What follows is an excerpt from my featured article in Counselor Magazine.
SCIENCE BACKS “ALTERNATIVE,” HOLISTIC HEALING
March 4, 2019
My introduction to alternative therapies came when I graduated from medical school in 1977 with high grades and a disappointed outlook on medicine. I decided to drop out and live on the road in a van. Actually, my plan was to drive to Peru to climb mountains and explore the jungle.
In a Peruvian frontier town, I hired an indigenous man with a dugout canoe and an outboard motor to take me into the jungle. When the engine broke and we needed help with repairs, we were greeted on the trail by angry men with machetes from a local clan.
After a test of my sincerity and manhood, I was introduced to the shaman of the clan. I witnessed him journeying to other planes of reality to bring energy to his suffering clients. Most of them got better, but not the children with intestinal parasites. This was the only time I told anyone on my trip I was a doctor. I told the shaman I would like to give the sick children antihelminthics (i.e., antiparasitic medication) and rather than being offended, he was overjoyed. He said his medicine was not strong enough, but mine might be.
His humility and common sense hit me like a lightning bolt. There is a place for Western medicine in healing, I concluded. Being in the jungle with an indigenous healer who was open to the use of Western medicine helped me realize that medicine could play an important role in a mindfully constructed healing plan. Although medicine taken when not needed can interfere with healing and can be unnecessarily harmful, medicine taken when it is needed can help restore natural healing and it can save lives. In that moment, the shaman healed my ambivalence about Western medicine. I could see there was a way to bring holistic healing and medicine together.
My mission since my “aha” moment with the shaman has been to relieve suffering by promoting the natural flow of healing by using conventional as well as alternative or holistic approaches. Along the way, I have personally experienced many healing approaches as I have sought healing for myself from adversity and trauma earlier in life. I have also studied various healing approaches, all with an eye trained on studies showing positive outcomes. I only recommend a healing approach if there is scientific evidence that it can do some good.
I use the term “healing guidance” because that is what effective alternative therapies do—they guide the flow of healing. In the hands of skillful and well-trained therapists, incredible gains can be made without using medicine. I am interested in alternative methods of healing because I am interested in anything that may help relieve suffering by promoting the natural flow of healing. In addition, there is scientific evidence that many alternative therapies work very well.
The natural flow of healing can be accomplished with the conscious guidance of healing through counseling and psychotherapy, with body and energy work (i.e., acupuncture, therapeutic massage, yoga therapy), and with spiritual guidance such as Twelve Step programs, pastoral counseling, and shamanic healing.
Go to CounselorMagazine.com to read the full article.