In this article we discuss steps that clinicians should take after deciding to include a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment that is beyond the clinician's expertise in a patient's treatment plan. We use the example of an adolescent patient with chronic recurrent headaches that have not been relieved by medication or other therapies and whose physician refers her to an acupuncturist for treatment. We focus on (1) circumstances under which referral is appropriate, (2) the nature of the relationship between the referring clinician and the practitioner to whom the referral is made (considering conventional health care and CAM, regulated and unregulated practitioners), and (3) considerations when undertaking shared or collaborative care with other health care practitioners (conventional health care or CAM). We also suggest best practices in managing such relationships.
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