Working with the Whole Person: Interview with Petrea King

Petrea King talks to Kay Stroud for Holistic Bliss Magazine
Petrea King talks to Kay Stroud for Holistic Bliss Magazine

Read this cover story article where it was published in the February 2014 issue of Holistic Bliss Magazine….

Put simply, the standard prescribed way of treating disease needs to be reviewed and reworked.

This was the message that Petrea King and many of the health practitioners conveyed at the AIMA 19th Integrative Medicine Conference held at the Gold Coast late last year.

Following her workshop, King agreed to talk with me about her work and what she sees as the future of healthcare in Australia. Qualified naturopath, herbalist, clinical hypnotherapist, yoga and meditation teacher, author, founder and CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation, she has been instrumental in healing individuals and communities after tragedies such as the Queensland floods and is regularly sought after as a counsellor and commentator on integrative therapies on ABC Radio.

“… the whole relatively new science of epigenetics shows us that we have to move from treating diseases to treating people”, she explained. “I think we’re at a time where we have to take on board the whole person … which encompasses their story, what they’ve made of their story, as well as obviously their nutrition, exercise and sleep and all of these very practical things.”

She went on to say, “It’s something I’ve been puzzling over for many years. Will our health system evolve into a more compassionate person-centred holistic environment or will it collapse… and out of the ashes will come a more humane and integrated way of treating people.”

Strong words from the recipient of numerous awards including the Centenary Medal and the Advance Australia Award, as well as being amongst the nominees for Australian of the Year each year since 2003.

To understand her story, we need to go back 30 years when she experienced a life-saving event. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and given months to live. “I don’t know why I didn’t die, except that I do know that I healed a lot of the things that caused me great distress and pain,” she shared with me.

Anguishing alone in a cave in Italy, “for the first time I integrated a lot of the trauma that had happened in the past and forgiveness was a huge part of that integration. The more peace I found, the more strength I found”.

Since then, she’s seen many other people’s life-threatening diseases spontaneously go into remission as they find a sense of connectedness to their innate spirituality, regain control over their responses to life and recommit to living.

From childhood years spent in hospital and extremely difficult times living with a brother who had mental issues and eventually suicided, to failed marriages and then her spontaneous remission of leukaemia, King speaks from her own experience when she says that “medical practitioners can help patients to a degree with drugs and surgery, but what is always healing is compassion.”

She explains, “I’ve been treated by many people and felt worse for the treatment; and healed by many people who didn’t treat me for the ailment but just shared that loving touch – whether by word, or a moment of compassion, or care, or concern.”

We agreed that often semantics are a hindrance to understanding our spiritual nature. Some terms she used were consciousness, Soul, Spirit, Life, Being, energy.

For many, health has a deeply spiritual element and is tied to a relationship we each have with the divine consciousness. We agreed that recognition of our true selfhood brings both healing and “the peace that passes all understanding.”

Petrea King is constantly refining the words and the concepts – so that they’re readily accessible and simple for everyone, as she works in disparate arenas such as the corporate world, the backblocks of Queensland after floods and even in jails.

“There’s much greater openness now to having conversations about the invisible world because there’s a realisation especially in quantum physics that the visible world isn’t as it seems.”

Mary Baker Eddy, another woman whose own miraculous healing caused her to research the powerful link between spirituality, consciousness and health, also took an unconventional approach. In the 19th Century, she led the way in establishing a system of health care, still practised today, based on love, inspiration from a book of great wisdom, the Bible, and the realisation of our unity with the divine consciousness.

She repeatedly healed others through her ideas in her seminal work, Science and Health. Her ideas such as, “The scientific government of the body must be attained through the divine Mind” and only “unselfed love” can heal the sick and transform the man, have a growing number of supporters today.

These days, many medical practitioners openly espouse the benefits of holistic, patient-centred care. King is now running 6-week programs for people with cancer at the Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga, and will do so at other hospitals that are developing an integrative approach to the care of people with cancer.  This was unheard of when she started practicing holistic medicine 30 years ago. She’s regularly invited to present Grand Rounds alongside medical specialists in the hospitals in Sydney, as they steadily become convinced of the benefits of a holistic approach. And the winners are the patients.

She spoke of the relevance of spirituality to the wellbeing and methodology of health practitioners, as well. The Hearts in Healthcare community that Dr Robin Youngson founded operates in stark contrast to a sometimes unthinking attitude imposed by the pressures of the current workplace model.

“Of course we get emotionally involved with our patients. We love them, we care for them. To be emotionally aware of what’s going on within yourself in the care you’re extending to another is very fertile ground for our own growth in wisdom, compassion, insight which are all assets so valuable in the health arena.”

She doesn’t think of herself as a healer, but as providing an environment where people might find healing.

I asked her what drives her passion for Quest for Life. “When you nearly die and then you don’t, you know that happiness is not about the stuff of life. What gives me joy is seeing people move from fear and anxiety, panic and distress to feeling empowered and capable and able to embrace whatever the challenge is they have and make meaning of it. I think when you liberate yourself from these distressing feelings, you’re actually changing your physiology at quite a profound, indeed epigenetic level.”

She was offered help when she was at her lowest point, and she has since always wanted to provide a safe haven where people could come and unburden themselves. The Quest for Life Centre now conducts retreats where people find a listening and skilful heart that gives very practical skills and strategies so people can reclaim their life, regardless of whatever their suffering might be.“

Rather than adopting a “grin and bear it attitude” amidst our own mental and physical suffering, we may all need to adopt this new/old approach of seeking out sanctuaries in order to heal.

What needs to change in today’s health care system?

Petrea King reiterates: “We have to move from treating diseases to treating people. We’re bringing habitual ways of thinking and doing things when we need to bring compassion, creativity, knowledge and love to the moment.”

There is more than a little evidence that the holistic and integrative health movement, with professionals like Petrea King’s input, is quietly helping our health system to evolve into a more compassionate person-centred, holistic environment.


  1. Brian Fox says

    Great interview Kay. I was interested in Petrea’s focus on the importance of forgiveness, compassion, creativity and love in her healing. Also her insistence that she was ” not a healer herself”. Like Mary Baker Eddy she was interested in “seeking out sanctuaries ” or closets which block out the world”s noise and allows spirit to take control.

    • health4thinkers says

      Thanks Brian. Petrea King is a deep thinker, seeking healing for all. Mary Baker Eddy found the key to that healing for all.

  2. Sue Searle says

    Wonderful article Kay. I know that Petrea’s ideas are sought out in the early education field to assist children suffering from grief or trauma. I really like the relationship this interview brings out between what Mary Baker Eddy wrote, what epigenetics states and what Petrea said in regard to Love — compassion— helping to move people out of feelings of fear, anxiety and stress and how this empowers them and can result in a physiological change.

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