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5 Steps to Choosing Your Integrative Medicine Practitioner

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, AnimaBandit

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, AnimaBandit

When faced with a multitude of options, it’s easy to leave decision-making up to the close-your-eyes and point method. The Whack-a-Mole method might be an OK way to decide which party to attend or which pair of pants to wear, but when it comes to choosing an integrative medicine practitioner, you’ll want to make an informed decision.

Integrative health care, also known as alternative or complementary medicine, used to be seen as a rejection of mainstream medicine because consumers often chose to rely solely on the alternative – like homeopathy or Reiki. Since then, many consumers have taken a more integrative approach by augmenting, rather than replacing, their primary health care with alternative practices.

Over time, mainstream physicians have also become more accepting of the integrative approach, even without conclusive clinical evidence, because consumers are demanding it and claiming better health outcomes. Integrative Medicine is now taught, practiced and researched in nearly half the medical schools in the country, including many leading universities such as Duke and Stanford. And, recent evidence showing the success of Integrative Medicine in clinical studies has brought it into the conversation on health care reform as well.

Because of its growing acceptance and popularity, there are many more integrative health care practitioners to choose from which can be overwhelming when it comes to deciding who to work with.

What’s the best way to go about finding an integrative health practitioner? Everyone has their own unique approach to decision-making. People also come to their need for alternative medicine from many different angles. You may have witnessed a friend with a similar health issue recover dramatically, and want to pursue that option yourself.  Or your health care provider may be recommending an alternative approach in addition to their care.  Or you may have heard about it on TV or through other media sources. Whichever way you come to it and no matter how you tend to make decisions, here are some basic guidelines to help in your process.

5 Steps to Choosing Your Integrative Medicine Practitioner 

1. Have a goal.

We’ve talked about the imporance of goal setting before. Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it, and don’t follow someone else’s protocol.  Know for yourself what your issue is, why you want to pursue an alternative therapy and what your expectations and boundaries are.

2. Do a little research.

Look into this practice and determine 1) What it is and 2) What types of issues it’s best suited for.

3. Get a referral if you can.

It may come through a friend who has worked with someone who was helpful. You could even ask your primary health care provider for a referral.  A hospital or medical school near you may have a listing of local practitioners either online or by request.  Also, there are many professional organizations for specific practitioner groups which are great resources.   A good place to start is the Alternative Medicine Foundation or The Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine (FAIM).

4. Shop around.  

Once you have a few practitioners in mind, look into their education and experience. Check out their credentials on their website. Call them up for more information about cost, and if they’re amenable, ask some questions about their experience treating patients with problems similar to yours, and their philosophy of care.

5. Make an appointment.

At your first meeting, you could ask about benefits, risks, scientific studies to back up this therapy’s use, and how long treatment will take.  Consider how comfortable you are with the person, how confident you feel in their abilities, and how well you feel they answered your questions.

Relax and engage in the process once you’ve found someone you like, respect and trust.  It’s your body, mind and spirit and you are a partner with your health care practitioners in your own well-being. Feel good knowing you’re doing something positive for yourself.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

How to Reach Your Health Goals (and the 4 Reasons Why Data Helps You)

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It’s difficult for many of us to stay on top of our health goals. It’s not for lack of good intentions, however. Despite our real desire to make changes or stay with the program, unfortunately, for many of us, it doesn’t just happen automatically. Read: The 5 Steps That Help You Build a Powerful Habit 

How to Reach Your Health Goals

Because it can be tough to stay on track, it’s a great idea to look for support outside of yourself. Try taking advantage of the time-tested power duo: community and tools.  

Why Community?

Your doctor or health practitioner is an important member of your health community, which can also include other experts, such as friends and family.  Doctors and health practitioners provide needed guidance for our comprehensive health with diagnostics and leading medicine.  Friends and family are there for the day- to- day encouragement – whether watching us from the stands or running alongside us in our health marathon.

Why Tools?

It might be health e-books, books, mobile apps, equipment or specific programs – your tools can be anything that works for you. We believe that a highly effective tool — probably the most effective — is a tracking tool.

Studies have shown that people who track their food, workouts or spending by creating a plan and keeping a record, are much more successful in reaching their goals. As much as our friends and family love us, they can’t monitor our behavior 24/7 and provide an accurate record of what we’ve done in the past. Keeping track not only keeps your eyes on the prize thus providing motivation to stay the course, it also brings cold, hard data into your life.

This data won’t lie, if you don’t.

4 Reasons Data Helps You Reach Your Health Goals

1. It remembers even if you forget. Humans tend to fudge a little in recalling what they did or little things will just slip their minds. How often have even daily activities, like taking out the trash, slipped our mind? Can we even recall with clarity what we ate last week? Tracking our health competes with many other activities in our busy lives – work, family, friends, and play.

2. It’s the most accurate. For an accurate map of your health behavior, data is there to tell you exactly what’s going on and where you are. And you need this map. Your map can be a tattered notebook, a chalkboard, a digital health log, a wi-fi body scale or a Garmin heart rate monitor – it’s up to you. The value in these tools lies in the black and white evidence that you can use to finesse your program. When the data is right in front of you, it is easy to plan and structure your progress.

3. It’s motivating. The motivational aspect as well as the accuracy of tracking means that you are more likely to continue your program, in effect, making it a habit. Don’t underestimate the value of a good habit.

4. The data gets better every day. These days, reaching for excellence in health is much easier with all the new programs available to us. They provide powerful feedback and many offer expert direction. While you could possibly pay more than you would for a simple notepad (although, some apps are free to very little in cost, like these 4) benefits you get from using them will probably far outweigh the cost, especially when it comes to thinking long term healthcare costs.

Health Goals: The Bottom Line

No matter which you choose, creating healthy habits by utilizing a tracking tool is the key to reaching your personal wellness goals. Your community will provide needed encouragement and guidance to help you progress, and the data will provide the most accurate measure of that progress. The combination is a powerful incentive to unfailingly achieve your health goals.

An easy way to get started with data is to create a free WellnessFX account to store and add your health biomarkers to it, which can give you an accurate picture of how your habits and hard work are paying off:

Create Your Free Account

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.