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Origins, #1: Marty Rossman, MD Expands on the Shared History of the Integrative Practice Movement PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Origins, #1:  Marty Rossman, MD Expands on the Shared History of the Integrative Practice Movement

Summary: Guided imagery pioneer Martin Rossman, MD, LAc, read my column, "Toward an Integrated History for the Integrative Practice Movement." The focus on the founding of organizations left some key "elements" that needed to be in the mix. Rossman speaks of the era, the "crack in our (medical) cosmic egg." He lists some who were key articulators of the new humanism and holism. There are tastes here of the contribution of the moment and the greatness of breakthrough thinker which add to that of the road-builders whose often nearly invisible acts advanced access for millions of people to kinds of care which manifested the ideas articulated by these who Rossman honors. 

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history of integrative medicine movement, integrative practice
Martin Rossman, MD
Guided imagery pioneer Martin Rossman, MD read my column Toward an Integrated History for the Integrative Practice Movement, August 28, 2008). He
liked my listing of the founding of the various inter-related organizations but had suggestions of key "elements" that should be added. Rossman, founder of The Healing Mind, was last seen here in a widely-read guest column, Mind-Body Pioneer Marty Rossman Welcomes 2008 With an Integrative Practice Reminder, January 23, 2008.)


Three Elements and Some Key Individuals in the Founding
of the Integrative Practice Movement

Martin Rossman, MD

I enjoyed your article on the history of the Integrative Movement vis a vis organizations. But if any history is written it must ultimately include three other elements.

  • First, the context of the broader social revolution of the 1960's in which surfaced a willingness (actually an imperative) to question assumptions and authority, think more broadly and holistically, and look beyond the dominant culture for other options.

  • Second, and part of the former, the consciousness movement, with it's deep appreciation and wonder about the power of the mind that has fueled the mind/body medicine movement.

  • Third, the "crack in our (medical) cosmic egg" that came with the modern western discovery of acupuncture in 1971, revealing not only that people can have major surgeries like pulmonary lobectomy while awake, alert and comfortable, but opened our eyes to the fact that there were other viable approaches to medicine and healing that had real current value and needed to be investigated.

This loosely affiliated group
articulated the early and
ancient principles of humanism
and holism, of multiculturalism,
human potential, and of the
marriage of art and science,
fueling the interest and
encouraging young
practitioners of my era.

- Rossman
On the west coast there were groundbreaking conferences on "new dimensions in healing" and similar subjects. These were organized by individuals like David Bresler, Irving Oyle, David Sobel, and others. They were sponsored by UCLA Extension and UC Santa Cruz Extension. They featured seminal thinkers and speakers like Ken Pelletier, Gay Luce, Carl Simonton, Stan Grof, Norman Shealy, and a host of others.

This loosely affiliated group articulated the early and ancient principles of humanism and holism, of multiculturalism, human potential, and of the marriage of art and science, fueling the interest and encouraging young practitioners of my era. These were some of the pioneers that fueled the fire before the organizations were developed and I hope they will be included whenever a history is written.


Rossman's point is well-made. And yes, there are many others who would be on that list, including Rossman himself. These pioneering souls created context and intellectual space for everyone who came after, or came along side of these individuals. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the book and speaking tours of these and others of the intellectual and spiritual trailblazers - who typically were conventionally-trained and had left the boxes of those backgrounds - led to thousands of media accounts which stimulated popular consideration of a new kind of health care.

At the same time, organizational actors in many of the complementary, and alternative disciplines on whom I focused in my Integrative Practitioner column were engaging the unheralded tasks of introducing whole disciplines and practices of this new health care into the body politic. They set standards, built schools and graduated professionals who fought through ignorance and prejudice to create new licensing. The media didn't look favorably on them. To capture media attention, these new ideas needed to be presented by an MD or PhD with a conventional academic appointment. Media coverage of any kind was rare in that era of 4 TV stations and a local daily.
Yet these professionals pressed on, opening new territories to new practices. The recently published recollection of how "integrative medicine" and "integrative therapeutics" were formed in the naturopathic medical profession in 1979 is one example of work undertaken in obscurity which has since impacted millions of lives. (See Origins #2: Peter D'Adamo, ND on the Musical Inspiration for "Integrative Medicine" in 1979, August 31, 2008.)

Many in the distinctly licensed disciplines do not fully own how their paths were opened by those who broke ranks with conventional psychology and conventional medicine. At the same time, too often
Our shared history includes
the "great men and women"
Rossman notes who help
articulate the new as well
as many great and dedicated,
less visible organizers whose
impact is expressed in the
establishment of schools and
licensing and creation of
access to new forms of care.

conventional, integrative MDs present a history which jumps from Joseph Chilton Pierce and Alan Watts and James Reston in China to Ornish and Kabat-Zinn and Benson and Weil to a view in which "integrative medicine" was founded in the mid-1990s. They don't typically acknowledge the great penetration of new integrative, licensed practices in the choices of consumers. Rossman is right to add these additional elements: Our shared history is a combination of these energies.

Interestingly, the collaborative action which stimulated my column was directly and intentionally connected to the contributions Rossman celebrates.  In 2005, the first of the meetings of the leaders of organizations which I referenced took place in another of those percolation zones for humanism. It would certainly be on Rossman's short list were he to add to the west coast influences: the Esalen Institute. The convener of these gatherings, Bill Benda, MD, is medical doctor for Esalen, located in the Big Sur area of the California coast. When Benda, and Integrator adviser, invited leaders of
holistic nursing, holistic medicine, naturopathic medicine, integrative medicine and integrated policy in spring of 2005, Benda called the gathering a "Summit in Humanistic Medicine." (See Political Clout from the AHMA-AANP-AHNA? The Vision of Bill Benda, MD, the Interlocking Director, June 6, 2007.)

Perhaps our shared origin story, after all, is a water-birth: naked, in a hot-tub, with our intention roaming across the vast Pacific to the East, then returning to glory in the physical forms of our earthly individuality.

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