Pastoral Science and Medicine

What is Pastoral Science and Medicine?

Similar to the secular approach of “functional medicine”, Pastoral Science and Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership, with the added dimension of providing spiritual care and guidance when sought. 

Does This Mean You’re Going To Preach To Me?


Why Do We Need Such a Form of Medicine?
  • Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
  • Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
  • There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
  • Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as bodywork, nutrition, nutrigenomics, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
How is Pastoral Science and Medicine Different?

Pastoral Science and Medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a pastoral science and medicine approach include:

  • Individual-centered care. The focus of pastoral medicine  is on individual-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the individual and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the individual into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.  There are no cookie cutter approaches to this form of health.  You and your journey in life has been unique, and your path to wellness, which may have similarities to others, will most likely have its own unique twists and turns in your restoration and optimization of health.
  • An integrative, holistic healthcare approach. Pastoral Science and Medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
  • Functional labwork. Too often we are told by health care professionals that we’re healthy and that nothing is wrong with us because our “lab tests are normal”.  This statement can be misleading because the lab values that have been determined to be “normal ranges” are calculated by including many people who are sick.   A true measure of lab work should be based on average values for people who have optimal health, not a sick population.  Functional lab work assessments therefore have more narrow parameters by which we would say, “lab tests are normal” and can therefore help alert the practitioner and individual to potential problems before they manifest as overt pathologies.