Before we define MindBody healing, it is important to realise that this approach is a little different to the usual approach in Western health care. At the risk of over-simplifying things, the usual assumptions of ‘normal’ medical practice are as follows:
- The body is a biological ‘machine’
- Body and mind are separate entities; although there is a connection between them, it is appropriate to consider the body as separate to the mind, and it is appropriate to deliver healthcare by focusing solely on the body
- ‘Real’ disease will usually be completely explained by physical mechanisms, and so mind, soul, or spirit aspects are peripheral or even irrelevant
- Disease occurs in an individual’s ‘machine-body’. Thus disease is more or less an individual’s bad luck and/or responsibility. Concepts of relationship, family, cultural, or societal forces causing individual illness are hard for clinicians to integrate into their thinking
- In certain ‘psychosomatic’ illnesses it is considered appropriate to consider the role of the mind, but for most diseases this is not relevant.
These are the dominant assumptions in much of Western medicine practice. So, how is MindBody healing different? We use the term MindBody to cover the increasingly accepted idea that a person is an integrated “mixture” of both mind and body, and that these cannot be divided. “Mind” covers many of the commonly used categories including our feelings, thinking, experience, spirituality, relationships, psychosocial factors, and cultural influence, while “Body” covers both the body we see and touch, and the body we experience. Clearly, there is much overlap. What are some of the assumptions then, of MindBody healing?
- Body and mind are inextricably involved with each other, indeed they cannot be separated
- Mind elements are important in developing, triggering and perpetuating disease
- Mind elements also play a role in wellness and protection from disease
- Sometimes there needs to be a pure focus on the body as the best approach to illness, while at other times a pure focus on the mind is more important
- In many situations, however, a combined approach is likely to give the best outcome for the patient
- It is important to attend to ‘mind’ in all patients, even in what is normally regarded as ‘physical’ illness. Attending to mind implies many elements including: respect for the patient’s ‘illness experience’; listening for the meaning of illness; understanding the individual’s model of illness; regard for the role of trauma; attention to family, relationship, societal, cultural, and spiritual forces promoting illness or healing; regard for the influence of sociological factors such as poverty, unemployment, and loss of identity; and the role of biomedicine in rendering mind aspects invisible.
- Because the patient is a ‘mindbody’ and because personal relationships can cause mindbody experiences and difficulties, the relationship with the doctor or healthcare professional can play a crucial role in healing.
In all this it is imperative to see mind approaches and body approaches as being fully integrated and deployed together. This implies practitioners who are equipped to do this.
In summary then, MindBody healing is the practice of healthcare by a clinician who is aware of the limitations and deficiencies in the current medical model, and who has the attitudes and skills to help people find healing through mind and body integration. The underpinning direction is wellness and wholeness through proper respect for all that the person is.
By Dr Brian Broom