Mind & body medicine is a term I heart in Thailand for the 1st time. I talked to my friend, Mexican doctor and she explained me that alternative medicine has been slowly integrated to traditional and it´s called body & mind (mind & body). Few months after I visited 1st mind & body medicine center in Bratislava to make an interview with Dr. Bachratá.
May we say that body & mind is a new medicine wave or just a new term on something old?
In Slovakia it´s definitely a new shift. Beside that, holistic medicine has its roots in ancient times. In eastern medicine theories is fact that physical health is closely related to mental, very common. Whole Chinese medicine is built on this. Father of classic medicine Hippokrates was totally holistic or mind-body doctor.
What happened then?
Later arose an urgent call to generalize medicine methods that they would become largely applicable and here we have now what we call traditional medicine „based on proofs“. But call to take psychics into account appeared again. In our region (Middle Europe) was from 50´s till 70´s great boom on psychosomatics and lot of works on this were published. Unfortunately, afterward came communism which made it stop completely and psychosomatics became an unacceptable method. Accepted was just “school medicine” based on scientist investigations. Nowadays is psychosomatics or mind-body medicine spread a little in Czech republic and more in Germany, Austria or Scandinavia, where it was grounded in standard health care system. It´s still rare in Slovakia.
Communism is over but new trends are entering Slovakia very slowly. Classic doctors are still sceptic. Why?
There are more reasons. One of them is an old generation lag, which means that authority of doctors and their opinions are still on the first place. Also shortness of scientist proofs on particular methods is another reason and all the cases when alternative medicine was applied very badly which could even lead to serious harm or death of a patient.
Big topic is lobby of pharma businesses’ which don´t really appreciate new methods with less drugs. And last but not least we can´t forget that body & mind medicine is highly individual attempt and the responsibility for health of individuals is at first place. You can´t apply the same method on everyone.
Classic doctors often reject new methods, they consider them sometimes as myths. Did this happen to you?
Sure, I think in most of the cases. Important is to distinguish between alternative methods. Some of them are acceptable among doctors, for example psychological and nutritious attempts. Problem is often with health insurance – it´s often not included. Then there are methods which are widely used in some of European countries but not in Slovakia. And then there is big group of “too much alternative methods”.
Why doctors don´t accept these methods?
Well, big part of, especially old doctors, who reached some status, spent most of their career in communism. Younger doctors seem to be more open, but usually after few years of medical practice which force them to realize that classic methods are not working. Then they sign for different courses of alternative medicine – yoga, physiotherapy, different physical exercise. But all these methods have their limitation, too.
What you mean?
For example period of time in which any of the method can start to bring results. With psychosomatics can causal treatment last for months when we would see some improvements. Patient needs motivation to continue so it´s important to see some small improvements already in first weeks. We work a lot with body, massages, acupuncture or food therapy. Second requirement is that patient has to be engaged in treatment – he has to play active role, be able to overcome some discomfort, be open to carry some tough personal topics,… That is often unacceptable for many and they rather choose passive therapy.
Which methods does mind & body medicine apply mostly?
Generally, mind & body medicine combines methods of classic medicine with psychological attempts, psychotherapy, relaxation, mindfulness techniques, HRV, biofeedback. First of all we teach patients to listen to their bodies. They should be able to realize what feeling they have upon their bodies, they should learn how to communicate with them and take some signals (tiredness, pain) as signals not problems. Often when we take this as problems, or as illness, our body start to release stress hormones and threat is becoming bigger. Thanks to a huge media propagation is fear for health becoming common problem. Media can turn even a small symptom into serious health issue. Fear, anxiety or feelings of hopelessness have on current society big impact which is related to widespread of civilization diseases.
Therefor we need to know as much as possible about patient to be able to understand the core of real problem. Long interview is always first.
What are you questioning in such dialogue?
Everything. From health issues in family, through relationships within family, conflicts, upbringing, childhood, adolescence, career, partnership, attitudes toward self, world and also lifestyle – that all is important. It tells us a lot about how the person behave, think, if he/ she can control emotions, how he/ she deals with misery, aggression or crises. Patient first fill form which helps us to discover some issues as well as it makes him think.
What can you learn from such interview?
First of all we search if patient has insight, if he can link his psychics with how he feels, with the problems he has. In case he has this insight, we´re very close to solution. If he is able to understand this link and to work with it, we go further. To discover whole context we work with so called timeline which is used to relate important life moments with source of health issues.
It´s much harder or even impossible to work with anyone who has very structuralized life or who isolates primary conflict from conscious self. In such case we use mostly Feldenkrais method or craniosacral biodynamics.
Can you point out some example?
People often come with different digest issues without any obvious reason – stomachache, spasms, diarrhea or food intolerance. Cases in which colonoscopy, gastroscopy, or different investigations didn´t come with anything. Psychotherapy can tells us a lot. For example if person lives with someone negative, dominant or aggressive, he becomes too submissive. Instead of reaction of anger he keeps his feelings for himself and that leads to digest problems.
What else is pretty common in your surgery?
Common are ladies with respiration or urinal infects, pain of joints, lower back or headaches. Those are mostly ladies who were raised in very straight way and they have become too closed and disabled in expressing their feelings. They have no idea that they could act different from what had taught them their parents. Instead of pushing their needs through, they usually react too anxious, they slink which leads to stress of tonus in area of neck and breast with limited breathing and huge impact on digestions.
Big role plays relationship with parents, who were too dominant in childhood or on the other hand, they could care too little and girl had to catch their attention.
We can see psychosomatic link very clearly, it´s often complicated to obtain these ladies for psychosomatic therapy.
Why would anyone reject such treatment?
There is often another problem. It´ s hard to talk about this, but very common is secondary advantage from disease. We face patients with chronical diseases which they use for gaining attention or care of environment. For ex. they try to avoid divorce, or loosing attention of kids, they simply crave for more care and love of the closers.
Common problem is also finance. Psychosomatics is not accepted as classic medicine method, therefore it is not reimbursed by health insurance. There are just few psychotherapists’ that cooperate with insurance companies in Slovakia.
More from interview with Dr.Bachratá here.