully. I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient. The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.
One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame. In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole”. Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.
The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed. Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy. My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives. More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being, is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.
I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being. Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health. It certainly is for me.