Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming increasingly common in the United States and the rest of the western world. It represents a different methodology towards improving and maintaining health. In addition, it has become increasingly accepted by western physicians, as they recognize that their patients are attempting to be proactive in their health maintenance. CAM refers to a type of medicine that uses treatment modalities and preventive concepts that are not part of the traditional western medical approach. This approach is referred to as �allopathic� medicine. This report will discuss CAM and how the approach differs from that of allopathic medicine.
The terms that are often used for CAM are not terms that everyone understands or agrees upon. Alternative medicine may refers to any type of medical treatment that is outside the mainstream approach. Complementary medicine refers to using a non-mainstream treatment in conjunction with the mainstream treatment. Integrative medicine tends to refer to when mainstream treatment centers offer non-mainstream approaches as part of their treatment plans. This is often found at cancer centers that also provide acupuncture and massage therapy for pain management. Allopathic medicine helps to determine these terms. If allopathic medicine embraces a treatment, then it would no longer fall under the concept of alternative medicine (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014).

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Individual practitioners who engage in allopathic care are highly regulated. For instance, a physician or a nurse must possess a license to practice. These licenses are issued by the state in which the individual practices. It is issued after specific requirements have been met, part of which usually includes sitting for a board examination. However, those who practice CAM come from a wide range of educational backgrounds. Various states may require varying levels of education and training before being issued a state license, certification or other type of credentials. Part of the experience usually revolves around receiving an education at a holistic health school. Obviously, if a person is considering utilizing the services of a CAM p[professional, he or she should ensure that the person has the appropriate education, training and certifications (American Holistic Medical Association. N.d.).

The philosophy of CAM can be considered one of a holistic approach. This is how it differs from western medicine. Western medicine tends to focus on an illness or specific body system. For instance, if a person develops cardiac problems, the focus is on the heart and how to fix it. CAM tends to approach illness from a holistic manner, indicating that the entire person is one being. This includes the soul of the person. CAM focuses on how the body, mind and soul must work together to achieve overall wellness and health for an individual. This approach is much different from western medicine that will not by philosophy ever discuss the soul or the individual as a spiritual being.

There are several ways to classify CAM. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NNNAM) is part of the National Institutes of Health. They classify it according to five major groups. These groups are: 1. Whole medical systems, 2. Mind-body medicine, 3. Biologically based practice. 4. Manipulative and body-based practices and 5. Energy medicine. These five different classifications are used when discussing various treatment modalities.

One treatment modality is classified under Mind-body medicine. This is the use of mindfulness based therapy to help reduce the level of pain or anxiety for a person. This is often viewed as meditation, or a yoga practice. It has become increasingly common in the west and is no longer strictly viewed as �alternative.� Rather, western medicine is beginning to understand the value of this eastern practice. It focuses on teaching an individual about the use of mindfulness, or being aware of the present moment, as a means to reduce pain, anxiety, depression and other conditions.

Multiple studies have examined the potential use of mindfulness-based therapy on a number of psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression. One study is from 2010. The authors are Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt & Oh. The authors conducted a meta-analytic review on the effects of mindfulness-based treatment on anxiety and depression. This comprised a thorough review of the information published to date. The authors concluded that it does appear to be an effective treatment in a number of depressive and anxiety conditions. They recognized that it is growing in popularity and likely will continue to do so in the future. They believe that it has significant promise as an intervention for these conditions.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to any treatment modality that is not found in the traditional western medical view, something called allopathic medicine. There are a number of classifications of CAM. Furthermore, these treatments may be used alone by an individual, or in conjunction with western medical treatments. In addition, many western-based treatment centers are now beginning to integrate these types of therapies with traditional western ones. One such treatment, mindfulness based therapy, has shown tremendous promise for individuals who are suffering from depression, anxiety and related conditions. The important thing is for one to keep an open mind regarding other treatments. This is for the patient and for the healthcare professional. While these treatments may be �new� to western medicine, they are most certainly not new to all of the world.

  • American Holistic Medical Association. (n.d.). Training and licensure. Retrieved from:
  • Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 78(2), 169.
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2014, July). What�s in a name? Retrieved from: