Dr Toh Wong, a GP living and working in Devon, tells the College of Medicine how a Bell’s Palsy diagnosis – and a course in neurolinguistic programming – made him realise that health and healing requires an Integrative Health approach.
“I was an established partner in a family practice and had numerous interests in medicine. I worked long hours and was well-respected for my work ethic, medical skills and proficiency. I digested medical journals, researched drugs, and had exemplary training from many able tutors.
I even trained GPs and medical students. Unfortunately, catastrophe struck when I was afflicted with Bell’s palsy rendering half of my face paralysed and severely affected my taste.
It was one of those rare occurrences that did not improve after a few weeks. The weeks turned into months. I was unable to control one side of my face. Every day, every interaction, every meal reminded me of my very visible disability. Conventional treatment failed and scans were normal. I was to be left with a permanent disability.
A few months later, I received an email (from a now elderly tutor) to attend an advanced course in NLP (neurolinguistic programming). I had been waiting for years to attend this, but I declined because of how depressed I felt. It was one of those instances, when the knock on the door got louder and louder until I could not ignore it. Another email arrived, a couple of days before the event talking about last-minute cancellations and this convinced me to attend.
It was one of those courses that provided something unexpected. Much to my surprise, the whole course seemed to involve hypnosis. I had read and watched videos of whole courses taught in trance but this was the first time I had attended one. I was unaccustomed to hypnosis – I was aware of my surroundings, but I felt relaxed yet in control. We did many exercises where I could imagine things very vividly.
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I recall that one exercise in particular, resulted in a feeling of such relief that I could not hold back the flood of tears, and I felt the grey clouds that hung over me lift. I felt the stress and depression that I had denied the existence of disappear and instantly, I felt the world lighter, and my face felt different, and easier for the first time in months but yet, it was still paralysed.
The next day would prove life-changing. On stage, in front of the other participants, I was asked to perform a number of exercises. I realised that the stress and depression I had felt had lifted.
Yet, I was pressed as to what I really wanted to change, and I admitted that I would really like to have my face move again. Although deep inside I was sceptical. However, what previously seemed like a dream became a reality. I was marching in the middle of the room, and my left face twitched and moved for the first time in months. I remember opening my eyes in absolute surprise.
Over the next few days, my face continued to move more and more. I could smile again, and the crinkling in my left eye returned, the lines on the left of my face somewhat came back, but my taste remained forever altered.
I realised there and then that the mind-body connection was more than just a myth. If our thoughts can make us unwell, then perhaps our thoughts could make us well again. I was now living proof of this. You see, the so-called NLP course wasn’t about one particular approach, it was about any approach that worked to achieve a common outcome. It was not through any feat of medical science.
In fact, the Ear Nose and Throat surgeons had given me no compassion, no empathy, no understanding, and no hope despite fancy scans and suggested drugs to help with pain. Instead, I realised there is more to healing than I had ever thought possible. How did 20 years of medical education miss this?
Over the next few years, I became obsessed with the approach of self-care and complementary therapies combined with conventional medicine to treat conditions. I sought out amazing teachers and techniques. I had found a companion with similar interests in Dr Naveed Akhtar.
Together we set up the Integrative Health Convention, a space where different teachers from other disciplines in health and healing could come together and speak to interested conventional Doctors – connecting complementary with conventional healing and wisdom. Here we spread the idea of health through an Integrative eye, through an eye of openness and humility – a point of view I so lacked before my moment of personal awakening.
Here’s where this learning and research has led us…
Health and healing requires an Integrative Health approach, which is an openness to different ways of thinking taking into consideration the latest research in neuroplasticity, psychoneuroimmunology, longevity science, nutrition and the microbiome, epigenetics, the therapeutic relationship, and the placebo/nocebo effect.
This can include principles and practices from different complementary healing approaches ranging from acupuncture to breathwork, ancient healing sciences like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, and more modern approaches to trauma and health and healing Hypnosis and NLP.
Integrative approaches to health work for many chronic conditions and serve as preventive measures for many flare ups of conditions related to anxiety or stress such as some common chronic skin conditions and autoimmune conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and chronic pain have NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommendations for integrative approaches like hypnosis and acupuncture.
If you are open to other ways of health and healing, please come to our Integrative Health Virtual Recorded event 11 Feb 2022. Content is exclusive and there will be exclusive discounts available on the day as well as valuable connections in this growing field.
A few years ago, Integrative Health was but a dream, but today, it is a growing movement. With the recognition of drug company induced over-prescription such as the opioid scandal, isn’t it time you look at more than just drugs to treat some conditions too late, and rather prevention and self-care and even less harmful alternative approaches?”