Integrative Health: Combining Traditional and Alternative Therapies - Dezryelle Clouse, LMFT

By Dezryelle Clouse, LMFT, Clinical Supervisor, Yoga Instructor & Owner of Satya Wellness Collective, PLLC. Visit her website at: Satya Wellness Collective

Discover the holistic benefits of Integrative Health, blending traditional and non-traditional therapies for comprehensive well-being. Dezryelle Clouse, a seasoned Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and dedicated yoga instructor, explores how this approach personalizes care, addressing root causes rather than just symptoms.

Integrative Health is an approach that blends traditional medicine and therapies with non-traditional healing practices, that aims to help the whole person comprehensively, as well as address the interconnected facets of well-being, including mind, body, and spirit. 

Integrative Health recognizes that each individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, this approach emphasizes the importance of personalized care and treating the root causes of illness rather than just managing symptoms.

Treating the Whole Person

At the heart of integrative health is the recognition that we are more than just our physical bodies. We are complex beings with unique characteristics and experiences, who live in interconnected systems that influence our health. Rather than simply addressing isolated symptoms or conditions, holistic healthcare aims to understand and support the person as a whole by addressing physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life.

The Inclusive Power of Integrative Health

The United States has grappled with healthcare disparities for generations, reflecting deeply rooted social, economic, and systemic inequalities. These disparities are profound and impactful, affecting individuals and communities across the nation. From disparities in access to healthcare services and insurance coverage to differences in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, income, geography, and other factors, the consequences are far-reaching and often devastating. While Integrative Health is not a perfect solution for all these challenges, it does offer hope for powerful change in the form of alternative medicine and treatment that promotes inclusion, accessibility, anti-oppression, and equity.

Integrative Heath is an approach that recognizes the diversity of human experiences and honors various cultural beliefs and healing traditions. By incorporating complementary therapies alongside conventional treatments, integrative health embraces a patient-centered approach that respects individual preferences, uniqueness, and values.  Integrative Health empowers individuals towards more personal agency and autonomy over their healthcare needs, allowing them to make informed decisions about their care, rather than relying only on the provider as the expert and sole decision maker.  Additionally, Integrative Health enhances collective care by promoting collaboration, community-based services, and resource sharing that center’s the voice of the community, is culturally relevant and mutually beneficial.

Relational Healing

As a licensed therapist, I love this approach for many reasons, but if I had to choose, the primary reason would be the emphasize that Integrative Health has on relational healing and co-regulation. When practicing Integrative Health, the therapeutic relationship with a therapist or “bedside manner” with a physician is essential. Relational treatment prioritizes building a safe and trusting alliance between the client and provider, characterized by empathy, attunement, and mutual respect. Co-regulation, a key aspect of relational healing, refers to the process by which individuals regulate their emotions and physiological responses in the presence of a supportive other. This involves mirroring, validation, and emotional attunement to help clients navigate distressing emotions and experiences.  It’s through this relational approach that individuals can feel seen, heard, and supported as they navigate healing.

Preventative Care

We are all familiar with the common and traditional healthcare practices of the United States, and most developed countries, which usually include medical treatment and medication that manages symptoms, illnesses, injuries, and diseases after they have already occurred.  This reactive approach can result in missed opportunities to address underlying risk factors and promote long-term health and wellness. In contrast, preventative care aims to identify and mitigate health risks before they escalate into more serious conditions, ultimately reducing healthcare costs, improving quality of life, and enhancing overall population health. Integrative Health emphasize the importance of prevention and addressing root causes of illness and promoting overall well-being, rather than simply treating symptoms after they arise. Alternative medicine often focuses on strengthening the body’s natural defenses and supporting its innate capacity for healing.

Types of Alternative Therapies

Within the umbrella term Integrative Health, exists a myriad of options for individuals seeking holistic approaches to health and wellness. Here is a simple, but not exhaustive list:

  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Yoga Therapy & Ayurveda
  • Biofeedback
  • Art Therapy
  • Dance/Music Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Reiki
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Plant Medicine
  • Tai Chi/Qi Gong
  • Dream Therapy
  • Midwifery
  • Spiritual Healing
  • Rituals & Ceremonies

In my clinical practice as a mental health counselor, I use a blend of traditional talk therapy, somatic therapy, including body based practices such as mindfulness and yoga to support my clients in healing trauma. Talk therapy and somatic therapy are two distinct yet complementary approaches to psychotherapy, each offering unique benefits for those seeking support.

