Complementary and alternative medicines, embodied subjectivity and experiences of healing

Eeva Sointu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite a paucity of scientific evidence, complementary and alternative medicines have been found to give rise to feelings of control, empowerment, and agency. These healing experiences call for the development of analytical frameworks beyond biomedical ideas of scientific effect. This article is premised on a phenomenological understanding of embodied subjectivity as paving way for more nuanced understanding into experiences of healing. As such, this article contends that ill health transcends the biomedical body. Healing experiences are also entwined with the values and ideals that are normalized in the complementary health sphere. Discourses of health and wellness thus also play a role in the generation of healing experiences. I draw on qualitative research with clients and practitioners involved in complementary and alternative medicines in England. I will first introduce phenomenological ideals of the body, and the methods underlying the data that are drawn on. I will then turn to interviewee perspectives on the interconnectedness of the mind and the body, before outlining client experiences of alternative health practices. I argue that ideals, such as awareness, that are emphasized in the holistic health domain are important for the generation of healing experiences. Healing experiences also, however, emerge through the caring touch of trusted practitioners. This article will finally turn to the intersections between embodied experience and social inscription.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-545
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Complementary and alternative medicines
  • efficacy
  • experiences of healing
  • phenomenology

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