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What Is Integrated Care vs. Integrative Care

Integrated vs Integrative – What’s the difference and why it matters in treatment for addiction, chronic pain, and mental health.


At Triangle Wellness & Recovery PLLC we provide both integrated and integrative care to individuals struggling with addiction, chronic pain or other mental health conditions, but what does that mean exactly?  Based on my observations, most people, including individuals who work in the healthcare field, use the two terms interchangeably. But they are actually two distinct approaches to care, which can be combined to deliver an extraordinary level of person-centered care.


Integrated care is collaborative, team-based care with two or more specialties working together.


Integrated care refers to having clinical staff with different areas of expertise working together to coordinate patient care and, in the best cases, collaborate on treatment plane.  An example of this is a pediatrician’s office that has a psychologist on staff who performs assessments for ADD/ADHD and sees patients within the same practice. Another example is an orthopedic surgical practice that employs physical therapists to help patients regain their strength and mobility after surgery. In practices which operate with an integrated care model, there is greater communication between providers and less chance that important aspects of your treatment or monitoring will “fall through the cracks”. 


Integrative care doesn’t limit itself to conventional medical treatment options.


Integrative care refers to incorporation of evidence-based recommendations and treatments that (currently) fall outside of the scope of the main-stream western medical approach.  These types of treatments are collectively referred to as “complementary medicine”. The boundary between main-stream medical care and complementary are is a moving boundary as the culture of medicine and the training of doctors adapts to reflect current clinical research.  One of the leading indicators of inclusion of a treatment modality into the western medical world is when a service starts being covered as an “in-network” benefit or eligible for reimbursement as a health care expense. A good example of this is acupuncture for chronic tension or migraine headaches or massage therapy for fibromyalgia. Many clinicians now routinely recommend supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids for vascular health or mindfulness practice for anxiety. 


assembly of wild healing herbs representing alternative treatments


Integrative physicians help you understand and choose from complementary or alternative treatment options in addition to main-stream western medical options.


Integrative health care is NOT the same as alternative health care. This distinction is crucial to understand when searching for a treatment provider.  An integrative physician combines or substitutes evidence-based (but non-mainstream) recommendations and treatments with conventional medical practice. In many cases, natural alternatives to medications are safer and as effective as conventional medicines. In contrast, an alternative practitioner exclusively provides care that falls outside of the mainstream of medical practice. There are several areas of alternative health care, some of which have significant clinical research backing their safety and efficacy, and some which do not. Nearly all alternative health care practitioners lack medical training and therefore do not have the expertise or licensure to practice medicine and cannot compare the risks and benefits of alternative treatments to conventional medical approaches.


At Triangle Wellness & Recovery PLLC, we partner with you to create your personalized treatment plan for recovery and wellness


How does this apply to Triangle Wellness & Recovery? We are integrated; our team is composed of both medical and behavioral specialists who work together to develop treatment plans and provide clinical services.  We are also integrative; in addition to providing high quality western medical and psychiatric treatment approaches to care, we also use evidence-based complementary treatments such as biofeedback, nutritional and supplement counseling and mindfulness. We offer more than just one perspective on health, recovery and wellness. We empower you to ask questions and choose options that speak to your values and preferences. There is no single “right way” to recovery from addiction, chronic pain or mental illness, and as we say in our practice, we have no plug-n-play solutions.  We build treatment plans for each client from the ground up, working with you each step of the way, because we believe that is how to provide care that is truly transformative.