What is Holistic Medicine



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C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.


The American Holistic Medical Association was founded in
May, 1978, to bring together those few physicians who
were open to looking at the whole person-body, mind,
emotions and spirit. To some extent, this reflected the
foundation emphasized by my medical school Chair of
Medicine, Eugene A. Stead, Jr, whose favorite statement
was “What this patient needs is a real doctor.” He never
defined the meaning but demonstrated it in his teaching.

Listen to the patient!

A thorough history reinforced by an extremely thorough
examination is only the basic starting point. Some years
ago an office employee told me that she had been advised
by another physician not to work for me because I took too
long with patients! Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual
issues are involved in every situation. Early in my career I
developed in depth questionnaires for new patients-Total
Life Stress, a Total Symptom Index and a Zung test for
depression gave me the foundation for additional
questions. In 1971 when I focused on working with patients
who had failed conventional medicine my average patients
had failed 5 to 7 earlier operations, and up to a dozen or
more drugs which were producing more harm than good.

Many had already failed to respond to useless and harmful
psychiatric drugs. My average patient had 49 symptoms
and a remarkably high Total Life Stress score including
chemical, emotional and spiritual issues. And nearly 100%
were clinically depressed despite being on antidepressant

I already had introduced Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve
Stimulation, acupuncture and active Operant Conditioning/
Behavioral Modification, progressive physical exercise. In
1972 I introduced Autogenic training, biofeedback training
and Past Life Therapy, along with progressive Physical
Therapy, massage and hydrotherapy. By 1974 I realized
that I needed to know much more about psychology so
that I entered a Ph.D. program in Humanistic Psychology. I
would NOT have taken psychiatric training or conventional
“talk psychology” for a billion dollars!! My doctoral
dissertation involved clinical application of the most
comprehensive Self-Regulation training, as I developed

Biogenics. I learned that patients needed to learn to:

  • Be positive
  • Be in present time
  • Believe in themselves
    -often enhanced with biofeedback “proof”


  • Learn to create, change and get rid of physical undesired sensations-sensory biofeedback
  • Learn to balance emotions with Fight, Flight or Spiritual Acceptance-emotional biofeedback
  • Learn and experience Spiritual Attunement-true connection with Soul, the Divine and God

For individuals who have not been healed with
conventional drugs
or surgery, further drugs and
surgery only make things much worse!

If you have appendicitis, I recommend a good general surgeon. If you have bacterial meningitis, I
recommend an appropriate antibiotic. If you have a
true ruptured disc actually pressing on a nerve or the
spinal cord, I recommend a good neurosurgeon!

My dissertation, presented in February 1977, included
results in 195 patients treated with our comprehensive
holistic approach. Eighty percent of the patients, all of
whom had failed conventional medicine, improved
remarkably-off pain and mood drugs, marked increase in
physical activity, marked improvement in mood, and
striking decreases in pain.

By May, 1978 it was evident to me that the holistic model
was far superior to conventional medicine for all
patients who did not improve
within 4 to 6 weeks of
conventional therapy!
I had met a small number of
physicians who were following my unconventional
approach and I invited all interested to the founding
meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association. 212,
including some medical students attended. One of my
former neurosurgical colleagues wrote a major editorial
complaining that the leaders of the holistic movement
spoke too well and were too charismatic. And he
concluded, “We are too busy taking care of disease to try
to prevent it.”

Within a year Dr. John Knowles, a cardiologist and
President of the Rockefeller Foundation wrote “The
Responsibility of the Individual in which he stated
“Ninety-nine percent of individuals are born health and
become unhealthy because of human misbehavior.” And
about that time Dr. Franz Inglefinger, editor of The New
England Journal of Medicine wrote that “80% of illnesses
are self-limited or not curable by modern medicine.” He
went on to say “Eleven percent are miraculously cured; ten
percent are made worse. Thus we wind up barely on the
positive side of zero.” (Bolding by me)

The AMA refused to allow ads for the meeting of the
American Holistic Medical Association. In 1982, when I
was invited by a Springfield, Missouri hospital to move my
practice from Wisconsin to Missouri, the chief of
Anesthesiology said to me, “Now Doc, let’s not have any of
that holistic crap here.” By 1990, major articles suggested
that a huge majority of Americans were seeking
“alternative” care outside the system. Gradually hospitals
began adding a few non-conventional approaches and the
Establishment adopted the concept of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine
. At best it was piece meal and
NEVER comprehensive or Holistic! Eventually the
mainstream term became Alternative Medicine, but it, too,
is virtually never Holistic!

What is Holistic Medicine? It is a comprehensive
approach that includes, especially in acute situations, appropriate drugs or surgery. When that is not
curative, the approach MUST include the broadest
possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual


sHEALyWellness | | norm@normshealy.com | 5607 S. 222nd Rd.
Fair Grove, MO 65648
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