Caring for the Emotional Health of Your Patients

February 8, 2012

If you don’t address emotional health and disease, the patient will deteriorate. Any practitioner who denies this is basically a Neanderthal.

You can fix all kinds of physical problems. But if you don’t address emotional health and disease, the patient will deteriorate. Any practitioner who denies this is basically a Neanderthal.

We are human beings who react to the world. Reactions are typically emotional in nature, and such emotions are remembered. They are buried deep in the subconscious, and frequently in the conscious brain centers. Emotional reactions are stored in joints, muscles, and nervous tissue. Even the heart manifests emotional reactions (sympathetic nervous system activation, apical ballooning syndrome, etc).

We need to integrate the patient’s emotional health into basic clinical care. This requires more than merely establishing rapport and appreciating the patient’s human nature; it requires methods which when applied, lead to emotional healing. When a provider can address the body, emotional body, and mind, the result is success, and even reversal of disease states. We need more community doctors doing this. Too often it is the naturopaths and complementary medicine practitioners who are expert at addressing emotional health, while allopaths who address the burden of chronic disease in America today, pay little attention to it.

Why? Why must we do this? Because despite reductionist positivistic paradigms (which have been discarded in more evolved fields such as physics), there is far more to a human being than their macroscopic, easily observable organ function. We need to pay attention to the invisible aspects of our patients. Invisible? Am I getting mystical here? No; just being comprehensive. The emotional body of a person is intimately connected to their organ functions. How? Via the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the limbic system, the enteric nervous system, etc.; the science is there. What is lacking is clinical applicability, which is why medicine lags far behind other fields (such as physics).

What practical methods are there to effect emotional healing? Here they are: yoga, tai chi, meditation, emotional freedom techniques, psychodrama, hypnotherapy, etc. Is there evidence that these methods work? Yes, under the guidance of a masterful practitioner, these methods work. Do they have reproducible results? Well even medications do not have reproducible results. Like any therapeutic modality, they work for some and don’t work for others. In my experience, I’ve never had a patient fail to glean benefit from yoga, but that’s my experience, and I don’t expect the typical practitioner to echo my views.

The point is: various methods are available. They typically fall outside the domain of conventional medicine. But if conventional medicine doesn’t address emotional pain, then maybe that’s why conventional medicine usually doesn’t work in the long run.

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