I often hear the terms “alternative” and “mainstream” health care. They are used as descriptors of which kind of health care has efficacy and is considered reimbursable by insurance companies – mainstream, and everything that falls outside of that category – alternative. It seems that these terms may have worked in the past to differentiate the two, but since there have been now hundreds of thousands of research studies demonstrating statistical significance of “alternative” approaches, they are moving more into the mainstream realm. What’s interesting is that even though there is strong evidence for many of these approaches, they’ve been taken up a notch to be described as “complementary.” Even the, formerly known as, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine – a branch of the National Institutes of Health recently dropped the word alternative from its title. They are now the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
“Complementary” implies that there are two sides complementing one another. Therefore, it indicates that there is still a mainstream and then there is the other. The term “Integrative” also implies that something is being integrated into another. I am glad to see that these approaches are being ushered away from the term alternative, but there does still seem to be an inherent separation, that does seem to be a part of a natural progression that wants to co-mingle. It seems that until what has been and is often still referred to as “alternative” is more commonly used in all of health care “the one and the other” may exist.
Which is why I like the term Holistic. This seems to describe and embody much of the philosophy and approach of most of these approaches. Much of holistic health has been a grassroots effort of people looking for all the options to better their health, and their lives for their loved ones and themselves. Many people are seeing the benefits of Mind-Body-Spirit-Medicine, Prevention and Wellness. We do need both views and approaches. Wouldn’t you want to know all of the options that could help you or a loved one?
Mainstream health care really began focusing primarily on the physical and the symptoms in the early part of the century. The mind and body were considered separate and separate professionals addressed each separately. Pharmaceutical companies have become too strong and probably are fearful of the success and benefits that getting to the root cause could achieve. Maybe we can learn to respect each other. Maybe we could learn to value each other instead of saying it is one or the other.
If we learn to coexist and see the value each has to offer, wouldn’t it be a win-win for everyone? Just like the yin and yang symbol, there is a duality – that seems to be moving toward a way of coexisting. If you look closely at these two seemingly polar opposites and Taoist philosophy, they each have their strengths, and they each need each other to continue moving forward. They can better exist when they are in unity and harmony with each other and becoming one.