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Integrative Medicine: Making It Work


By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


A recent foray into the current medical world reminded me strongly of how and why I began my journey into holistic health. Over four decades ago I began looking for help with migraine headaches. In my journey I learned hand warming with biofeedback, received acupuncture, relaxation and guided imagery, experienced massage, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, myo fascial release work with Rolfing, and learned the benefit of good vitamin, mineral and botanical supplements. 

I learned what worked and what did not. I learned how to assess practitioners and find very good ones. I learned what approaches worked best for different problems. I have always continued the quest, learning along the way and practicing what I have learned.

The history of Integrative Medicine has a similar trajectory. As medical practice has gone from very personal, primary care practice to large urbanized health care systems that is high tech, expensive and, often, impersonal, more and more people were seeking alternative, complementary and more holistic approaches to care and healing. According to the American Journal of Medicine, in 2010, over forty-two per cent of adults were seeking integrative therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, guided imagery and relaxation techniques, yoga and botanical supplements.

Integrative medicine is defined as an approach that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. This strategy considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, using the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and help people regain and maintain optimal health.

The defining principles of integrative medicine are:

Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration, including body, mind, spirit and community.
Providers use all healing science to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
Alongside treatment, health promotion and the prevention of illness is considered.

It would be ideal if we could find this approach in many places where medicine is practiced. Unfortunately, that is not the case. If you prefer this approach you must be the captain of your own team. You must find the practitioners who can best assist you in your process of healing. I have spent the last thirty years working with a multidisciplinary team of people who have helped me and others in this process. You must begin your own research to find the practitioners who can best help you.

This part of Integrative Medicine is difficult as it requires research and diligence on your part to find the practitioners who can help you. My first attempt with my migraines was a learning process. Now, I am better at this skill. 

My primary care doctor often helps me identify problems and then I consult with a health team that may consist of a Naturopath, a Doctor of Pharmacy experienced in supplements and prescription drugs, an Acupuncturist trained in Chinese Medicine, a Chiropractor, body workers including Rolfing, deep tissue massage, or physical therapy, a nutritionist and a mental health person experienced in guided imagery, stress reduction and pain reduction. Each medical problem may require different practitioners. 

The mistake people often make is to trust one approach, whether it is mainstream medicine or a more holistic approach, and not look at the best integration of approaches. Even small problems often benefit from a multi-faceted approach.

The other difficult part of this is that you must establish healthy habits including good nutrition, exercise, a positive mental outlook and ways to self-calm. You must learn the skills and practice. Follow-up is imperative in the process of healing and prevention.

For Integrative Medicine to work you need a seeking spirit, diligence, a willingness to do your research and then follow-up. The journey is well worth it and the payoff is good mental, physical and spiritual health. Make it work!


Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to


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