Interview with Dr Johnson highlights how patients can take a more proactive role in their health
Dr. Nelie Johnson

Helping patients gain control over decisions about their health, and understanding the mental and emotional issues that lie at the root of health problems, are the key factors in one physician’s efforts to contribute to improved health care.

It’s a new health paradigm that Dr. Nelie Johnson of Maple Ridge has incorporated into her counselling practice. “Medicine,” she says, “is great at making a diagnosis, and it is good at life-saving treatments, emergencies, trauma, etc. However, it primarily comes from a physical perspective, and what I have learned is that the physical perspective is all very well, but it is often not enough

“What I have seen in my practice is a fix-it approach, which has made patients dependent. The patient knows, perhaps unconsciously, the impact of their life experiences.” She explains, “There is a whole person [involved], not just a physical body, but the mental and emotional as well.”…….

The essence of the shift that Dr. Johnson is advocating and teaching is that the “patient is an expert about their life experience.” She notes: “In all health disciplines, therapists often say to the patient, ‘We know best. Do this or take that!’ – Patients have been educated to go to an expert to get fixed, rather than develop their own expertise.”

So how does Dr. Johnson’s work re-empower patients in their health-care decisions?…

In her private counselling practice, she uses a seven-step approach. “I have a training and an understanding of how and why a particular disease happens – the likely core emotional conflict at its source.” Additionally, she adds, “It’s crucial for a patient to get the core conflict – the root source of any disease, illness or even pattern of disease in a person’s life.”

I appreciate Dr. Johnson’s approach as something I have been practising from a spiritual perspective. There was a time when I was feeling very insecure about my life. I was neither happy nor healthy. For me, my first resort to resolving problems lies in a quiet, contemplative form of prayer that brings a sense of peace, and the presence of God as Love. Gradually, through prayer and the study of the Bible, I began to realize that I had not always been insecure. It was something that had attached itself to me from past experiences, and it was within my power to replace it with a renewed spiritual view of my selfworth. This daily practice gave me confidence, not only about life, but also about my health. The physical complaints gradually vanished.

Dr. Johnson notes that “whatever route we choose, it always takes courage, willingness and honesty to come to self-knowledge, where healing becomes possible.” She advises that we ask such questions as, “What is really bothering me the most? What is underneath the anger or anxiety?” She believes that asking the right questions is key to helping patients find their own answers. She emphasizes that this does not eliminate the need for physicians, and she encourages involving a patient’s own expertise in the healing process.

There are bigger questions here that can open up thought-provoking ideas. Do our health-care needs lie outside ourselves with another’s expertise? Or can these needs be solely addressed by the expert within? Or do we require a combination, as Dr. Johnson advocates?

Addressing these questions could open the door to new ideas about health care for us all.

You can reach Dr. Nelie Johnson on her blog, http: // 

* This article was first published both in the print edition and online in the Times Colonist, July 14 2012.