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Integrative Medicine WeilWhat is Integrative Medicine?

There is an established definition of Integrative Medicine, and nowhere in it will you find the words “complementary” or “alternative.” Here is that definition from the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine and the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM):

Integrative Medicine is the practice of medicine that seeks to achieve optimal health and healing by:

  • Reaffirming the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and the patient
  • Focusing on the whole person
  • Basing conclusions on evidence
  • Making use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines

The National Institutes of Health also has a definition for Integrative Medicine, and this definition does make mention of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to the NIH, Integrative Medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” Some practitioners of Integrative Medicine like to simplify the definition even further. Integrative Medicine, they say, is medicine – plain and simple.

These three definitions are not contradictory. The development of Integrative Medicine was influenced, in part, by CAM practitioners who endorse the efficacy of techniques such as acupuncture and other means of treatment. Yet, anyone who adheres solely to the tenets of “conventional medicine” would be mistaken to relegate Integrative Medicine strictly to the realm of CAM. Integrative Medicine is not “alternative.” In fact, a practitioner of Integrative Medicine embraces the form of treatment that is best suited to achieve optimum health and healing. In some cases, that means using conventional therapy. In others, it means using therapies that might be considered “alternative” by some. Quite often, if means using a combination of therapy methods. Always, it means doing what must be done to treat the whole person, rather than focusing solely on symptom alleviation.

To learn more about Integrative Medicine and the ABOIM, contact the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), which is the official board certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc.