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Health care with a difference -- that’s holistic health. Once considered quackery by conventional doctors, the concepts and modalities of holistic health, which might incorporate acupuncture, herbal medicine, mediation, aromatherapy, spinal manipulation and nutrition, can be incorporated into many conventional healthcare careers. A legitimate holistic health practitioner could be a physician, registered nurse, chiropractor, massage therapist or acupuncturist. Legitimacy in these fields is typically conferred through formal training, licensure and certification.
Focus on the Person
Unlike conventional medicine, where the focus is on diagnosing and treating a disease or injury, holistic health practitioners are taught that the focus should be on the person rather than the illness. In addition, the goal is not merely to treat the current problem, but to help the patient regain health in all aspects of her life. Body, mind, spirit, emotions, relationships, context and environment are all considered by a holistic practitioner, according to the American Holistic Nurses Association.
Any physician who wants to practice holistic medicine can obtain post-graduate training in the field after completing college, medical school and residency. In the medical field, however, osteopaths and naturopaths are the physicians most likely to be trained from the beginning in the concepts of whole-person medicine and holistic health. Both follow a training path similar to that of a conventional physician, but the medical schools they attend teach whole-person healing and holistic medical concepts as well as alternative medicine and other modalities used in holistic medicine. Osteopaths, for example, learn spinal manipulation, while naturopaths study botanical and nutritional medicine.
Like doctors, most nurses are trained in conventional nursing schools and then find post-graduate training in holistic health, according to the American Holistic Nurses Association. The goal of holistic nursing is healing the whole person. This might include therapeutic touch, prayer, energy work, exercise and nutritional therapy. Holistic nurses might have anything from a nursing diploma to a doctorate, but all must be licensed to practice nursing. Certification is an option for registered nurses, but is required for advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.
Many legitimate practitioners use one or more holistic modalities in their practice. A traditionally-trained physician might become certified in acupuncture, for example. The American Holistic Nurse Association notes a number of holistic modalities that could be used by various healthcare professionals. A physical therapist might use the Alexander technique, a system that teaches the patient how to rebalance the body, improve posture and move more efficiently. The Feldenkrais method is another tool physical therapists use to reeducate the body to move correctly. Chiropractors use spinal manipulation and may also use massage, nutrition or kinesiology -- the science of muscle movement -- to help people heal. Psychologists and psychiatrists might use guided imagery or hypnotherapy.
- American Holistic Health Association: Career Considerations
- American Holistic Nurses Association: What is Holistic Nursing?
- American Holistic Health Association: Holistic Integrative Care
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: Definition of Naturopathic Medicine
- American Osteopathic Association: What is a DO?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
- American Holistic Nurses Association: Descriptions of Healing Modalities
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.