What is a healing crisis?
The term healing crisis is used throughout natural medicine to refer to a very specific event that may or may not occur in an overall healing process.
What do I mean by natural medicine?
Natural medicine is a broad category of healing practices that are based in tradition. Natural medicine is distinct from conventional medicine (the medicine practiced by physicians and nurse practitioners), which is based in scientific evidence. Distinct, not mutually exclusive.
Natural medicine uses holistic, non-tech healing practices to address the underlying imbalances understood to create an internal environment in which symptoms and disease can occur.
The techniques used in natural medicine, while varied, all seek to engage the body’s self-healing mechanisms to remove imbalances and restore optimal health. A healing crisis may occur during that healing process.
Healing crisis is understood in natural medicine to be a usually brief period during which a client who initially felt improvement doesn’t feel so well. This temporary period of malaise occurs before improvement stabilizes.
What are the specifics of a healing crisis?
The malaise of a healing crisis falls into one or more of these categories:
- lethargy, fatigue
- feeling as if one might be “coming down with something”
- appearance of flu-like symptoms
- a return of specific recent symptoms
- a recurrence of much older symptoms.
The sequence that characterizes a healing crisis is:
- initial improvement
- temporary aggravation
- stabilized improvement.
A healing crisis is typically short. It may last a few hours at the end of the day and be gone by morning. Or it might last a day or even two. It will not usually be longer than that unless a more imposing healing approach (such as fasting) is being used by someone with chronic illness (hopefully with proper supervision).
Healing crisis, not
If the person’s symptoms do not fall into any of the categories above, and do not occur in the sequence described, the event is not a healing crisis.
If a client has an immediate ill effect during a treatment, without having had a period of feeling better, that is not a healing crisis. If someone leaves a treatment feeling well but falls on the way home and is injured, that is not a healing crisis.
Such situations need to be addressed differently than one would address a healing crisis.
Why does a healing crisis happen?
According to natural medicine, a healing crisis is a period in the self-healing process in which the system is cleansing itself of toxins.
If the person is basically healthy, with self-healing mechanisms functioning well, a healing crisis might still occur, but it will likely be mild. A person who is suffering symptoms is more likely to have a noticeable healing crisis.
How can we be sure it’s a healing crisis?
The symptoms of a healing crisis may be the same symptoms associated with the disease. This can be confusing. Alarming even.
Certainty about healing crisis is only available after the fact, once the client has emerged comfortable and healthier. That said, a hallmark of a healing crisis is that the person recognizes the experience as somehow beneficial and retains a sense of well-being despite the discomfort.
When experiencing a true healing crisis, the person has an intuitive recognition that it is part of a curative process and is not alarmed. This is true even for people who are usually anxious to manage symptoms. The wisdom inherent in the human system is asserting itself, and the enhanced awareness of the client is a sign of that process.
Is a healing crisis ever dangerous? That’s our next topic to explore when we resume this discussion. Meanwhile, please share your experiences of healing crisis.