Integrative Medicine in the Twin Cities Metro


First of a series

Integrative medicine began appearing in Minnesota more than 20 years ago. Such programs here are at the forefront of the complementary medicine movement in the United States. This series of articles will focus on the conventional medical systems in the Twin Cities metro area that are integrating complementary therapies into their health care models.

An overview of how complementary medicine expanded in this region of the country begins with the Hennepin County Medical Center. It began clinical trials with acupuncture in 1986 and in 1993, and it was the first conventional medical facility in the United States to open an alternative medical clinic.

Two years later, the University of Minnesota created the Center for Spirituality and Healing. This center was designed to conduct research, educate health professionals and empower consumers. Once a public clinic, the Center for Spirituality and Healing closed that operation in 2002.

Then in 1998, the second oldest hospital in Minnesota, Lakeview Hospital, began offering a holistic approach to care by incorporating non-traditional therapies with standard conventional patient care. Administrators there believed the addition of complementary therapies benefited patients by providing pain relief, stress reduction and recovery enhancement.

In 1999, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota launched an integrative medicine program in its oncology department following suggestions by parents who felt their children needed more help managing symptoms. The program used therapies in the treatment of cancer with simple approaches like mind/body skills, aromatherapy, and massage. To date, the integrative medicine program at Children’s, one of sixteen in the nation, is the largest and longest running.

In 2000, the Woodwinds Health Campus opened in Woodbury. It is an 86-bed hospital built around a holistic care model that recognizes the role of the individual and the family in the health care experience.

In 2002, the concept for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing was developed around the idea of creating an optimal healing environment. By 2003, the inpatient program was in operation, managed by teams of nurses. A year later, its outpatient clinic was opened, featuring an acupuncturist, massage therapist, nurse/healing coach, and nutritionist, and the healing institute has continued to expand its services to date. In addition to inpatient and outpatient care, in 2007 the Penny George Institute opened a center to research both clinical trials, as well as the economics of integrative medicine.

In 2006, Regions Hospital opened its Complementary Care Therapies Department as a result of an internal grant opportunity. Regions had been trying to expand its nursing services, and there was interest from nursing and other professionals, but a lack of time. With the grant in place, two nurse managers were able to create the complementary therapies program.

The following is a brief look at the health care clinics, centers and health systems that will be explored in more depth in coming months.

The Alternative Medicine Clinic of Hennepin Faculty Associates (HFA) is now called the Hennepin Integrative Health Services. Its mission is to provide safe, clinically effective integrative health care, expanding options and improving care to get people well, as well as to educate health care providers for the future. It is about diversity and exposing practicing physicians to integrative options to help their patients. Medical interns and residents practice in the center, and many are skeptical of complementary therapies until they are treated themselves or they see their patients getting better with the support of such treatment. Hennepin Integrative Health Services makes use of an expansive array of complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Chinese herbology, many types of massage, chiropractic, holistic physical therapies, energy work, cranial sacral, to name a few. Health care providers here find that complementary therapies help patients across the board, citing success with back pain, women’s health, pelvic, bladder, joints, fibromyalgia, headaches, cancer, and many more health challenges. Clinic leaders hope to expand the number of physicians — especially specialists — who work with them. An example of a specialty the clinic supports is integrative cardiology, which offers many opportunities for a cross-disciplinary team approach.

The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing (CSF) is on the leading edge of the expansion of integrative medicine. It was at one time a public clinic and, it still partners up with other operations that have services in the Twin Cities. For example, it works with Hennepin County Integrative Health Services, Northwestern University and Methodist Hospital on a pilot program for eating disorders, and continues to work with several others. Its goals include leadership in education and research; in fact, CSF started the first Health Coaching advanced degree certificate program in the nation. Aside from expanding health professional’s skill sets and teaching people to take care of themselves, the center’s other goal is to interface with the health care system and develop a sustainable new health care model.

Lakeview Hospital has merged with the Stillwater Health Group. Its philosophy is to truly integrate holistic care with Western medicine and to enhance the patient’s relaxation, pain control and promote healing. At this time the integrative therapies offered are aromatherapy, massage therapy, therapeutic relaxation, Reiki, healing touch, spirituality and pet therapy. The department of physical therapy is where one would schedule a treatment. Lakeview does not plan to expand its complementary offerings at this time.

