So we’ve settled some of the basic worries: not all alternative and complementary therapies and treatments are founded on charming little anecdotal histories and folk theories. There is real science supporting their thoughtful use in an integrated medical approach to promote healing and well-being, manage chronic pain, support symptom relief and enhance palliative care. There are good standards for assessing licensed and professionally trained practitioners; more and more conventional Western physicians and health care providers endorse the use of CAM treatments.
Okay, then. You’ve done some homework, talked it over with your primary doctor and made the first appointment. What’s next?
That all-important first visit. Get to your initial appointment prepared to spend a good part of it answering a bunch of questions about all aspects of your health – your current health and the condition that you are seeking to treat and your health history, too. You might bring along a written list of your past injuries, major illnesses, surgeries and medical procedures. Be sure to include on that list any prescription medications you are taking, any over-the-counter drugs and remedies you regularly use, along with any vitamins and other supplements you take.
Be prepared as well to ask questions:
- Scientific evidence? Are there any scientific research studies that show the therapy I am considering may be beneficial?
- What benefits? What help, relief or benefits can I expect from the treatment?
- What risks? Are there risks associated with this therapy?
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Do the known or anticipated benefits of this treatment outweigh any potential risks?
- What about side effects? What side effects or reactions can be expected?
- Will the treatment affect my normal routine? Does the therapy interfere with any of my usual daily activities?
- How long? How long will the treatment process last? How many office visits should I need? How is the therapy evaluated?
- How will my progress be assessed? Will I have a treatment plan?
- What will all of this cost?
- Will I need to buy special equipment or supplies?
- Does this treatment conflict with, or interfere with, my conventional treatments?
- Are there any conditions for which this therapy should not be used?
- Was I comfortable with the practitioner?
- Was he or she easy to talk to?
- Did the practitioner really answer all my questions?
- Am I satisfied with the answers?
- Did the practitioner make a real effort to get to know me?
- Did he or she ask about my specific health condition, the reason I came in for the consult?
- Was the practitioner open to combining CAM treatment and conventional medicine?
- Did he or she have a good understanding of my specific health condition? How about first hand experience treating it?
- Did the suggested treatment seem reasonable?
- Am I okay with the cost of treatment?
- Was the practitioner clear about how much time the therapy would require, both per visit and over the course of the treatment?