The purpose of this study was to examine the benefits associated with complementary and alternative medicine
(CAM) treatments from the patients’ perspective using a whole systems research approach as a guiding framework.
We conducted five focus groups of six to eight participants each, with users of CAM recruited through experienced CAM
providers and clinics. Eligible participants were aged 21 or older, had used CAM in the last 12 months, and believed the
treatment to be beneficial. The focus group discussions were digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed through a qualitative
content analysis. Responses were inductively coded for common themes, and then placed into broader conceptual
categories reflecting the CAM outcome domains suggested by Verhoef and colleagues. Participants described physical
health benefits including symptom relief and improved function, and positive psychological benefits such as improved
coping and resilience. Social health benefits that arose from the positive aspects of the patient-practitioner relationship
were also reported, including support and advocacy. In addition, participants identified empowerment, increased hope and
spiritual growth as results of receiving CAM treatments. A new behavioral health outcome domain emerged as participants
reported that CAM use had fostered behavioral changes such as increased exercise, smoking cessation and improving
These patient-reported benefits of CAM treatment are consistent with the outcome model proposed by Verhoef and colleagues,
and extend this model by identifying a new outcome domain—behavioral health outcome. The findings provide
insight and direction for the development of outcome and process measures to evaluate CAM treatment effects.