The Children’s Hospitals of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a groundbreaking integrative medicine program. Their approach is not to replace conventional medicine, but to combine the best of complementary and conventional therapies to create holistic solutions for children. They believe in partnering with the patient and their support system, as well as helping children to identify their own natural healing abilities and participate in their own recovery and healing. Children’s Hospitals makes use of biofeedback, hypnosis, mental imagery, other forms of relaxation, acupuncture, acupressure, energy-based therapies, aromatherapy, nutrition, supplements, herbals/botanicals and expressive arts therapy — with great success. A music therapist is on staff and the hospitals are in the process of expanding this role. In fact, they are currently collaborating with the Institute of Art and the Children’s Museum on healing projects. Children’s Hospitals have focused on teaching the nursing staff holistic therapies that can be used on an ongoing basis to enhance the patient’s well-being. The integrative medicine program sees many children with complex medical challenges who are struggling with conventional treatments. The hospital staff believes it is beneficial to give children the skills ahead of time to manage their own pain and anxiety associated with surgery and other procedures. Another important piece underway at Children’s Hospitals is research on complementary therapies. Positive results support the use of such therapies. The future of integrative medicine at Children’s Hospitals is to teach children more about health, wellness and prevention.

Woodwinds Health Campus is a transforming hospital. It was built as a holistic experience facility. Its mission is to offer compassionate care through innovative resources by promoting healing of the body, mind and spirit. Its healing arts therapies include essential oils, acupuncture, acupressure, energy-based therapies, massage, and healing music. Woodwinds believes the future is total integration of body, mind, and spirit for complete healing, and the hospital plans to continue to enhance its offerings of integrative approaches to support its patients.

The Penny George Institute provides integrative medicine at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, both for inpatients and at an outpatient clinic. These complementary therapies often come from other medical traditions and emphasize caring for the whole person. The institute’s overall mission is to help people discover their own innate capacities for health and healing. The health care staff offers patients a multitude of tools that promote the empowerment of self-care. Penny George partners in its care and is not a place where people come to get fixed. It offers acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofeedback, energy healing, guided imagery, healing coaching, healing touch, therapeutic yoga, herbals, massage therapy, mind-body therapy, nutrition, reflexology, relaxation techniques, spiritual guidance, and exercise therapy. Areas of treatment are not limited to one population, but reflect a spectrum of diagnosis and scenarios, and the key is being able to understand the individual and what works best for each patient. Penny George Institute leaders see the future as being outside of themselves, in that it is time to become partners throughout the community to educate people on self-care.

Regions Hospital’s Complementary Care Therapies Department has the philosophy of engaging people in their own care. It believes in offering more choices, and the staff is finding that these therapies benefit its patients. Complementary Care Therapies at Regions Hospital’s offers massage, music therapy, healing touch, Reiki, labyrinths, and relaxation television. These therapies have been found to be effective in easing post-operative pain, chronic pain, anxiety, stress, sleeplessness and nausea, supporting end-of-life comfort, but not limited to these areas. The staff continues to be amazed at the response of patients. They say that in some way, shape or form, every complementary care treatment has been a positive one from the patient’s perspective. This department’s goal is to be able to offer complementary therapies to every patient.


  • Consumers already are using complementary therapies and are more frequently asking their allopathic doctors to add to their recovery plan.
  • Research is supporting the effectiveness of complementary therapies, which is making it easier for allopathic doctors to accept it as treatment.
  • Across the board allopathic doctors, complementary therapists and patients are finding that these types of complementary treatments work.
  • A new health care model that includes complementary therapies is in the future of health care.
  • New professional positions just starting to come to light will be of potential benefit to all consumers wanting to maintain health and well-being.
  • The term Alternative and Complementary Medicine (CAM) is changing on all fronts to Integrative Medicine, which makes use of complementary therapies.
  • Collectively, we have a greater understanding of the necessity for patients to be involved in their own healing process and have a support team.

A holistic approach to health care relieves symptoms and makes use of a wide array of practices to optimize well-being. Holistic health care embraces the idea that health is a partnership between the practitioner and the patient. It is an approach that affirms that better health can be achieved by treating the whole person and by giving patients the tools to achieve healing. The future is integrative medicine – an approach that emphasizes self-care and prevention as a way of living.

Next month: An interview with Patricia Culliton, director of Hennepin Integrative Health Services (HIHS). We will tour the facility and learn more about how they process clients through their program.

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Pam Olson
Pam Olson is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies program at Saint Catherine University. She has a long history of interest in metaphysical studies and actually worked with The Edge in 2001 on the first Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. She is trained in Healing Touch, Reiki and Magnified Healing energy-based therapies and has her own practice in Burnsville, MN. She can be reached at [email protected].



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