The process of whole person healing: "Unstuckness" and beyond

Mary Koithan, Marja Verhoef, Iris R. Bell, Margaret White, Andrea Mulkins, Cheryl Ritenbaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to fully explore the descriptions of patients' experiences of change after receipt of whole systems of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment. The aim was to develop an understanding of "unstuckness," including characterization of states, processes, and modifying factors. Design: This was a secondary descriptive qualitative analysis, using techniques borrowed from phenomenology and grounded theory. Setting/location: Three existent datasets collected at two different universities in the United States and Canada were used in the secondary analysis. Participants: Patients with chronic illnesses (including cancer and multiple nonmalignant conditions) who were treated with different packages of care were interviewed for the primary three studies (n = 76 with over 150 interview sessions). Complete data sets from these participants were used in this secondary analysis. Outcome measures/data collection techniques: Original transcripts were coded asking specific research questions about the experience of change subsequent to whole systems treatments. Results: Data clearly indicated experiential differences between stuckness, unsticking, and unstuckness. Descriptors and characteristics of each state were identified, as was an initial grounded theory of change or transformation that occurs as an outcome of whole medical systems of CAM. Conclusions: The results provide preliminary conceptualizations and descriptions of the impact that CAM whole systems interventions may have on the individual's life courses. This constitutes a first step in the identification, measurement, and evaluation of whole systems outcomes in a clinical setting. The emerging conceptualization of the process from stuckness to transformation may also provide a link between clinical research and systems science theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-668
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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