Medicine was once personal. Doctors visited people in their homes, listened to their fears, heard their life stories, held their hands.
No more. MDs struggle to find a few minutes to talk with patients, who are treated largely in impersonal hospitals. Doctors are trained to think of drugs and surgery as the first, and almost only, methods of care. But without including patients' individual mental states in the treatment, "you're just practicing veterinary medicine," says one expert.
Prestigious medical institutions are beginning to practice "integrative medicine" - encouraging alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, hypnosis, and prayer. "As we understand the science behind a lot of these mind-body approaches, then we will really begin to understand that they are every bit as powerful as the technology that we've come to rely on," says a doctor at the Center of Integrative Medicine at Duke University.
This PBS program follows patients as they employ mental techniques to save an endangered pregnancy or improve a heart condition when conventional approaches have failed.
The take-away message: The mind is a powerful force capable of dramatically changing the body; open-minded doctors should acknowledge this and encourage any therapy that promotes healing.