Background: The Integrative Medicine (I-MED) Index, designed to be a universal instrument to assess the 5 levels of healing (physical, energetic, emotional, subconscious, spiritual) among individuals who use complementary therapies, is based on the hypothesis of healing (HH), which considers healing as a dynamic process towards wholeness generally following the same steps. When we pilot-tested the instrument, it became clear that the way participants experience healing in their lives was not as the HH suggested. This led us to ask how patients experience healing and what outcomes they identify as key to their journey.
Methods: In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with 35 individuals with previous healing experiences at 2 wellness centers in Vancouver, BC. Qualitative content analysis and thematic coding were used to analyze the data.
Analysis and results: Four themes emerged from participants' stories; they suggested that healing is (1) a personal and subjective experience, (2) a return to wholeness, (3) self-directed and requiring positive intention and (4) experienced in varying degrees. Symptom resolution, goal attainment, changes in social support, mental outlook, and the subtle but significant changes like engaging in life differently were important healing outcomes. Contrary to the assumptions of the HH, healing is an individualized process that does not follow a uniform pattern.
Conclusions: A lack of consensus on the key concepts of healing has hindered efforts to evaluate the effects of complementary therapies and outcome. The results from this study provide the basis for an instrument to assess individuals' healing experiences in a more dynamic manner.
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