Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

2.4.3 How CAM therapists impose their views on users

As most people do not have a wide knowledge of complementary perspectives and philosophies, the therapeutic relationship can break down because of a mismatch between what the practitioner offers and what the user of the service wants. The practitioner's ideas about health, illness, mind and body may be at odds with the user's, which can lead the user to find another therapist who offers therapy that is more congruent with their beliefs.

The scholar Ursula Sharma argues that users of CAM most probably match themselves with practitioners who offer approaches that they can connect with and find palatable (Sharma, 1994). Conversely, when faced with a therapist or therapy that does not fit with their views on health, users will tend to fail to return. Sharma (1994, p. 20) notes that one area in which users of CAM may find that their views clash with particular therapists is the issue of personal change. For instance, users who attend for relief of symptoms may view the idea of changing their lifestyles or sense of self as intrusive or inappropriate.

Therefore, a CAM practitioner who promotes strict exclusion diets as being essential to healing may put off someone with a mechanistic view of their body who wants it ‘fixed’ with as little change to their lifestyle as possible. Similarly, practitioners who offer or promote New Age, spiritual or religious aspects to treatment may also find that some patients will leave the therapeutic relationship. However, others may be attracted by such approaches and actively seek practitioners who integrate ideas that fit with their own world views. The apparent need for congruence between practitioners and users makes it even more important for therapists to discuss their therapeutic orientation with users before starting a therapeutic relationship, so that users can make an informed choice about whether to invest their time, money and hope in such an approach.


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