Many Americans—more than 30% of adults and about 12 % of children—use health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine. When describing these approaches, people often use “alternative” and “complementary” interchangeably, but the two terms refer to different concepts:
True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventional treatments.
There are many definitions of “integrative” health care, but all involve bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. Over the years, use of integrative approaches to health and wellness has grown within a variety healthcare settings across the United States. Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthy behaviors and thought patterns.
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body’s natural healing process, for improvement of all system functions. This is done by inserting sterilized, stainless-steel needles (as thin as human hair) into specific points and conjunctions located on the body. These points have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to treat a wide variety of illnesses by stimulating the nervous system. A Licensed Acupuncturist is a L.Ac., and only practices Acupuncture. An MSOM is a Master in the Science of Oriental Medicine, and has extensive training in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views the person as an entire energy system in which body and mind are unified, each influencing and balancing one the other. This is akin to the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems. Unlike Western medicine, which attempts to isolate and separate a disease from a person, Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes a holistic approach that treats the person as a functioning whole. TCM is made up of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tuina (bodywork), moxibustion, and cupping.
Acutonics is an integrated approach to health care grounded in Oriental medicine, psychology, science, cosmological studies and sound healing principles. This non-invasive methodology works with vibratory energy created through sound, applied to acupressure points on the body. This is a grounding and balancing method to use in place of acupuncture needles.
Sound Healing has been used for thousands of years in the form of Tibetan singing bowls, gongs, windchimes, tingshas, and musical instruments. Everything in existence is composed of energy, and can be influenced through vibration and frequency. Sound healing helps use the vibration and frequency of the notes being played to influence the mind, body and spirit, in treatment.
Workplace Wellness is any activity, health promotion, or organizational policy, designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace, and improved health outcomes. Initiatives can include health education, medical screenings, nutrition and fitness programs, work-life balance, and flex time. Numerous studies have shown that investing in worksite wellness programs not only improves productivity, but offers cost savings and resource availability, in regards to health and wellness. According to Dr. Roger Sahoury, author of Gladiator’s Guide to Corporate Health & Wealth, “55% of workers identified a workplace wellness program as an instrument in improving their overall well-being. In fact, it equates to $250 million in savings in lowered health costs and a 50% reduction in high blood pressure among employees.”
Cranio-Sacral Therapy stimulates healing by using gentle hand pressure to manipulate the skeleton and connective tissues, especially with the skull and sacrum. Cranial-sacral therapy is based on the theory that the central nervous system, (the brain and spinal cord), has subtle, rhythmic pulsations of Cerebrospinal Fluid, (CSF), that are vital to health, and can be detected and modified by a skilled practitioner. It is beneficial for many conditions like TMJ, Neck/Back Pain, Headaches, Trauma, Stress and more.
The Equine Gestalt Coaching Method (EGC Method) involves a horse as an active partner with a coach in the client’s exploratory healing process. The integrative approach of the equine’s interaction, combined with positive coaching, somatic awareness, guidance and Gestalt methodology, assist the client in examining their life and choices made with a focus on designing a positive future. With EGCM the horse is an active partner in the coaching and healing process. Using their combined wisdom and intuition, the EGCM coach and their equine partner will guide a client through his or her experience.
Also referred to as Horse Therapy, Equine Therapy is a form of experiential therapy involving interactions between patients and horses. Activities may include grooming, feeding, haltering and leading a horse, and are supervised by a mental health professional, often with the support of a horse professional. Equine Therapy has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens who are being treated for substance abuse, addiction, trauma, autism, and more.
Plants have been the basis for medical treatments throughout much of human history. With Herbal Medicine, Clinical herbalists employ clinical strategies and methods which support vitality through encouragement of nourishment, digestion, rest, and appropriate activity, as well as identification of purpose in personal life, connection with nature, an active spiritual life, identification and removal of obstacles to cure on all levels, and avoidance of activities which suppress or distort life processes. Clinical herbalists consider physiology and pathophysiology, along with equally valuable knowledge from traditional medicine, combined with empirical observation, instinct and intuition, to create deeply nourishing blends on a multitude of levels.
A coach is someone who uses their knowledge to motivate others in developing skills in many areas of life, be it health, fitness, emotional or spiritual growth. Coaches take on the role of a leader who helps to guide, motivate, encourage, set goals, and teach.
Life Coaching focuses on personal growth in the more intimate areas of a person’s life such as love, relationships, social life, career and finances, parenting and family; they help clients find success and satisfaction.
