Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO discusses how to inspire and create change in integrative health.

by Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO

‘Change…Yes We Can’ is the slogan that helped to elect our next president.  It seems that people across the nation are eager for change – at least in concept.  Various list serves that I receive are full of optimistic and opportunistic suggestions for the new administration.  People and organizations focused on wellness and healthcare are seeing the opportunity for sweeping reform.  I applaud and support these calls.  At the heart of integrative healthcare lies change as a fundamental precept.  Integrating our healthcare system is certainly a new and different way of delivering and receiving healthcare.

More fundamentally, the people who seek to change their state of health through the services offered by integrative healthcare practitioners must, themselves, consciously engage in change.  Alas, here is the rub.  Despite the national fervor calling for political change, I have not observed a swelling increase in people’s willingness or ability to make fundamental changes in their own lives, nor have I experienced an upsurge in the number of patients who have found new resolve to change their way of living.  This is not to say that people who seek my (or your) care are unwilling to change, but the point I am making is that the clarion call for change sounded across our nation has not obviously filtered down to the level of the individual – at least in the arena of personal health.

Nonetheless, this environment of change may be exactly what the integrative healthcare movement, and, more importantly, its practitioners and users, need to embrace and distill into our everyday practice.  I recently attended a conference of employers who are invested in corporate wellness plans as a way to increase productivity and reduce the costs.  The biggest stumbling block for these companies is instituting a culture of behavioral change on the part of the employees.  I was struck by both how forward-thinking these companies are to be addressing this issue and also by how many challenges they face.  It occurred to me that this is yet another opportunity for integrative healthcare practitioners. 

Integrative healthcare providers are well-versed in the components of healthy and preventive living.  Integrative healthcare providers are invested in supporting our patients to adopt and sustain wellness practices.  If the employees in these wellness-oriented companies could experience a mentoring and coaching experience with an integrative healthcare provider, it seems to me that a critical step of the staircase that leads towards their wellness would be in place.

I wonder, am I making an accurate assumption?  Do integrative healthcare providers prioritize change in their practices?  Do we create an environment of support, education and motivation for our patients’ efforts at changing their lives?  Do we lead by example?  Are we change agents?

I would assert that integrative healthcare must at its core, i.e. in the interactions between provider and patient, prioritize change if it is to continue to emerge as the future healthcare.  On some level, people are ready for change and on many other levels are resistant to it.  The fundamental desire and the genuine expertise to motivate individuals to make changes towards health is the soul of integrative healthcare.  An integrative healthcare practitioner who regularly supports and, in turn, witnesses changes in the way their patients live their lives, is a healthcare change agent.  It is here that my optimism for the healthcare in our country lies.  By empowering people to make changes towards their health and, ultimately, the health of their community and our planet, integrative healthcare can become a powerful vehicle for health.  There is no better time for integrative healthcare providers to prioritize this fundamental responsibility.  In so doing, we can change healthcare – yes we can!

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