The Provider's Body in the Therapeutic Relationship: How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Providers Describe Their Work as Healers

Health Commun. 2019 Oct;34(11):1350-1358. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1489201. Epub 2018 Jun 20.


Although the body is central to health outcomes, the provider's body has been largely absent in the provider-patient relationship. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers (N = 17), this study examines how CAM providers use their body to characterize their work as healers. The findings suggest the provider's self-reflexive awareness of their own body's illness and faith experiences informs their understanding of the patients' experience of health and disease. The study foregrounds the intersubjective nature of the provider-patient relationship as an embodied interaction in the mutual construction of therapeutic goals. Provider reflection on their own bodies to make sense of their patients' experiences emphasizes provider-patient coproduction of meaning and suggests ways for including the provider's self-reflexive awareness of their own body in a patient-centered healthcare relationship in ways that benefit both the patient and the provider.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Role*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States