Finding a Good CAM Practitioner

How does one find a good Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioner?  Typically, patients have conversations with friends about their health issues - their aches, their pains, their moods or headaches, and so on. Until recently rarely did recommendations or referrals to CAM practitioners came from a patient’s primary care physician, but instead came from a trusted friend whom had tried a treatment for a similar condition. So the burden to find a CAM practitioner has traditionally fallen on the patient. While history is beginning to change as MDs are taking a more integrative approach to health, many patients are still faced with the challenge of locating credible and trusted CAM practitioners on their own.

At Jill’s List, we are helping patients find credible CAM practitioners in their area, assisting hospitals in the referral process, and providing an online space for practitioners to be more accessible to patients.  But we understand patients (old and new to CAM) are still uncertain how to proceed and establish a trusting relationship with a practitioner.  We reached out to the Jill's List community of experienced practitioners and advisors to share their thoughts on best practices for assessing a CAM practitioner.

Mark Hyman, MD , Founder of the Ultrawellness Center in Lenox is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine.  Regular and ongoing communication with his patients is essential to caring for his patients' needs.

"When meeting with a CAM practitioner for the first time, feeling apprehensive or uneasy about a new treatment is not unusual; however, the practitioner should make every effort to make the patient feel comfortable and at ease from the first meeting.  To help reduce any concern, the patient should come armed with questions about the practitioner’s practice, experience, various treatments offered, expectations during and after treatment, and projected results. Open communication between a practitioner and patient is essential to treating individual needs and creating wellness.”

Dr. Hyman's advice is sound and underpins the positive experience I recently had with Scott Cedeno of Beacon Street Acupuncture, whom practices Japanese Acupuncture. Until my appointment with Scott, I was only familiar with Chinese Acupuncture otherwise known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which strengthens and harmonizes the flow of qi (energy) in the body by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points or meridians. While Japanese Acupuncture also uses some light needling and Moxibustion, it is based on a "root/branch" approach to healing, which seeks points on the body that may be the root cause affecting a certain "branch" of one's system.   I was honestly not sure what to expect from the treatment, but Scott immediately put me at ease with his kind demeanor and his effort to keep me informed throughout the treatment. There was a lot of two-way communication prior, during, and after my treatment which made me feel like a participant in the healing process and eliminated any insecurities I may have had.

Scott is also a practitioner participating in our Comprehensive Medicine for All program at Jill's List. As part of the CMA program, Scott is apt to meet with patients both experienced and inexperienced with complementary care.  Important to Scott is having a holistic understanding of each individual patient.

"Patients are seen and understood as individuals, who’s health exists across the entire spectrum of their being. This spectrum  is composed of an intricate and interrelated web of  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. The compartmentalization and hyper specialization that exists within the Biomedical model remains un-emphasized. This allows for individual CAM practitioners to serve as providers for a wide range of health concerns that a patient may have."

Experience, education and credentials are also key factors in selecting a practitioner according to John de Kadt,  licensed Acupuncturist , Chinese Herbalist, Ayurvedic Consultant and Living Food Nutritionist from Canyon Ranch. John understands the importance of finding a practitioner that best suits the patient's needs.  "Call the practitioner in advance and ask them if they have worked with treating your health concern before.  Having at least 5 years experience in their field of work is an important qualification. Finally, while some conditions take longer than others to treat, you should feel some benefit or improvement after 7-10 treatments. If not, you may consider exploring another practitioner whom may take a different approach."

Have you had a positive experience with a practitioner?  What made you feel confident in your choice?

Share your story with us!

Abby Ackerman


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