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Information for Doctors Interested in Alternative Medicine

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This page of our web site is devoted to doctors to help them better understand alternative medicine. At present, we have two health care systems that exist side by side in the United States.

One is called regular medicine or “traditional health care,” the other is alternative medicine, sometimes referred to as “complementary and alternative medicine,” usually abbreviated as CAM. This state of affairs exists all around the world, especially in the English speaking countries, which have the greatest numbers and diversity of alternative practitioners. You can read more about this in our article: About Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The reason people (patients) go to alternative practitioners is because of several reasons:

  1. They have not found help with regular medicine and are looking for a health solution
  2. They are philosophically opposed to medicine and doctors
  3. They have had a bad outcome, and are looking for help
  4. They believe in integrating the best of regular and alternative medicine
  5. They find in alternative medicine a world view that is congruent with their belief systems.

Right or wrong, this is the state of affairs. The people who track such things, like foundations, researchers, sociologists and the government know that people who use alternative medicine spend a lot of money out of pocket for their health. They spend their money because they feel they can’t get what they need in the regular medical system. The reasons people give for using alternative medicine may not seem fair to doctors, but it is what moves them to seek help elsewhere.

It is important to realize that patients that use alternative medicine are from all educational backgrounds, all social and economic classes, all races and religions, and have a variety of health care needs, both simple and serious. Most of these people can tell you stories of success with alternative medicine. They are not dupes, idiots, or simply people looking for attention or a sympathetic ear. Most of them are just looking for help with their health.

The great majority of practitioners of alternative medicine are motivated to help people. They believe health care is a calling. They didn’t get into CAM to make a lot of money. They usually have a compelling story in which they themselves were helped by an alternative practitioner. Over time, they have become philosophically aligned with a different model of thinking. This is appealing to patients. They are looking for someone who is genuine, someone who has an idea that can improve their health, and who seems to place their well-being and health above making money.

If you really would like to understand alternative medicine, it is necessary to realize that there are many forms of it, some taking many years to learn. But the simplest form of learning is to be a recipient. That’s how most CAM practitioners learn about the different forms of alternative medicine–they go out and experience it. The first layer of schooling is to try things for yourself.

Suggestions for Doctors:

  • Take a yoga class
  • Get a massage
  • Drink some herbal teas–available in all supermarkets now.
  • Talk to one of your colleagues who practices a form of CAM (even if they’re just dabbling)
  • Read a book (book stores like Barnes & Nobles have large selections)
  • Eat some whole grains
  • Go to a health food restaurant
  • Take a CE class on CAM taught by doctors
  • Go on a vacation to places like Sedona, AZ, or Asheville, NC where there are lots of practitioners (St. Augustine FL, too!)

At some point, you will encounter an experience or an idea that makes you feel better, makes you feel good, or just grabs your interest. It is likely that you will find improved health or performance through some method or technique. This will inspire you to go on and try other things and add to the catalog of experiences. It is possible you might try something you don’t like such as warm sesame oil poured on your head or needles stuck in your calves. Think of it like trying a new dish at a restaurant. Even a negative CAM experience can be educational. There is very little risk or harm in just about all forms of alternative medicine. You’ll at least know what you don’t want to do in the future!

You may wish to offer some alternative methods or supplements to your own patients at some point. There are CE classes for doctors in various forms of alternative medicine. This is a good way to extend your education and begin to offer some things to help your patients. For those that are interested in extensive training, there is a board certification in Holistic Medicine. Even if you are not interested in CAM for your own practice, it is good to network with alternative practitioners in your community who have expertise in various methods.

Doctor! We wish you luck on your journey and may you enjoy great health and success!



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