Looking at different approaches to the healing process can clarify how a practitioner fits into the health care industry and how he or she relates to other health professionals.
Complementary medicine is that part of the health sector that relies primarily upon holistic, homeopathic, traditional or natural therapies rather than an allopathic approach to medicine which characterises western or orthodox medicine.
The various philosophies and approaches to treatment used in complementary medicine are hard to categorise, but a helpful starting point is to compare allopathic and homeopathic approaches. Western medicine is based on an allopathic approach to healing. The practitioner introduces into the body substances designed to correct the effect of disease or injury, and may use invasive procedures that break the skin. An allopath regards the human body as a machine made of many parts, and the doctor as an expert who ‘fixes the body’.
In contrast, a homeopath’s aim is not to counteract disease but to stimulate a healing response. Homeopathy is based on the principles of similars, that is, a homeopath introduces into the body tiny amounts of substance to produce an effect similar to the disease symptoms, aiming to stimulate the healing response.
Other modalities share an ‘holistic’ approach to healing that sees the body as a system. Rather than focusing on the disease state itself, the practitioner assess how imbalance in the body may be contributing to ill health. The task of the practitioner is to restore balance and equilibrium to the body.