Integrative Medicine


What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.


Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” 1

Integrative medicine seeks to restore and maintain health and wellness across a person’s lifespan by understanding the patient’s unique set of circumstances and addressing the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health. 2 

Through personalizing care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of an illness. In doing so, the patient’s immediate health needs as well as the effects of the long-term and complex interplay between biological, behavioral, psycho-social and environmental influences are taken into account. 3

Integrative medicine is not the same as alternative medicine, which refers to an approach to healing that is utilized in place of conventional therapies, or complementary medicine, which refers to healing modalities that are used to complement allopathic approaches. If the defining principles are applied, care can be integrative regardless of which modalities are utilized.

The defining principles of integrative health medicine are:

• The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.

• All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration, including body, mind, spirit and community.

• Providers use all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.

• Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.

• Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry driven and open to new paradigms.

• Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.

• The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances. Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.

In addition to addressing and handling the immediate health problem(s) as well as the deeper causes of the disease or illness, integrative medicine strategies also focus on prevention and foster the development of healthy behaviors and skills for effective self-care that patients can use throughout their lives. 4

Integrative medicine and health reaffirm 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.

Integrative medicine combines modern medicine with established approaches from around the world. By joining modern medicine with proven practices from other healing traditions, integrative practitioners are better able to relieve suffering, reduce stress, maintain the well-being, and enhance the resilience of their patients.

Although the culture of bio-medicine is predominant in the U.S., it coexists with many other healing traditions. Many of these approaches have their roots in non-Western cultures. Others have developed within the West, but outside what is considered conventional medical practice.

What Contributions Does a Behavioral Health Specialist Make to an Integrated Health Care Team?

Conduct cognitive, capacity, diagnostic, and personality assessments that differentiate normal processes from pathology, side effects of medications, adjustment reactions, or combinations of these problems.  Offer behavioral health assessment and treatment that provide individuals with the skills necessary to effectively manage their chronic conditions.  Diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health problems (e.g., depression, suicide risk, anxiety disorders, addiction, and insomnia).  Offer consultation and recommendations to family members, significant others, and other health care providers.  Contribute research expertise to the design, implementation, and evaluation of team care and patient outcomes.  Develop interventions that are responsive to specific individual and community characteristics that may impact the treatment plan.

- Trained to work with diverse individuals in complex situations - By listening, observing, assessing skills, making plans, and help clients rethink their options, envisioning more satisfying futures.

- Creating solutions, helping clients resolve issues that are blocking their success and happiness. Even in cases of resistance or fear, and help clients understand how to re-frame and diminish their problems.

- Teaching new skills, and guide clients toward greater independence. Individuals learn the value of listening to their inner self, gain a greater appreciation for their own abilities, and increase their self-confidence. They begin to see how behavioral changes result in new opportunities.
~ Dr. Neal Houston
1. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 June 1946; signed on 22 July 1947 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100); and entered into force on 7 April 1948. Constitution of the World Health Organization — Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006. 
2. http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Quality/ IntegrativeMed/SnydermanRalph.pdf 
3. Vicki Weisfeld. (2009). Summit on Integrative Medicine & The Health of the Public: Issue Background and Overview. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine. Retrieval2011-1-18. http://www.bravewell.org/integrative_medicine/

4. Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.http://www.bravewell.org/integrative_medicine