Approximately 38% of adults in the United States are using some form of complementary and alternative medicine, according to a 2008 survey from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This research shows what many of us already know: patients are increasingly looking for a holistic approach to medicine, which addresses the wellbeing of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. For holistic medicine practitioners, each patient is seen as a unique individual, not a cluster of symptoms.
At the center of the push for holistic principles and practice in healthcare is the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA). Here, the practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote ideal health. Supporting integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine techniques, AHMA integrates what is helpful in allopathic medicine with holistic principles. Treating and preventing disease is accomplished through listening to the patient and evaluating and understanding the symptoms in order to uncover the root causes of illness. AHMA promotes the values of prevention and wellness through correction of mind, body, and spirit imbalances.
For AHMA members, disease is viewed as the manifestation of "physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental imbalance."
For AHMA members, disease is viewed as the manifestation of “physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental imbalance.” Healing is thus accomplished when these aspects of life are brought into balance.
Founded in 1978, AHMA is one of the oldest holistic medical organizations in the United States. Its 800-plus members are helping transform healthcare through the integration of all aspects of well-being: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and social. AHMA was founded with the goal of uniting licensed physicians who practice holistic medicine and originally comprised only licensed practitioners. AHMA now includes both licensed and non-licensed practitioners and serves as one of the leading advocates for the use of holistic and integrative medicine by all licensed healthcare providers. The organization continues to move toward creating fellowship and collaboration among practitioners, their peers, and patients.
“Part of our mission is to transform healthcare to a more holistic model, which is something that the early members of this organization were really advocates for,” states Terri DiPaola, director of education and outreach at AHMA. “That means bringing together the allopathic or conventional medical community with the holistic community,” she says. This is achieved through collaboration with other integrative health organizations, such as at the iMosaic conference scheduled for next year, which will bring together three other primary integrative healthcare organizations and more than 1,000 attendees. DiPaola sees AHMA’s participation as one step in the process of collaborating to promote integrative medicine in healthcare.
In order to reach more practitioners in their own communities, AHMA is developing local chapters. Currently, three local chapters exist, the largest of which is the organization’s headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. DiPaola says that one of the benefits of local chapters is having speakers at each location who present on numerous topics, all related to holistic health. DiPaola notes, “Our chapter meetings aren’t just networking meetings; they don’t just serve our members—they are often educational events for the public.”
In addition to public education about holistic practices, AHMA aims to connect clients with holistic practitioners. “There seems to be a real hunger out there by the public not only to know more, but to able to find and go to these types of doctors,” DiPaola points out. One example of this, says DiPaola, is the amount of money Americans spend on complementary and alternative medicine. According to NCCAM, Americans spent close to 34 billion out-of-pocket dollars on complementary and alternative treatments in a one-year period from 2006 to 2007.
As for the future of AHMA and holistic medicine, DiPaola foresees growth for both. “Conventional medicine isn’t working for a lot of people, so I only see interest growing,” she says. “I only see our membership growing, the number of chapters that we have growing.” With a commitment to increasing awareness about and understanding of holistic medicine, as well helping patients find holistic healthcare practitioners, the AHMA will continue to be a key organization in promoting holistic and integrative medicine.
Learn more about membership in AHMA at holisticmedicine.org.
Reasons to join the AHMA
•Help patients and clients find you. AHMA’s “Practitioner Finder” helps the public easily locate holistic doctors and practitioners.
•Gain access to educational tools. Free and discounted publications such as medical journals and monthly newsletters are available, as well as discounts on national conferences.
•Stay on top of your game. Access tools to stay current with the latest and most relevant developments in integrative medicine. If you’re new to the field, learn how to make your practice holistic.
•Network. Connect with a diverse group of practitioners in the field of holistic health.
•Be at the forefront. Participate in and encourage research for holistic therapies. Be part of the change in healthcare.
•Join for the love. AHMA is the only integrative medical association that acknowledges the spiritual dimension of humanity and the healing power of love.
AHMA Core Values
· Patient advocacy
· Practitioner support
· Community building
· Systems transformation