W3: Holistic Healing and Health Psychology

Just as we have discussed in the past, Western ‘biomedicine’ struggles to meet the holistic care of the patient, and instead focuses on the physical manifestations of symptoms. There is such a huge emphasis on objective observations that subjective ones are not taken as seriously. For example, the conversation in our lecture video between the doctor and the patient was strictly focusing on the spread of her psoriasis and how to treat her physical symptom rather than dealing with her emotional instability. She tried explaining to Dr. Jones that her stress started a while ago and was progressing, however instead he was only concerned with treating the progression of her illness. Because the spread of psoriasis is related to increased levels of stress hormones, why not prescribe a steroid for her skin, and also refer her to a psychologist? This could potentially help alleviate her discomfort even faster than choosing one treatment over another. I personally believe that psychological treatment is very effective with patients who do not handle stress well; it can significantly decrease the frequency of illnesses that one acquires. Additionally, it was easy to pick up on the terrible bedside manner that Dr. Jones presented to his patient. Jo Marchant, author of the book The Cure, had mentioned that bedside manner could possibly influence the effectiveness of treatment that a patient receives. Just as Paul Camic and Sara Knight, editors of the Clinical Handbook of Health Psychology contests that “Regardless of the setting where we meet with our patients, of the types of problems that we treat… it is the quality of the relationship between professional and client that begins and sustains the healing process”(p. 4). Having a positive mindset that your doctor is caring enough to put your best interest first will most likely reinforce that your treatment is effective, rather than someone who ignores your concerns and interrupts while you are trying to provide them with viable information. This is a huge reason why bedside manner is very important with patient care. I believe that this is also the same idea used with religion. Although the source of illness can differ, such as one might believe it is a spirit or “bad air,” if one prays hard enough and believes that a higher power has their best interest at heart, than who is to say that when that person recovers it wasn’t because of the higher being? The process of putting faith in another being is the same; one just has a tangible treatment, while another cannot be seen, only felt by the afflicted.



Camic, Paul, and Sara Knight, eds. Clinical Handbook of Health Psychology: A Practical Guide to Effective Interventions. N.p.: Hogrefe Publishing, 2004. https://books.google.com/books?id=4UZfAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.

4 thoughts on “W3: Holistic Healing and Health Psychology

  1. Great post! You brought up a lot of great points. I like your term “physical manifestations.” Literally that’s what western medicine looks at, just the physical problems. Most of the time, it’s the other part of the problem that carries a lot of the weight: the emotional side. Emotional stability or instability plays a HUGE role. Your idea of using psychological help to alleviate life stressors is a great idea, but I think people are hesitant about it because of our stereotypical westernized medicine world; we are led to believe that pills will help us with our biological problems and that should be it. Only “crazies” go to a psychologist. Wrong. The statement, “look good, feel good, do good” is very relevant to me. While a lot of people use it nonchalantly, when you really think about it and apply it, when you feel good about yourself, things around you start to dramatically change. Psychologists might not be able to fix the biological component, but they can sure help with the emotional component. I also like how you compared the effectiveness of good bedside manner to using religion. I had never thought of the two in this way; while it is touchy for some people to dare to relate religion and science, it is comforting to think about the similarities between effective bedside manner, putting faith in a hospitable doctor, and religion, putting faith in a higher being. In a side note, isn’t it ironic that while there is so much controversy over science and religion, it is common to find a chapel inside of a hospital?

  2. Hi Mace. I am glad you brought up the example of Dr. Jones only treating the patient’s physical symptoms and not her emotional instability. Although I am not a doctor nor have I had any sort of medical training, it seems crazy to me that doctors are so trained to only see the physicality of an illness instead of viewing it from a holistic perspective. This might seem bizarre to me because I am so trained to have an anthropological perspective from my educational background and see others from a total worldview instead of one narrow perspective. I believe that doctors and other medical professionals should have some sort of anthropological background to understand the importance of a holistic approach to treating patients. Although I have no proof to back this up, I believe it would lead to more successful diagnosis and treatments. I had a guest lecturer come into one of my anthropology courses at the end of last semester and talk about physician’s anthropological training. She chuckled when us students assumed there was at least some training involved. There is, however, very little. Thus, they are left to treat the patient as a set of symptoms instead of an individual with thoughts, feelings, emotions, family, and all other life aspects. This is an unfortunate reality that I believe needs to change.

  3. Hi Mace, I really enjoyed reading your post because I agree with what you are saying. You put emphasis on the importance of bedside manner. Doctors have to look at things other than symptoms to properly treat a patient’s illness. Symptoms sometimes are caused by a chain reaction of other things and doctors need to take the time and consideration to look deeper into these other factors that can contribute to the main symptoms that are causing illness. Plus, looking deeper into causes of symptoms can lead to the patient saving money on treatments because if the illness is properly diagnosed, they will receive the right treatment instead of having to try multiple treatments to finally figure out the problem that could have been solved if the right amount of attention of symptoms was taken into consideration. The power of suggestion can be very influential. When a person has a positive mindset, it is more likely that they will begin treatment and begin to heal quicker. Like you said about religion, the same concept applies. Relying on another power to heal and putting faith in someone can lead to the treatment of a patient depending on how they feel about it.

  4. Hi Mace! I really liked the points that you made within your post! I agree with you in that I believe that psychological treatment is very effective with patients who do not handle stress well. This helps to prove that healing does, in fact, deal with both mind and body. I thought it was interesting of you to include the issues on bedside manner within your post. I hadn’t thought of that as being a way to affect a patient’s health, but it makes a lot of sense. I am sure that patients feel more calm when they know that their doctor is treating them with the utmost respect and trying to heal them as best they can. The patient’s calm, or not calm-in the case of a bad doctor, demeanor can affect the effectiveness of the treatment that the doctor has given. This is just another point that proves that health and healing deals directly with both the mind and the body. It was creative to intertwine this idea with the idea of religion and healing. I had never thought of the idea that someone could attribute a calm demeanor and praying hard enough to the effectiveness of their treatment, but it makes sense and it is a very interesting way to view the topics of religious and spiritual healing against biomedicine.

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