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Ann Fam Med. 2004 May-Jun;2(3):253-9.

What complementary and alternative medicine practitioners say about health and health care.

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Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, Madison, Wisc. 53715, USA.



We wanted to explore the beliefs and practices of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners.


A representative sample of local CAM practitioners was selected for 32 face-to-face in-depth interviews. Interviews were taped, transcribed, and reviewed by all coauthors. Analysis and interpretation were reached by consensus, using an iterative process in multidisciplinary group meetings.


The CAM practitioners interviewed stressed the holistic, empowering, and person-centered nature of CAM. They described themselves as healers, employing attentiveness, touch, and love to increase self-awareness and strengthen the healing process, usually in chronic illness, often with pain. They affirmed goodwill and respect toward conventional medicine, calling for greater integration of conventional and complementary health care; however, they identified the major differences of conventional medicine and several formidable barriers. They displayed concern about accessibility issues in health care and stressed that attitudes and beliefs were often larger impediments to integration than were economic or scientific considerations.


In general, CAM practitioners want to work with physicians and other conventional health care workers in seeking a holistic, accessible, patient-centered, integrated health care system.

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