194409 “It All Seems So Simple Now”: The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Sense-Making

Monday, November 9, 2009

Joslyn J. Brenton, MS , Department of Sociology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
The practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States has grown rapidly since the mid-1970s. But why are people attracted to these alternative practices and therapies? Drawing on social-psychological theory, this study explores people's CAM use in the context of the shortcomings of conventional medical encounters. In-depth interviews with 20 CAM users reveal that people use two key concepts found in virtually all types of CAM, mind-body connection and vitalism, as resources for therapeutic sense-making. People use CAM to make sense of physical problems such as debilitating back injuries, as well as non-physical problems, such as divorce and eating disorders. A gender pattern in CAM use is also examined. Drawing upon feminist theory, this study makes a significant contribution to a much needed understanding of how and why women's and men's CAM use differ. Women's CAM use is seen as an attempt to reinterpret the conditions that cause their suffering, while men's CAM use is seen as an attempt to change the conditions that cause their problems.

Learning Objectives:
1.Identify four types of shortcomings of conventional medical encounters 2.Differentiate between the two major CAM concepts used for sense-making 3.Describe the qualitative differences between women’s and men’s CAM use 4.Analyze women’s CAM use using a feminist interpretive framework 5.Discuss the implications that a feminist analysis of women’s CAM use has for future research on CAM

Keywords: Alternative Medicine/Therapies, Health Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This presentation is a derivation of my Master's thesis research. I was the sole author of this study, for which I received IRB approaval.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.