That weekly poker game with the boys or that coffee meet-up with your neighbors could actually be considered the bedrock of both your mental and physical health!  It is true.  Many studies have shown the satisfaction and support we give and receive in our personal relationships and connections are vital to a good life.  But, it should not stop there.  The alliance you create with your healthcare providers should be among that list of strong relationships as well.



Finding the right person to address your specific medical needs is crucial. Could it be that you are still not feeling the way you want to – those digestive issues just not resolving despite the testing and drugs, your energy level still low despite following doctor’s orders, the headaches still persisting?   Perhaps it is time to explore some other approaches. Those approaches could include a Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) or an integrative medicine path that could include acupuncture, meditation, herbs, or even some Ayurveda techniques to address your issues.

But where to find someone who practices these alternate routes and who has the success rate and necessary educational background and training to back it up is another story.  No charlatans need to apply. Before that search begins, first understand the terms these practitioners use:

  • Complimentary medicine works as the name says – a compliment, or aide, to Western medicine to improve the result.  It works with or injunction with other mainstream practices.  The massage therapy your co-worker is scheduling after her major heart surgery to help alleviate her pain and expedite her healing could be an example.
  • Alternative medicine. however, is a replacement to the Western avenues of medicine.  A friend who forgoes surgery entirely and takes herbal tonics to alleviate the medical issue at hand could be considered an alternative route.
  • Integrative medicine draws on everything – acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage therapy, nutritional changes, etc. and/or Western medicine like surgery and drugs as well to address the patient’s needs.  Sometimes this practitioner may use just the alternative approach, or maybe just the Western medicine approach or maybe a combination of both.  The acupuncture treatments your sister is receiving for her migraines from her integrative medicine doctor has drastically reduced the frequency and severity of her headaches but she still occasionally takes the drug that the integrative medical doctor prescribes.  Her long term goal with her integrative medicine practitioner is to stop taking the drugs entirely because the acupuncture is working so well.


Where to look for other medical sources and practitioners can take some digging.  So, here are some tips on finding the best practitioner for you:
  • Ask your primary doctor for a list of names he or she consistently refers patients.
  • A friend or family member may have a name of a provider that has helped.
  • Some regional medical centers may have a CAM or integrative medicine doctor on staff or a specialty center on site.  Some prominent U.S. medical centers that do have a specific integrative medical department include the University of Maryland, Standford University, Duke, the University of Michigan  George Washington University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and others.  These centers treat patients and do research as well.
  • Professional organizations for the various specialties can provide referrals as well, often based on your zip code.  These organizations also provide information on those important licensing and training requirements.  Click over to the  National Library of Medicine Directory of Health Organizations Online as a good source to check out for organization names.
  • State licensing boards and agencies, as well as county health departments may give information on your area CAM or integrative medicine practitioner.
  • Your health insurance company may provide a list of practitioners in your area.
  • Articles from various respected health journals, blogs or magazines may have been authored by a CAM practitioner or integrative medical doctor.


Once you have some names, rolls up your sleeves and begin your research to find out how they measure up against each other before making your final choice.  Ensure you include these steps in your quest:
  • Gather the basic information from the websites on the practitioners such as education, experience, fees, the convenience of location and parking, office hours and policies.  Some may allow a phone interview as well.
  • Compare the practitioners’ qualifications against the professional organizations’ recommendations for education and training.  (Check out the link above for that.)
  • If you are lucky to obtain an interview prior to your first appointment, be specific when asking the practitioners’ about their experience as well as successes and failures when treating your health concerns.  Ask for some recent scientific studies on the subject.  These questions should be asked regardless, however, before the first appointment or at the first appointment.
  • Sometimes, health insurance companies do not cover CAM or integrative medicine approaches. Contact your insurance company beforehand to find out.  Do not forget to ask the practitioner about accepting your insurance and filing.
  • It is also key to pay attention to that level of rapport you feel when speaking to the practitioner and staff.  Are they patient and thorough with your questions? Do you feel comfortable approaching them with your needs?
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