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Tools For Healing--Naturopathic Medicine's First Protocol Is A Trained, Sympathetic Ear



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Tools For Healing––

Naturopathic Medicine’s First Protocol Is A Trained, Sympathetic Ear

By Dottie Evans

Dr Liz Herman of the Hawleyville Naturopathic Medical Center, LLC, has discovered the following notable commonality in her early discussion sessions with new patients: the first issues touched on are often the most important. Whether a patient’s complaints seem small and unrelated, or monumental and life threatening, addressing and resolving them will be an integral part of diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

“If they are suffering acutely, of course we deal with that first,” Dr Herman said.

But more often, she said, there is a pervasive set of undefined problems that contribute to the whole picture.

“They may say they are just not feeling themselves. They might mention heart palpitations, or headaches, unexplained nausea, or joint pain. They might have gained a lot of weight in a short period of time.

“Through listening and talking, we identify what is bothering them the most and we start there.”

This approach is totally in keeping with the naturopathic philosophy that the body has the power to heal itself, and that patients can and should be urged to take responsibility for their own health, even when this means major lifestyle changes.

Dr Herman received her Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., and has been in practice since 1999. She is also a supervising physician on staff at the University of Bridgeport’s Naturopathic Medical Center.

While focusing on women’s health issues and family care, she has treated many conditions and illnesses including hormonal change during menopause, thyroid disorders, sexually transmitted disease, depression, fibromyalgia, and cancer.

“I’m not a therapist, but I do a lot of counseling and I do refer. Patients feel confident that they can trust me. They express what they are feeling, say things they haven’t said to anyone else, and then admit to feeling better,” she said.

“Perhaps they are not ready to talk about certain things. There may be obstacles. People only move as fast as they feel they can, and I respect their need for a comfort level.”

Dr Herman also believes that most people do have a “gut instinct” about what is wrong, and they know what will work best for them.

“We tap into that, and make their own self-knowledge a part of the solution. For example, in talking together, we delve into their daily routine. Look closely at what they could change, taking it step by step. Lifestyle change can begin with something as small as taking an extra glass of water every night before bedtime,” she explained.

 Diet, Exercise, A Support Network

“Considering women’s health issues, you often can’t separate the problems one from the other. They are intertwined. Chronic fatigue is the most frequent symptom I hear.

“Women may be balancing the demands of a job, marriage, children, and family finances. Or there is someone else in the family who needs their help. They will answer all these needs first and put themselves last. We discuss what’s happening and try to voice it. I listen –– to help alleviate the burden and sense of aloneness,” Dr Herman said.

Treatment options may include adding organic food into the diet, increasing regular exercise, or finding ways for women to have more personal space.

“Have your husband watch the children while you take a bath. Take ten minutes in the early morning to meditate. Have older children prepare meals themselves and let them do their own laundry,” Dr Herman said.

“Our bodies are made to work and we are made to move. For thousands of years, we were genetically programmed this way, yet our modern life is so sedentary,” Dr Herman said.

“We often live in isolation. There’s no sense of community or tribe, of caregivers working together in a greater context and the nuclear family has contributed to this sense of isolation.

“Many of my patients are married and marriage is hard work. It’s give and take and it needs effort –– even therapy, at times. The stresses can be huge,” said Dr Herman.

“Our traditional roles are changing. Women leaving the home to go to work has come at a cost. We fought for this, but there is a sense of conflict when we do want to stay home, or when we try to be Superwoman.”

Dr Herman, who grew up in New York City, is board certified and licensed to practice naturopathic medicine in Connecticut. But she noted that licensing is still not as widespread as she would wish.

“New York is crying for naturopathic medicine and I hope they will soon be certifying there. My patients here in Connecticut say the insurance companies often pay a good portion of the cost of office visits. My ideal is that insurance companies everywhere will eventually embrace the beautiful gifts and modalities of naturopathy. We are healing people. It’s not a placebo,” she said.

Dr Herman’s educational background includes acupuncture, Oriental medicine, Eastern botanicals, homeopathy, flower essence therapy, and herbology. She has been trained in Jin Shin Jyutsu, the ancient Japanese art of acupressure.

“We are considered primary care physicians,” she added.

“We can prescribe medicines, pills, and capsules, herbs, and liquids. Food can be used for healing also. We feel safe and secure when we eat certain things. It may taste good going down, but is it helping us or hurting us physically?”

A first-time patient who visits the Naturopathic Medical Center at 31 Hawleyville Road will notice immediately that this is not the usual impersonal medical office building with crowded parking lot, long halls, elevators, and modular offices behind closed doors.

The center is located in an intimate, century-old wooden church that was built in 1897. It once served as a nondenominational chapel halfway between Newtown and Brookfield on Route 25. The practice was bought two years ago by Dr Joshua Berry.

Tucked behind tall trees, the white Gothic-style structure backs onto a pond and brook that was once a part of William Upham’s tea garden in 1910. It is a serene setting where time and change seem not to have altered the rural landscape.

After entering and checking in, a patient climbs a set of wooden stairs to Dr Herman’s office overlooking Pond Brook and is invited to sit down at an unfinished wooden table near the window. Soft music and the soothing sound of a distant circulating water garden create a relaxing atmosphere.

The patient is helped to feel at ease and Dr Herman’s attention is fully engaged. There are no interruptive phone calls or nurses entering who request urine samples, or ask to take height, weight, and blood pressure measurements; those procedure come later. The task at hand is simply this: to talk freely about why you have come and what is bothering you.

“I try to listen intuitively and wherever the conversation leads, we go with it,” Dr Herman said.

In this manner, the healing begins.

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