Book Review: How Healing Works

I only give this book three stars. It might be overly harsh but in all honesty, I am a little tired of conventional providers ‘discovering’ concepts that we have known for centuries and writing a book as if it’s groundbreaking. Overall, I agree with the concepts in this book, but that’s likely because I am a naturopathic doctor. I have already bought into the concepts of whole person healing and see first hand the benefits of whole person healing in my practice.

Let’s start with the positive aspects. Dr. Jonas makes statements such as: “A person is an ecosystem- more like a garden to be cultivated than a car to be fixed.” I couldn’t agree more. He brings up really important research such as the work being done by Dr. Alia Crum around mindset, research on loneliness and health, and the placebo effect. I think his book should be required reading for every conventional medical student. We put entirely too much emphasis on the medicine being used and not enough on either the therapeutic relationship or the healing capacity of the patient.

As an ND, reading this book was frustrating at times. Dr. Jonas discusses a glaring ‘gap’ in care for patients between complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and conventional medical care. He mentioned a myriad of providers in his book. He listed chiropractors, homeopaths, massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc in the CAM group and DOs, MDs, and NPs in the conventional group. He talked about how patients fall through this gap and described ideas around how to solve this problem. However, he completely ignored that naturopathic physicians are the bridge for this gap. Sometimes I give writers the benefit of the doubt, maybe in all of his research he didn’t learn about NDs, unlikely, but possible. That isn’t the case here because Dr. Jonas recommends a book by a prominent naturopathic physician, Dr. Joe Pizzorno.

I don’t want to make it seem like he took the concept of true healing from naturopathic medicine. The ideas he is presenting in the book around healing are present in most if not all of the ancient healing practices around the globe. In naturopathic medicine we call it ‘vitalism.’ In a vitalistic medical model, intervening in the mechanism of disease by relieving symptoms does little to stimulate or encourage the healing response. Vitalistic medicine works by honoring the process and strengthening the whole individual.

While I am frustrated to read yet another book about holistic healing written by a conventionally trained provider who has ‘seen the light,’ maybe I should be grateful. Holistic providers have been trying to change the conventional medical paradigm from the outside in only to be told that our therapies aren’t ‘proven.’ The change must come from the inside out. As more and more conventional providers come to the same conclusions Dr. Jonas did, we might actually see our medical model shifting to a more vitalistic model. Maybe one day all providers will know what holistic providers have known for a very long time. All healing is self healing.

tl;dr: If you are a patient or provider already familiar with and working in holistic care, skip it. If you are new to holistic medicine or are a conventionally trained provider, pick it up. It might just rock your world.


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