IF YOU have a health problem, there are numerous ways to address it.
If you know what's wrong, you may just get the treatment without asking for any advice by ordering some vitamins online or nervously buying some cream from the chemist.
But perhaps you are unsure what the matter is and you'd like some help.
Everyone has an opinion.
And a cure: "My aunt had exactly the same rash - she changed her detergent and it disappeared"; and "My son's hairdresser stopped drinking milk and she's never been better".
If the trouble persists despite the amateur help, you might consider a consulting a health professional - maybe a doctor who practices conventional medicine, a naturopath who practices complementary medicine, or a psychologist, homeopath, pharmacist, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.
The list goes on ... because each health modality looks at the human condition differently.
Each of them has their advantages and disadvantages and each of them has their place.
Some problems require immediate, life-saving surgical techniques.
Other problems require removal of something from the person's environment (e.g. horse hair allergy).
Yet others require compassionate counselling.
There are infinite scenarios - lifestyle, herbs, mineral supplements, acupuncture and pharmaceutical drugs.
The really tricky part is discerning how and when to use which modality.
This clearly requires some understanding of the wide variety of approaches to health and disease.
Otherwise, as the American psychologist Abraham Maslow said: "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
Having a diverse tool kit increases a health professional's ability to find an approach that works and which is acceptable to the patient.
Critically, this requires the professional to understand the patient.
To quote another famous American, Sir William Osler: "It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has."
"Integrative Medicine is the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing," is the statement of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association on its website.
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