Holistic medicine means consideration of the complete person, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually, in the management and prevention of disease. It is underpinned by the concept that there is a link between our physical health and our more general 'well-being'. In an holistic approach to medicine, there is the belief that our well-being relies not just on what is going on in our body physically in terms of illness or disease, but also on the close inter-relation of this with our psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental state. These different states can be equally important. They should be managed together so that a person is treated as a whole. In fact some feel that the word holistic should really be spelt 'wholistic'. An holistic approach means that the doctor is informed about a patient's whole life situation.
Holistic medicine treats symptoms but it also looks for underlying causes of these symptoms. One way of explaining this is by looking for 'the story behind the story'. An example of this has been described in an Accident and Emergency setting where patients may present with one problem and then, having had relief from pain, diagnosis, and care, may explain what led to their problems and attendance. This may reveal, for example, domestic violence, exploitation, or danger. The same can be applied in a General Practice, or any other medical consultation, setting.
Holistic medicine is something that alternative medicine practitioners traditionally use as a basis for their treatments. However, it is a common misconception that holistic medicine is just 'alternative' or 'complementary' medicine. It is true that holistic medicine allows for a wider range of treatment approaches to be used together and encourages open-mindedness for these different approaches. Some of these approaches may include the use of complementary and alternative medicine but holistic medicine does not dismiss conventional medicine. It uses conventional medicine as part of the treatment approach. Nutrition, exercise, homeopathy, prayer, acupuncture and meditation are just a few other treatments that may be used together with conventional medicine as part of an holistic approach. Holistic nursing is also recognised as being an important concept.[4, 5]
... Good listening and communication skills during the consultation are essential qualities for a doctor using an holistic approach. Holistic medicine encourages patient participation in the doctor-patient relationship and patient empowerment.
... Patients tend to be more satisfied if a doctor takes an holistic approach, feeling that their doctor has time for them and their problems.