Understanding Alternative, Complementary, and Integrative Health Approaches
When it comes to your health, there are options beyond the mainstream solutions offered by most
doctors and medical practitioners. These non-mainstream approaches can be divided into alternative
Alternative Health Approaches
When a non-mainstream treatment is used in place of a mainstream treatment, it is considered
alternative. Many people result to alternative approaches when they have exhausted several
mainstream methods to no avail.
Complementary Health Approaches
When non-mainstream practices are used in combination with mainstream practices, this is a
complementary approach. This is a much more common form of treatment than the alternative
approach, as it utilizes the best of both worlds.
The Integrative Approach
Integrative healthcare utilizes a complementary approach, incorporating it into mainstream healthcare.
An example of an integrative approach would be a doctor recommending mindfulness meditation in
addition to cognitive therapy for a psychological illness, such as anxiety for example. Cognitive therapy is
a conventional approach that tends to provide effective results. If a patient prescribed cognitive therapy
were to also practice mediation, this approach would be complimentary. When both are recommended
by the doctor, this is integrating the non-mainstream mediation with the mainstream cognitive therapy.
Why Integrative Health Approaches are the Best Kind
Most modern conventional medicine in industrialized societies is tested with the scientific method and
the effects are well documented. Non-mainstream approaches can have documented effects, but many
are not acknowledged by conventional medicine. A couple examples include:
- Acupuncture – The use of very fine needles inserted into the skin at precise points in a person’s
body is an ancient practice that has been used for thousands of years. It is not normally
accepted in conventional western medicine as an actual treatment, even though many people
have found relief from their ailments after an acupuncture treatment.
- Yoga, qi gong, and tai chi – Body movement practices that focus on breath control and
manipulation of life energy, known as “qi” in Chinese or “ki” in Japanese, are also an ancient
practice. Regular practice tends to lead to improved health and can also be a preventative
measure against illnesses that could occur later in life.
Finding the Right Balance
Depending on your cultural background, a practice that mainstream practitioners view as unorthodox
may be the first thing you think of. In many Chinese societies, traditional Chinese medicine is still
practiced as the primary health approach. It may also be that you find mainstream to be reliable and you
question alternative or complementary approaches. The ideal approach takes into account the pros and
cons of both mainstream and non-mainstream healing.
When you look into treating and diagnosing health problems, take into account all of the different
perspectives. By not excluding either approach, you can find the optimal treatment option.