January 14, 2012

The Rituals of Healing

Do you notice the rituals of healing in the same way as you notice the rituals of religion? It is interesting to think that rituals play a large role in the healthcare system, and perhaps in our ultimate healing. What do you consider the rituals of healthcare? Perhaps the white coat and stethoscope? The physical exam?  Receiving of a prescription for a medicine?  I have been reflecting on what we consider rituals related to the healing process as I have read and watched some interesting remarks on this subject from two leading sources on this topic.

Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, the director of Harvard's Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounters, was recently interviewed in the New Yorker magazine about his quest to understand the placebo effect and how it influences quantifiable measures of health.  Could our belief about whether a treatment is effective or our level of trust in routine rituals of healthcare, such as placing a stethoscope on the chest, physiologically change our ability to heal? 

Dr. Abraham Verghese, author and physician, ponders whether we, as a society, are in danger of losing the art of medicine as we have increased access to technology to support the science of medicine. In his recent TED talk,  Dr. Verghese argues that while it is important to have modern tools of medicine, which are enabled by science and technology, the art of medicine is essential as well.  For it is the art of medicine that allows for the human connection between patient and healer to emerge and the rituals of healing to be sustained.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a practitioner of 40 years reflecting on this broader topic I agree with you. I do see that the rituals in regaining and sustaining well-being are sadly lacking in our culture due primarily to disconnection and 'un-belonging' at most levels of society.

In Joseph Campbell's work, 'The hero with a thousand faces' he alludes to the great progress made in modern times overcoming superstition and casting a bright light in areas that were once dark. He purposely contextualises his own statement by commenting that where there was once light (in the pre-modern psyche) there is now darkness.

Ritual is part of belonging and belonging sustains and heals us.