Holistic health, community at heart of local nurse’s Centerville business

Business offers reflexology, clinical aromatherapy, herbal wellness consultations and imagery and mindfulness training.

Holistic health may appear to be a trendy new way of treating illnesses. But the concept of healing the whole body, rather than focusing on individual illnesses, has been in use for centuries.

Patti McCormick of Centerville grew up in Beavercreek and Xenia in a family of German heritage. Her grandmother, Catherine Cyphers, often used a holistic approach when dealing with her family’s common ailments.

“My grandparents owned a little grocery store in rural Beavercreek,” McCormick said. “We basically lived holistically without ever having to go to health food stores.”

McCormick’s grandmother instead used herbs she would grow herself or bark to make teas and salves to heal illnesses.

“We weren’t necessarily against traditional medicine,” McCormick said. “We just went to holistic medicine first.”

Inspired by her grandmother and her aunt, who had been a nurse, McCormick attended nursing school after graduating from Xenia High School in 1973. She went to Sinclair Community College and later took additional coursework at American Pacific University in California where she earned her PhD.

“When I first became a nurse I worked at a cardiac step-down unit,” McCormick said. “I saw people who were clinically ‘twins,’ with the same labs and EKG’s. But because of their attitudes, they were completely different in the way they healed.”

McCormick continued to experience how significant emotional health was to overall wellbeing and the disease process. Fascinated, she studied on her own, hoping to find research on how thoughts and mindset can create varying outcomes.

After five years in a hospital, McCormick went to work for a physician who practiced integrative or holistic medicine. She was able to train as a clinical hypnotherapist specializing in pain control.

“I also got referrals from physicians for patients who had phobias around testing and medical treatments,” McCormick said.

Keeping her grandmother’s lessons top of mind, McCormick also wanted to learn more about aromatherapy and herbal use in healing but couldn’t find any educational courses for these practices available in the Midwest region.

“Physicians simply don’t have time to train in this,” McCormick said.

In 1986, McCormick started the Ohio Academy of Hypnotherapy, basing the program on her own life experiences in the whole-body holistic concept. She hired a reflexologist who helped her set up a clinically based program and eventually she moved her business to Xenia where it became the Ohio Academy of Holistic Health.

“It was a full holistic program,” McCormick said. “We offered six different certifications.”

As holistic health started moving more to the forefront of modern medicine and even into nursing education, McCormick was tapped to lecture at conferences and for publishing companies.

“This sounded like a wonderful opportunity,” McCormick said. “I love travel and teaching.”

But after a few years, McCormick began to feel overwhelmed and was unable to live the healthy lifestyle she was preaching.

“I had no time to exercise or eat right,” she said.

She returned to the Dayton area and decided it was time to spend more quality time with her family, which includes three grandchildren.

The academy she started was no longer in existence when she returned, and she found herself at a crossroads.

“I always wanted to do something with the holistic piece of my life,” McCormick said. “And my main concern as a nurse has always been that we don’t have a good concept as a society about holistic health.”

Since the majority of her career had been in health education, McCormick knew she wanted to have a school, so she opened the Institute of Holistic Leadership.

Now located in Centerville, IHL is a state registered educational facility offering holistic health services to anyone in the community, including reflexology, clinical aromatherapy, herbal wellness consultations, and imagery and mindfulness training.

“We have been in the Miami Valley for more than 30 years,” McCormick said. “And we are the area’s best kept secret.”

IHL students work directly with physicians in traditional medical settings because McCormick knows holistic healing doesn’t take the place of traditional medicine.

Stumbling blocks remain, however. Since most insurance companies won’t cover holistic treatments, McCormick encourages people to work on their whole-body health all the time, rather than simply treating illnesses as they happen.

“Personally I would rather spend my money on ways to stay healthy, rather than on medicines I need when I get sick,” McCormick said.

IHL recently completed a clinical aromatherapy pilot program, which was funded by Green Medical Foundation, to evaluate the effectiveness of aromatherapy for post surgical symptom management.

“The results have been remarkable,” McCormick said.

As interest in holistic health continues to grow, IHL graduates are opening private practices and working hand and hand with traditional medical professionals.

“This is a very consumer driven industry,” McCormick said. “People want this now. They want to find more physicians who are open to holistic health. My goal with IHL is to develop programs to train individuals as holistic health professionals and to help people understand how choose what feels right to them.”

Have a personal journey to share? Email Dayton Daily News Writer Beth Anspach at banspach@ymail.com.

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For more information, go to ihlead.com.

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