Healing vs. Curing Comparison

People often use the terms healing and curing interchangeably. While certainly both terms are related to medicine, there is a vast difference between both terms. There are several definitions of both terms, each of which provides a close, yet different statement. In a nutshell, curing is about elimination of symptoms of illnesses in their various forms, while healing is about transforming one’s state, which might represent a disease or simply a discomfort, into a state of acceptance (Keegan, 2001, p. 21). With a common perception of health practices being considered as curing, it can be stated that there is tendency in shifting such practices to include healing as well. In that regard, the present paper will attempt to clarify the differences between curing and healing, and the current perception of their practices, specifically in the minds of nurses, patients and their families.

Curing and healing can be understood through the minds of the patients on the causes and the symptoms of their diseases. Accordingly, curing might be pursued at the expense of healing based on sociologically constructed “cultural values” (Herselman, 2007, p. 62). People might prefer the elimination of the symptoms, due to the association of such symptoms with known diseases, over restoring the balance of their emotional well-being which they might find difficult to associate with a particular illness. Another contributing factor to the pursuance of curing over healing might be explained through patients’ preference for taking passive roles.

The shift in the perception of healing can be seen through the tremendous growth in the field of complementary and alternative medicines in the last two decades, with many of it practices being considered healing, rather than curing (Mary Jo & Mariah, 2002, p. 74). With such growth, an emphasis was put on testing the efficiency of healing, creating and evidence -based foundation for such practice. For instance, patients with cardiovascular diseases were found to exhibit improvements in their medical state, and in many cases even reverse severe coronary artery disease, after lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, yoga, a group support, each of which can be related to the healing practices of complementary therapies. The focus on nursing holistic practices can be also related to the field of healing, shifting the common view on nurses as diagnosing and clinical specialist towards healers, who form a team with their patients.

It should be noted that most discussions on the role and the benefits of healing practices do not view such practices as a replacement for contemporary medicine that represents curing. On the contrary, in the example of holistic nursing, a view exists that such practice is best recognized when combining the best of the best of holistic and contemporary Western medicine. In such way, it can be stated that a total shift to holistic nursing practices, ignoring contemporary medicine, will not be appreciated, while a combination of both might change the experiences of patients, their families, and practicing nurses. The latter does not necessarily imply putting a greater value on any of the practices, rather than an equal approach in which only the best aspects are considered. The implications of such combination can be seen not only in health care as a service, but also in the field of medical education as well as people’s behaviors and beliefs of the experience of sickness and healing.


Herselman, S. (2007). ‘HEALTH CARE THROUGH A CULTURAL LENS’: INSIGHTS FROM MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 20(2), 62-65. Web.

Keegan, L. (2001). Healing with complementary & alternative therapies. Albany, NY: Delmar Thomson Learning.

Mary Jo, K., & Mariah, S. (2002). Healing the heart: Integrating complementary therapies and healing practices into the care of cardiovascular patients. Progress in Cardiovascular Nursing, 17(2), 73.