10 Principles of Integrative Medicine

“Integrative holistic medicine (IHM) is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. The practice of integrative holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health and to prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors.”

10 Principles of Integrative Holistic Medical Practice

  1. Optimal health is the primary goal of integrative holistic medical practice. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest level of functioning and balance of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of human experience, resulting in a dynamic state of being fully alive. This creates a condition of well-being regardless of the presence or absence of disease.
  2. Learning opportunities. All life experiences, including birth, joy, suffering, and the dying process, are profound learning opportunities for both patients and health care practitioners.
  3. Teaching by example. Integrative holistic health care practitioners continually work toward the personal incorporation of the principles of integrative holistic health. These principles profoundly influence the quality of the healing relationship. Teaching by example also requires that practitioners try to find balance in their own lives, so that they can be teachers of balance and optimal health. 
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them– work, family, health, friends, and spirit–and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls–family, health, friends, and spirit–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” 
—Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises from 1959-1994
  4. Individuality. Integrative holistic health care practitioners focus patient care on the unique needs and nature of the person who has an illness rather than the illness that has the person. This means avoiding projection and being aware and open to others. This means being a detective and scientist, while listening with your heart open.
  5. Relationship-centered care. The ideal practitioner-patient relationship is a partnership which encourages patient autonomy, and values the needs and insights of both parties. The quality of this relationship is an essential contributor to the healing process. In many ways a real, humanistic adult-to-adult (or child) relationship of equality is preferred to a relationship colored by role playing (patient and physician) or a relationship in which transference occurs. 
The treatment alliance relationship includes clinical skills and patient concerns which may distort the real relationship, i.e., overly anxious patients will act differently with the clinician than they would otherwise. The transference relationship, as in any transference, is a projection of beliefs placed on the other party. This can include the imposition of past patient medical relationships onto a new relationship. Hyper-emotional reactions can occur and in some ways can lead to or re-create a parent-child relationship. 
The goal is the creation and maintenance of the real relationship. When equality with the patient is maintained, it has been shown that there is improved time and behavioral management, increased awareness of patient concerns and anxieties, and improved flexibility and provision of patient centered care. This is achieved because you are a person working with another person and therefore much of the relationship stress is diminished (Freeman R. A psychodynamic understanding of the dentist-patient interaction. BDJ. 1999;186(10):503- 6).
  6. Integration of healing systems. Integrative holistic health care practitioners embrace a lifetime of learning about all safe and effective options in diagnosis and treatment. These options come from a variety of traditions, and are selected in order to best meet the unique needs of the patient. The realm of choices may include lifestyle modification and complementary approaches as well as conventional drugs and surgery. 
This brings “integrative medicine” to the process of IHM. Individual practitioners can be holistic in nature, but not use CAM therapies, and there are CAM practitioners who use various therapies but do not approach the patient in a holistic way.
  7. Innate healing power. All people have innate powers of healing in their bodies, minds, and spirits. Integrative holistic health care practitioners evoke and help patients utilize these powers to affect the healing process.
  8. Prevention and treatment. Integrative holistic health care practitioners promote health, prevent illness, and help raise awareness of dis-ease in our lives, rather than merely managing symptoms. An integrative holistic approach relieves symptoms, modifies contributing factors, and enhances the patient’s life system to optimize future well-being.
  9. Whole person. Integrative holistic health care practitioners view people as the unity of body, mind, spirit, and the systems in which they live.
  10. The healing power of love. Integrative holistic health care practitioners strive to meet the patient with grace, kindness, acceptance, and spirit, without condition, as love is life’s most powerful healer.

“Only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love.“
—Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD

“It is not how much you do, but how much LOVE you put into the doing that matters.” —Mother Teresa
excerpted from the IBIHM definition and principles of Integrative Holistic Medicine