Health Coaching finds influential factors including mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, social, and environmental influences, that impact health. Health coaches address the lifestyle habits of the patient by taking a careful examination of that person’s health and conditions which may have been the result of poor habits and lack of integration in lifestyle. Many sufferers of chronic disease and/or pain are unaware that their own behaviors are leading to the manifestation of poor health, and need help getting back to a good baseline.
Massage Therapy is inclusive of many techniques, and the type of massage given usually depends on your needs and physical condition. Massage therapy dates back thousands of years, as references appear in ancient writings from China, Japan, India, and Egypt. In general, massage therapists work on muscle and other soft connective tissue to ease pain and tension. It is sometimes done using essential oils as a form of aromatherapy.
Meditation is a mind and body practice with a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body and behavior. Long term meditation has also been shown to influence telomerase activity in cells, which influence cell longevity.
There are many types of meditation, and most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible, a specific, comfortable posture, a focus of attention (fixed gaze, breathwork, body scans); and an open mind (witnessing distractions, rather than focusing on them). There are many guided meditations, Tibetan singing bowls, solfeggio frequency, and binaural beats videos that some people find helpful when getting into a meditative state.
Mindfulness is a form of ongoing meditation. It means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, actions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It also involves acceptance, awareness, and patience. Paying attention to ones thoughts, feelings, and actions can be difficult, but when done from a perspective of pausing and asking yourself why you do those things, without judging them, is the first step to understanding, and the first step to change. When mindfulness is practiced, one tunes into what they are sensing in the present moment.
Personal Training is offered by an individual who is certified with a varied degree of knowledge of general fitness, specifically with exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback to clients, while encouraging them to take accountability for their actions, and gains. Personal Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may be performed before, during, and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements in physical fitness. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness, including general health and nutrition guidelines.
Qualified personal trainers recognize their own areas of expertise. If a trainer suspects that one of their clients has a medical condition that could prevent the client from safe participation in an exercise program, they must refer the client to the proper health professional for prior clearance.
Pilates is an innovative and safe system of mind-body exercise which may use a variety of types equipment. It emphasizes proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentration on smooth, flowing movement, in order to become acutely in tune with the body and its way of moving. In Pilates, the quality of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions. Pilates exercises develop a strong “core”, or center of the body. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles, along with the muscles closest to the spine.
Psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and transform troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior patterns. Most psychotherapy takes place with a licensed and trained mental health care professional in a one-on-one in person or virtual setting, or in small groups.
Reflexology is the application of pressure to areas on the feet, hands and ears. The theory behind reflexology is that these areas correspond to organs and systems of the body, which originate at the time of development as a fetus. Reflexologists use foot charts to guide them as they apply pressure to specific areas. Sometimes practitioners use items such as rubber balls, rubber bands, and sticks of wood to assist in their work. Practitioners of reflexology can include chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and certified reflexologists. Reflexology can be helpful in pain management, dealing with anxiety and depression, balancing hormones, enhancing relaxation and deepening sleep. Studies also show that reflexology may have benefits in palliative care of people with cancer.
Reiki is a form of therapy that uses simple hands-on, no-touch, and visualization techniques, with the goal of improving the flow of life energy in a person. Reiki (pronounced ray-key) means “universal life energy” in Japanese, and Reiki practitioners are trained to detect and alleviate problems of energy flow on the physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Reiki is a form of energy work, and is often used in conjunction with other types of energy balancing work such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and reflexology.
Spiritual Wellness is a personal responsibility, involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives. While different individuals may have different views of what spiritualism is, it is generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose in human existence, leading one to strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others, while working to balance inner needs and desires with the rest of the world. At it’s core, the idea behind healthy spiritual wellness leads to a more peaceful and harmonious state of being, on both a personal and global scale
Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian spiritual practice. It is a structure of mental, physical and emotional disciplines found mainly in Hinduism. The 8 Limbs of Yoga include Universal Moralities (Yamas), Personal Disciplines (Niyamas), various Breathing Techniques (Pranayama), Body Postures and Movements (Asanas), Sensory Control (Pratyahara), Meditation (Dhyana), Focused Intent (Dharana), with the goal to attain ultimate Peace and Serenity (Samadhi). The physical benefits of yoga asana practice include increased flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness, with the mental benefits of stress reduction, improved sleep patterns, and relaxation. Several types of traditional yoga include Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Hatha yoga. Newer styles of yoga include Rocket, Dharma, Yin, Power, and Bikram yoga.
The Asana aspect of Yoga has been taken and glorified as a way to keep physically fit, while leaving out the spiritual aspects of yoga, and disregarding the depth of history at its roots in India. If you chose to participate in yoga, be open to receiving all of its benefits as a way of life.