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Complimentary Therapy and Advanced Practice Nursing

NurseJournal Staff
Updated October 3, 2023
    Complimentary therapy modalities are commonly used in the specialties of holistic or wholistic care. The words holistic and wholistic are often used synonymously. Holistic nursing is founded on "a philosophy, a body of knowledge, and an advanced set of nursing...

    Complimentary therapy modalities are commonly used in the specialties of holistic or wholistic care. The words holistic and wholistic are often used synonymously. Holistic nursing is founded on “a philosophy, a body of knowledge, and an advanced set of nursing skills applied to practice that recognize the totality of the human being, the interconnectedness of body, mind, spirit, energy, social/cultural relationship context, and environment. Philosophically, it is a world view and not a modality” (Mariano, 2007, p. 166).

    Wholistic care is addressed similarly. The components of wholistic care include the following:

    • Addressing the person rather than merely treating her or his problems
    • Including body, emotions, mind, relationships, and spirit
    • Dis-ease is addressed along with disease
    • Health awareness and prevention of illness
    • Caring and curing are emphasized equally
    • The person who is the therapist is as important as the therapeutic modality used
    • The recipients of care are full participants in their own care and treatment (Benor, 2012)

    The whole person is addressed in wholistic medicine as well. It focuses on the body, emotions, mind and spirit as well as relationships that the patient has with others and the environment in which they exist. Problems in these areas are thought to bring about stress reactions in the body and physical conditions may result. Concentrating on the spirit of the patient having the disease can make emotional and physical problems more tolerable (Benor, 2012).

    An example of a complimentary therapy considered potentially helpful to clients in the area of pulmonary rehabilitation is the technique of relaxation with a focus on breathing. The majority of patients find the application greatly beneficial. Patients with breathing difficulties quite often view the function of breathing fearfully. Challenging them to use the very thing they fear and consider beyond their control to now be a source of comfort and a signal to relax is an effective goal.

    The simple direction to Smell the roses and blow out the candles invents both a sensory and visual image. This is the act of purse lip breathing. It slows down rapid, shallow, ineffective, and inefficient breathing allowing for greater lung expansion and oxygen exchange. Patients benefit emotionally and physically from this particular relaxation technique that can be used also to decrease shortness of breath experienced with the completion of activities of daily living (Petty & Nett, 1995, p. 97).

    Complimentary therapies such as relaxation, art, guided imagery, movement, massage, meditation, music, sound therapy and prayer can be incorporated into the practice of the Advanced Practice Nurse. Therapeutic Touch (TT), Healing Touch (HT), aromatherapy, and Reiki are considered energy therapies and can be utilized in many different clinical settings (Dossey & Keegan, 2012).

    Reiki is acknowledged as one of the most ancient healing methods known to mankind. It involves the laying on of hands directing healing energy to various parts of the body. The human being is regarded as the combination of body, soul, and mind. Illness it is thought to therefore not only have physical symptoms but spiritual and mental causes (Honervogt, 1998).

    Reiki is thought to strengthen the immune system and restore vital energy helping to ward off disease. Headaches, depression, exhaustion, fears, as well as acute and chronic diseases can be eased by a Reiki treatment delivered by a trained Reiki practitioner. A feeling of relaxation, clearer thinking, and contentedness can be attained by the recipient enabling self-healing (Honervogt, 1998).

    Reiki can be useful to healthy individuals as well and also to oneself. A daily practice of self Reiki and its principals can prove a welcome addition to coping strategies in the management of stress and in the promotion of general well-being (Honervogt, 1998).

    Ultimately, the recommendation of conventional safe methods of alternative therapy by the Advanced Practice Nurse can prove helpful when utilized in conjunction with established medical therapies.


    • Benor, D. (2012). Wholistic integrative care. Retrieved from http://www.ahha.org/articles.asp?Id=125
    • Dossey, B. M., & Keegan, L. (2012). Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice (6th edition). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
    • Honervogt, T. (1998). The power of Reiki: An ancient hands-on healing technique. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
    • Mariano, C. (2007). Holistic nursing as a specialty: Holistic nursing-Scope and standards of practice. Nursing Clinics of North America, 41(2), 165-188.
    • Petty, T., & Nett, L. (1995). Enjoying life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (3rd edition). Cedar Grove, New Jersey: Laennec Publishing, Inc.