Edical provides an explanation for the structure and function of the body in health and sickness. How appropriate is this approach when applied to holistic bodywork? Discuss.

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Holistic Bodywork                Jo Dando

Biomedical provides an explanation for the structure and function of the body in health and sickness.

How appropriate is this approach when applied to holistic bodywork? Discuss.

“The biomedical model, which is the orthodox, traditional model treats the parts that cause the problem”, which according to this approach is only the physical aspects of a person. However, the holistic approach differs immensely to the biomedical. Holism considers a person as a whole, treating not only physical illness, but also “further analysing psychological or social disorders which may also be present.” (UK-Learning, 2001-03) Through research and further studies surrounding both the biomedical and holistic approach we shall observe how appropriate these two approaches are when applied to each other.

“Over the last century the most influencing model in health has been the traditional biomedical model. Biomedical models of health see the body as a biological machine made up of many parts. This approach is known as the reductionist approach, when only a small part and not the whole person is taken into account. It has been invaluable in gaining scientific knowledge about the body but ruled out the mind.” (UK-Learning, 2001-03)

        The biomedical approach is strongly influenced by ‘cartesian dualism’. Sheridan and Radmacher (1992) describe the definition of ‘cartesian dualism’ as the “mind and body as separate substances”. Rene Descartes also made this observation during the seventeenth century. Using mechanical dolls to represent a person he observed how they could make such similar movements to that of a human, but they could not “duplicate higher human operations” such as emotions. It was this that led Descartes to identify a split between the functions of the body and the mind. Descartes believed that, “our bodies were like machines but that our minds were a very different kind of spiritual entity.” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992)

        This biomedical paradigm is described by other researchers such as David McClelland, a leading researcher in Health Psychology, as a ‘mechanistic model’.

“Within the framework of the biomedical model, only the biochemical factors of illness are considered” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992), this approach does not acknowledge “what affects could be had upon the body by psychological, social and physical dimensions”. Although it is important that we maintain our physical health, there is now more acceptance and also emphasis placed upon other aspects of the body that influence our health, such as the mind and spirit which are beliefs of the Holistic approach. (UK-Learning, 2001-03)

The holistic approach uses methods outside the scientific framework, placing great emphasis on the spiritual and psychological factors within a person. Through this approach humans are viewed as existing at several levels, for example, the physical, mental and spiritual.

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        Holism differs to biomedicine in that “physical illnesses are seen as having mental and spiritual causes as well as those stressed by traditional medicine.” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992)

“Holistic models say that to consider the body without taking into account the social and psychological aspects, would give a misleading diagnosis of the health of that body,” as the “body reacts as a whole so therefore must it be treated as a whole”. (UK-Learning, 2001-2003.) Therefore, when searching for an accurate diagnosis the holistic therapist would take into account the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. Those involved in holism believe ...

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