New Support for Alternative Medicine

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Apr 01, 2006

The American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA] has joined the growing number of healthcare professionals who support the use of complementary and alternative medical practices that include mind-body interventions. The AOTA recently issued a Position Paper asserting that occupational therapists and occupational therapy (OT) assistants may use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as part of a comprehensive approach to enhance OT services.

CAM is defined as “a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine,” according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM], at the National Institutes of Health. What gets included in the CAM category is constantly changing. As research substantiates that therapies are safe and effective, conventional healthcare practitioners adopt them into integrative medicine, the practice of medicine that combines mainstream therapies with evidence-based CAM therapies. CAM practices are divided into five domains: (1) alternative medical systems, such as homeopathy, Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine; (2) mind-body interventions, such as music/dance therapies, meditative practices and mind-body exercise programs; (3) biologically based treatments, such as herbal formulations; (4) manipulative and body-based therapies, such as chiropractic and massage; and (5) energy therapies, such as Reiki and therapeutic touch.

The Position Paper recommends that more scientific studies be conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of CAM methods within the practice of OT. The paper was published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (2005; 59 [6], 653–55).

To learn more about the roots of complementary and alternative medicine, visit the NCCAM website at

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at