The Importance of Words


“I know that’s what I said, but that’s not what I meant…”


It happens even when we don’t intend it; we misspeak, use the wrong word, portray the wrong mean. It happens, and words carry weight: they carry connotation, they evoke emotions, and they impact the way we think about a person, situation, concept. Words are important.


And because words are important, the words we use when talking about Integrative Medicine is important. Integrative medicine has been called many things over the years, and there may be more changes to come. However, using the terms that are used now, instead of the previous terms encourage a different way of thinking about integrative medicine, integrative therapies, or integrative healthcare.


Alternative medicine was first used to describe much of what is now encompassed by integrative therapies. However, “alternative” makes you think either/or. You can’t have both. So, when you’re speaking about healthcare, alternative shows that one replaces the other, which is not the goal of integrative medicine.


Complementary medicine was also used for a while. Complementary tends to feel slightly more inclusive than alternative, but “complementary” gives the impression of going along-side, something that can’t live on its own. It's like puzzle pieces, but often complementary is the smaller, supportive puzzle piece. Complementary shows something in addition to but not usually a critical part. Again, this does not encompass the goal of integrative healthcare.


The use of “integrative” in integrative medicine or integrative healthcare shows more of a partnership or that multiple parts can work together to make a whole. The idea that there are many, many different interventions available, often on a spectrum of invasiveness or intensity; these can range from meditation and essential oils to surgery and pharmaceuticals. All of the options are just that, options. Options that can work together to promote a more complete sense of well-being.


At Integrate MEdicine, that is what we are all about! Taking the multitude of options for addressing health concerns and considering the places of each of those in weaving our health journey; understanding the options and being a part of the conversation with your healthcare providers in creating your braid of support.


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