All societies practice differing belief systems of causation and construction of illness. However, there are two main medical models that underlay most of these systems and each is centered on the distinction between the mind and the body. One system, the Western medical model, holds the mind and the body as an objectified, separated, and disintegrated other, while the other maintains the individual as a being in which the mind and body are infused and compose the integrated organism. .
Shamanism, a twenty thousand-year-old practice encompassing the concept of priest, healer, and magician, understands the danger in isolating the body from the spirit. Shamans see the intrusion of disease as the result of a loss in the power one holds over oneself . Such a loss of power is normally experienced during a spiritual crisis or when an individual is the victim of harm to their spiritual being due to societal tensions. Shamans" main interests are in the spiritual health of their patient and they heal by bridging the gap between the individual and the universe . Often shamans serve as communal redresser, balancing social tension through ritual. .
The Western medical model, in search of a solid science, denies all notions of the interconnectedness between an individual's spirituality and the physical manifestations of one's illness. Western medicine therefore cannot explain the human significance of physical effects; it can explain the "how" of the diseases but not the "why" . Therefore the integrative model of medicine that treats both the spiritual causation and the physical manifestation raises a challenge to the Western "scientific" medical model that only considers biological and physical aspects of disease. It is the mechanical and routine practice that breaks the individual into isolated parts that is challenged by a healing practice in which the only objectification is the spiritual health in a material being.