Integrating alternative medicine(s) into a conventional practice (Proceedings)


Practitioners have a variety of reasons for wanting to integrate alternative medicines into their practice.

Practitioners have a variety of reasons for wanting to integrate alternative medicines into their practice. In this session we will discuss some of these reasons and try to help practitioners decide which, if any, of the alternative medicines they might want to learn about so they can include them in their practice. (The following is adapted from Dr. Kidd's coaching/consulting approach via

Reasons to add alternative medicines

•Benefit to the animal

o Cost efficient remedies for many diseases

o Safe to use

o Efficacious (and the questions about this)

•Benefit to the practitioner

o Another tool to the toolkit

o Client perception of keeping up

o "Chi ching"

o Personal satisfaction

•Benefit to the animal caretaker

o Cost efficient remedies for many diseases

o Short learning curve (for first-level results)

o Hands on typified by the "simplers" approach of herbal medicine

o Caretakers can become involved at the organic level – eg growing herbal remedies in their own backyard

•Global benefits

o Natural remedies do not pollute the environment

o Organic remedies are produced in planet-friendly manner

o Hands on – of practitioner and caretaker

o Learning/healing communities – become a way of developing the medicine's impact

Alternative medicines

Include such methods as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, flower essences (Bach Flowers), aromatherapy, nutritional and supplemental medicines (orthomolecular medicine), massage, Reiki, shamanism ... and many others not mentioned here.

Practitioners use alternative medicines to varying degrees – some consider themselves totally alternative or holistic; others integrate one of more of the alternative medicines into a regular western medicine practice, and the amount of their practice that represents alternative methods varies considerably. This has led to the terms "complementary or integrative medicine", terms which perhaps best describe the current state of alternative medicine. Interestingly, as alternative medicines become more and more popular, they then lose the term alternative and they become the "normal" or "regular" medicine.

Each of the alternative medicines has its own methodology, and oftentimes the paradigms of practicing the method are much different from the paradigms we use in Western medicine. It's often said that in order to practice many of the alternative medicines, it requires of the western-trained practitioner at least a temporary "suspension of disbelief".

The benefits of alternative medicines are manyfold, including: relative and comparative safety; efficacy (at least in the hands of many practitioners); cost effectiveness; ease of use (in many cases); low impact on the environment; and income-producing. In addition, learning how to use a new methodology, oftentimes requiring a new way of thinking, can be stimulating to any creative-minded practitioner.

Adding to the more tangible benefits of using alternative medicines is the intangible benefit that comes from being involved in a wide-ranging community of interested (and oftentimes very well-informed) individuals, all interested in alternative and/or more natural medicines, .

In my personal case, the biggest (and most unexpected) benefit of the alternative medicines came from their ability to enhance the human-animal bond, both between caretaker and animal and the practitioner (me) and the animal.

•As with any medical method, there are some disadvantages with the alternative medicines:

•Scientific evidence for their efficacy is not always strong – There is actually considerable scientific evidence available ... unfortunately it is often found in foreign, peer-review journals or in other journals not commonly available to the general practitioner.

•They are not, contrary to some advertising, complete devoid of adverse side effects. Adverse side effects do exist with the alternative medicines; they simply occur less often than with western medicine.

•With any new method there is a learning curve, and to become a master of anything requires considerable time and effort.

• While alternative medicine "communities" can help foster the benefits of alternative medicines, they can also, because they are often orchestrated by complete dolts, be frustrating ... especially if you want good information to be passed on.

Questions to ask yourself as you become involved in alternative medicines

•What do I really want for my clients (patients and caretakers)?

•Why do I want this/these things?

•Why am I not providing them now?

•How can I best provide the things I want to provide?

•Which alternative methods have I personally used? Family members or acquaintances used? Animals I have known used?

o What were the results of these treatments?

•Which alternative medicine(s) seem to fit:

o My belief system(s)

o My present capabilities – professionally and personally

o My learning style

o My community and its expectations

•Are there any alternative methods (and which ones are they) that do not fit my beliefs, capabilities, learning style, and/or community and its expectations?

•When where and how can I learn?

o How will I work this into my present situation?

•How will I fit the alternative medicine into my existing practice?

o When during the day can I find time to work alternative methods (as a rule alternative methods are time-consuming)

o How will I charge for my time, service, and for the time I will need to spend on continuing education?

o Can I easily transition from a holistic paradigm/perspective to a Western model, and will I be able to make this transition during a busy work day?

•How much "captaincy" do I need/want? Do I need to always be in charge?

•Am I comfortable with palliative care, or do I demand seeking a cure?

•What are my final expectations for adding an alternative medicine

•Where and how do I begin?

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