Holistically yours

[wide]holistic[/wide]They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as free care. Dozens of local practitioners of holistic and alternative treatment methods have been giving it away for years, under the name Health Care is a Human Right.

Each month, the collective of healers holds clinics in a number of places — the Darmstadt Shelter and Kirkland Hotel in Kingston, the Parish Hall on Main Street in Phoenicia and the Woodstock Community Center. (The Darmstadt clinics are open only to shelter and Family Inn residents and staff; all others are open to the public. The next one at the Kirkland, 2 Main St. Uptown, will be next Thursday, Aug. 8, from 4-7 p.m.)

According to Susan Weeks, RPA-C, who co-founded the group 10 years ago and now serves as its director, the group’s mission is “to provide holistic health care to all regardless of ability to pay.”

The providers, or “faculty” of Health Care is a Human Right cover a broad span of disciplines: acupuncture, nutrition, homeopathy, massage therapy, reiki, energy work, hypnosis and more. All told, there are about 60, who all work pro bono, and more are being interviewed all the time, said Weeks.

Money truly is no object: insured or not, anyone seeking holistic care will be helped, for free. A triage procedure which involves the filling out of some forms and releases is done on each client but that’s about it. Which is not a bad deal at all, considering holistic and alternative care is not always covered by insurance or if covered, not very well, and can be expensive. “It gives people an opportunity to experience modalities that they normally wouldn’t be able to,” said acupuncturist and group managing director Julia Rose of Phoenicia.

The idea, said Weeks, is to bring healing back to its true basics: helping someone who needs help. “I think we have an amazing faculty of healers who are an example of what healing should be — people who are experts in their field and give of themselves selflessly to help others,” Weeks said, noting that it includes some of the most experienced practitioners in the area. “I’m really proud of them and I think they deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”

Last month’s clinic at the Kirkland featured a number of these providers treating a steady stream of people who appeared to be from numerous walks of life. Every nook and cranny of the hotel’s public interior space seemed to be in use — one room hosted massage, while a hypnotist set up in the landing between flights of stairs.

Alternative approaches

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To remedy certain kinds of non-life-threatening health issues many Hudson Valley residents initially elect to keep it natural, working with the human body’s power to heal itself. Although relatively few health insurance providers reimburse for massage therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or herbal supplements, these popular alternative therapies to conventional allopathic medicine continue to soar in popularity. They’re most often used to treat conditions that don’t go away easily on their own, such as back pain, anxiety, headaches, depression, substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors. If the objective is, for example, targeting renal glucose re-absorption for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, aromatherapy alone would be patently irresponsible, however conclusively the mind-body connection’s been proven. And of course it’s illegal to practice medicine without a license.

Licensed acupuncturist and certified herbalist Hillary Thing, who ran a clinic in Kingston for ten years and now owns Accord Acupuncture & Herb Shoppe on Route 209 in Accord, says it makes sense for people to seek natural treatments any time they have a condition that isn’t life-threatening. She believes pharmaceuticals are toxic for people and the environment.

For people who are not insured, it’s often less expensive to seek alternative treatments initially. This isn’t a good idea if you have a really high temperature, have broken a bone, or believe you may have a failing organ. One reason conventional doctor’s visits get really expensive quickly is that, due to liability concerns and possibly business pressures, conventional western medical doctors often order a battery of tests to rule out all kinds of problems. That provides a good defense against any later allegation of medical malpractice.

The diagnostic process is less rigid in the alternative fields. “My goal is to lead someone to better health overall, instead of just masking the symptom,” says Thing. “People are really interested in understanding what’s going on with them and engaging in a treatment that feels good, that returns their health to them. Sometimes it’s a diet adjustment, or perhaps taking some herbs.”

Thing estimates that about ten percent of her present practice is comprised of people seeking relief from the symptoms of Lyme disease, a tick-borne ailment that’s often misdiagnosed initially by conventional doctors, and is also tricky to treat. But she’s also seeing more people than she used to with complaints of depression, anxiety and insomnia. From a Chinese medicinal perspective, she says, depression arises from energetic stagnation. For someone with that complaint, she might recommend an increase in physical activity and perhaps spending more time outdoors.

“The world right now is kind of depressing, to be sure. But by looking holistically at a person’s lifestyle, I seek to understand where the place of stagnation is and then approach changing that,” says Thing. “Holistic means that physical symptoms are seen as potentially related to the emotions and life circumstances of an individual, and then it seeks to make connections. It can be very enlightening for the person who is experiencing, say, knee pain, to figure out it might really stem from something that seems otherwise unrelated.”