This is a short defense of the value of witch doctors, alternative medicine, and the like, which raises a reasonable point: the medical establishment in the Western world is on the whole terrible at making you feel like something useful is being done, i.e. the psychological aspects of medicine, and as the psychosomatic system is actually a fairly important one and has very real effects on the body, its neglect of that can cause real physical harm.

Phrased another way, separate from the "expert mechanic of the body" aspect of medicine is giving people a way to conceptualize their condition and deal with it. This can be very important, and people's needs in this regard vary widely, from the religious, to the new age, to sitting down with a pile of textbooks on medicine. (This is distinct from sitting down with the same pile of textbooks in order to understand the condition so that you can treat it more effectively: that same pile can have a second, separate virtue, which is to help one understand and conceptualize even what one can do nothing about. That is to say, for some people – myself included – this satisfies the same emotional need that a houngan satisfies for others.)

All of which is to say, so long as you aren't going to a witch doctor instead of to an actual doctor, and as long as the witch doctor (or the actual doctor, for that matter) is neither scamming you nor harming you, the combination can actually be fairly beneficial.

I suspect that, like with any situation where multiple professionals are treating the same condition, things work best when they view one another as colleagues working on different ends of a problem, and worst when they view one another as competitors. The crystal healer who urges you to eschew chemotherapy is not doing you any favors, but neither is the oncologist who urges you away from your emotional support.

Via +Andrew Hunter.
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