Participatory Medicine as practiced at the Path to Health Centre offers a new and revolutionary approach to medicine, psychology and healing practice. It is an emerging form of integrative health practice that makes use of the PATH Method to enhance health and well being through conscious and dynamically active partnerships. It engages with the patient or client as an active and integral partner in the diagnostic and therapeutic program.

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The term participatory medicine was coined in 2000 by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn where he describes the effects of mindfulness practice on patients undergoing standard medical treatment for psoriasis. Those patients who practiced mindfulness briefly during standard treatment showed a significant and unexpected medical improvement in their condition compared to a control group receiving the same treatment who did not practice mindfulness. Patients acknowledged a sense of personal empowerment in the guided mindfulness practice.

Since then the term has been used to describe a number of patient empowered initiatives such as patient support groups, patients playing important roles in community health decision-making, patients playing a role in a collaborative team to address their needs and patients mindfully involved in their own treatment. It may also include patient groups, specialized social networks, and clinical researchers in a collaborative relationship.Modern communications tools are used to enhance the participation of the patient in their medical decisions.

Since then numerous articles have appeared in the literature on the value of participatory medicine and in 2009 a Society for Participatory Medicine was established which publishes the Journal of Participatory Medicine. Its definition of Participatory medicine “is a cooperative model of healthcare that encourages, supports, and expects active involvement by all parties (clinicians, patients, caregivers, administrators, payers, researchers, social networks and communities) in the prevention, management and treatment of disease and disability, and the promotion of health.”

My concept of participatory medicine includes and welcomes such initiatives, but the participatory engagement of practitioner, patient and the therapeutic relationship itself goes well beyond these activities, engaging with the dynamic transformation and healing of illness itself.

The PATH Method is an integral skill set that enables and enhances the participatory interactive process on an intrapersonal (self to self), interpersonal (self to other) and transpersonal (higher self to other) level.

This approach to medicine has its roots in a participatory philosophy that stretches back to ancient times when interconnectivity with nature and the divine spiritual world was the natural order and experience of humans. Our Greek medical forefathers, Hippocrates and Aeschylus were still steeped in the connectivity of all things, spiritual and physical.The scholastics, the renaissance artists and later the Romantic poets, expressed human participation in the natural and cosmic order of existence.

Goethe paved the way for a conscious participatory inquiry with his participatory theory of knowledge as applied to art and science, opening a path to an epistemology and methodology that engaged the human being in a dynamic relationship with the natural world. Following Goethe, other writers such as Schiller, Fichter, Schelling, Hegel, Wordsworth, Keates, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, and Emerson sought ways to move beyond the Kantian-Cartesian dualistic paradigm and to develop a participatory relationship of the human being to the world.

Common to all was a fundamental conviction that “the relation of the human mind to the world was ultimately not dualistic but participatory” (Tarnas, 1991, p. 433). During the first quarter of the 20th century, Rudolf Steiner developed further Goethe’s theory of knowledge and presented a world view that placed the human being in a conscious participatory relationship with the cosmos, the world of nature, and the spiritual world.

Participation implies partnerships and life is all about partnerships. One such partnership is the therapeutic alliance between practitioner and patient or client that has shown to be of great value in the outcome of all illnesses.

Participatory Medicine embraces three partnerships that are constantly in action in every human encounter:

1. The relationship that I have with myself

2. The relationship that I have with You,

3. The relation that I and You can build to form a We bond that goes far beyond I and YOU.

This approach fully embraces the Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit Continuum that operates within all three partnerships, By tapping into the subconscious psyche the hidden blocks and habitual patterns that exist behind all chronic illnesses can be recognized (diagnosis) and overcome (therapy).