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counseling, typically involves verbal communication between the therapist and client to explore thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through dialogue, clients gain insight into their experiences, develop coping strategies, and work towards resolving psychological issues.

In contrast, somatic therapy focuses on the mind-body connection, recognizing that emotional distress and trauma can manifest as physical sensations and symptoms. By incorporating techniques such as body awareness and movement, somatic therapy helps clients access and process stored tension and trauma held in the body.

Both modalities are effective in addressing a range of mental health concerns, and integrating them provides a comprehensive approach that honors the complexities of the healing process.

How Does It Work?

  1. Body Awareness: Body-based practices, such as mindfulness, yoga, and many others,  start by cultivating body awareness. Therapists guide individuals to become more attuned to bodily sensations, such as tension, tightness, and relaxation. By developing body awareness, individuals can better understand how emotions and stress manifest physically.
  2. Nervous System Regulation Techniques: Somatic Therapy employs various regulation techniques to address stress responses and emotional dysregulation. These techniques include breathwork, grounding exercises, movement, and mindfulness practices. These tools activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and emotional balance.
  3. Tracking Sensations and Emotions: During body-based practices, individuals are encouraged to track their bodily sensations and emotions. Therapists may use gentle touch or movement to explore areas of tension and emotional blockages, allowing individuals to process and release unresolved emotions and trauma.
  4. Reconnecting Neural Pathways: By working with the body’s sensations, emotions, and movement, somatic therapy aims to reconnect neural pathways between the brain regions responsible for emotional processing and regulation. This can support the integration of past traumas and foster healing on both psychological and physical levels.
  5. Empowerment and Resilience: Somatic Therapy empowers individuals to become active participants in their healing journey. By learning self-regulation techniques and developing body awareness, individuals can enhance their resilience and coping skills, ultimately leading to greater emotional well-being.

Let’s Look At The Research

Research on these types of alternative therapies within the context of integrative health has shown promising results in improving various aspects of physical and mental well-being. Studies indicate that integrating complementary therapies with conventional medicine can lead to better health outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and reduced healthcare costs.

For example, a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that combining yoga with conventional treatment modalities was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain.

Another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions were associated with improvements in psychological outcomes, such as stress reduction and enhanced quality of life.

By incorporating a holistic approach to healthcare, integrative health addresses the multifaceted nature of health and illness, offering individuals a comprehensive toolkit for promoting wellness and resilience.

How To Get Started

To begin incorporating alternative therapies into your healthcare routine, it’s essential to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to explore various options. Here’s how to start:

  • Research different alternative therapies and identifying those that resonate with you and align with your health goals.
  • Consult with healthcare professionals who specialize in integrative medicine or alternative therapies to get personalized recommendations based on your needs and preferences.
  • Communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any alternative therapies you’re considering, as they can provide valuable guidance and ensure compatibility with your current treatment plan. Remember that alternative therapies are meant to complement conventional medicine, not replace it, so it’s essential to maintain regular check-ups and follow-ups with your healthcare team.
  • Consider integrating simple practices into your daily routine, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or herbal supplements, to promote overall well-being. Many communities offer classes or workshops on alternative therapies, providing opportunities to learn new techniques and connect with like-minded individuals.

By taking a proactive approach to your health and exploring alternative therapies, you can empower yourself to take charge of your well-being and cultivate a holistic approach to healing.

Integrative Health represents a paradigm shift in healthcare, recognizing the intricate interplay between mind, body, and spirit. By embracing personalized care, preventative measures, and a wide array of alternative therapies, it strives to treat the whole person rather than just the symptoms. Moreover, its inclusive nature acknowledges and respects diverse cultural beliefs and healing traditions, fostering a sense of empowerment and autonomy among individuals.

Dezryelle Clouse

About the Author

Dezryelle Clouse, LMFT, Clinical Supervisor, Yoga Instructor & Owner of Satya Wellness Collective, PLLC

You can visit her website at: Satya Wellness Collective

Dezryelle Clouse is a seasoned Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and dedicated yoga instructor. She explores how Integrative Health personalizes care, addressing root causes rather than just symptoms.


References:

  1. Systematic Review on Yoga: Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Langhorst, J., Dobos, G., & Michalsen, A. (2013). “Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(4), 319-328.
  2. Study on Mindfulness-based Interventions: Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). “Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357-368.