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.

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

“Our generation doesn’t send Christmas cards”, asserted my 30-year-old daughter when I complained about writing them. She followed up with, “I’ll be sending an e-card like last year”.

Whatever your position about handwritten Christmas cards versus e-cards (I’m in both camps this year), you’d have to admit that for most, it’s not so much about having a physical item or possession that counts.

In a digital age, we no longer need to possess an object to give and receive cards, listen to music, to watch videos or to read a book. Things are disappearing right before our eyes, as the dematerialization of society escalates.

Young people view ownership and the act of consumption as far less important today than being part of the perpetual feedback loop of social media and online personas, reports a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Let’s celebrate the ‘spirit’ that’s disabling limitations

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

“Break barriers and open doors: to realise an inclusive society for all”, urges the United Nations in its brief for International Day of People with Disability, celebrated earlier this month.

Well, those doors are opening at  Aware Industries in Albury-Wodonga. Aware’s best practice tools, procedures and support mechanisms enable people with disability to work productively and effectively. Similar to Endeavour Foundation services in Queensland and western Sydney, their strong workforce manufacture and distribute timber products and offer mail/despatch services, as well as food, light engineering and packaging services for the community.

My niece really likes working on the marketing team there. She says that the love and support for her from the workers there is palpable.

Movember declares all men have capacity for better health

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

I’m re-posting this 2012 piece for Movember 2013. It’s been published in this format on Noosa NewsFraser Coast Chronicle and Coffs Coast Advocate.

Love and devotion just shone from my son-in-law’s face as we watched him gently bathe his new daughter for the first time in the hospital. When so much attention is focussed on mum and bub it’s so important to celebrate the indispensable supportive traits and contributions of the male of the species.

During November each year, Movember “is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces around the world” with an aim to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer and male mental health.

According to the statistics listed on this website, it’s expected 1 in 2 Australian men will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85; around 1 in 5 men experience mental illness in any given 12 month period; and, over 85% of suicides are men – that’s 5 every day in Australia. Dire statistics indeed!

So many of my male family members and friends share dynamic focus, an uncomplicated life direction, unswerving loyalty and a commitment to and love of science. But could it be a sole focus on physical science that hinders men’s quest to be healthier?Continue Reading

Women opt to take a different sort of health pledge

Women find a spiritual approach to wellbeing

Women find a spiritual approach for wellbeing © Glowimages

Picture this. A young mum powering around the front lawn behind a lawn mower, baby in the pouch on her chest screaming his head off.

Reserve your judgement, because in a very short time he has calmed down owing to the monotonous noise and rhythm. The mother has used her wisdom, love and creativity to avert several hours of frustration for them both.Continue Reading

The common denominator that keeps Sam Johnson, Abbott, Rudd, Obama and Clive Berghofer healthy

Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson

We’re used to seeing our leaders striding out on their early morning power-walks or competing in marathons. Some of them are pretty good examples of keeping fit and healthy – mentally and physically. All power to them! It’s cool to be fit.

We think it’s also rather cool to support the conservation movement by investing in alternative power solutions and participating in water and other conservation measures. It makes us feel good, and politicians who appear to support these initiatives gain our respect, too.

Society is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. As we’ve ditched outdated world views and popular opinions, more and more of us have started to realise that minority groups, like those with disabilities, gays and asylum seekers, suffer from prejudices and circumstances and need to be given a fair go. It’s super cool to show your support and acceptance, politician or not. It makes us feel good.

And the efforts of individuals and charities raising money for medical research seem to ‘take the cake’ as the coolest of cool deeds. Who doesn’t glow with goodwill as we watch Sam Johnson unicycle around Australia to raise a million dollars for Breast Cancer research for the love of his sister, or applaud Clive Berghofer’s $50 million generously donated to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

But wait a minute. Continue Reading

There’s a change coming to the sick room

© Stock photos/Glowimages - models used for illustrative purposes

© Stock photos/Glowimages – models used for illustrative purposes

Spirituality may no longer be part of a ‘hidden curriculum’ in medical schools

There is increasing acceptance, both in the community and in the medical fraternity that we benefit from a holistic approach to healthcare. From a patient perspective, being consulted about their spirituality is important to Australians, and there’s a general belief that spirituality helps recovery.

These assertions formed the opening part of Associate Professor Kellie Bennett’s presentation at the recent Compassion, Spirituality and Health Conference held earlier this month in Adelaide.Continue Reading

NAIDOC Week spearheads spirituality question

aboriginal rockart

© Stock photos/Glowimages

Beloved Australian ABC gardening show host, Peter Cundall, is now retired. But when interviewed by Scott Stephens on Life’s Big Questions a year or two ago, he equated religious teaching on a par with fairy stories.

It’s ironic really, because it seems to me that Peter’s joy for life and gratitude for every tiny evidence of good in his days is what has ensured his perfect health for more than 50 years. To me, this is spirituality in action!

I can see a similarity between Peter’s spirituality and that of aboriginal peoples. Continue Reading

Palliative Care: Seeing a higher view


At the end, it was an ‘uplifting’ experience. However, a couple of months ago I felt ill-prepared for the emotional turmoil that was sure to surface and the decision-making that would be required. I honestly felt like making a run for it.

After 93 years of living a very active life full of work, sport, hobbies and family, Dad wasn’t recovering after an illness and we decided that better care and medical testing were needed. Following admission to hospital and countless medical examinations, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given only two months to live.Continue Reading

Ageing gracefully or ageless grace?

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purpose

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purpose

This blog was first published on these APN news sites: Sunshine Coast Daily, Bundaberg NewsMail and Tweed MyDailyNews.

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

“We are not victims of aging, sickness, and death. These are part of scenery, not the seer, who is immune to any form of change. This seer is the spirit, the expression of eternal being.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Great thinkers throughout time reveal that being old is very much about your attitude or state of mind. I’ve seen people in their 20s who seem old and others in their 90s who appear youthful.

Older Aussies might be whingeing themselves into an early grave, according to new research linking life-expectancy with attitude. Apparently, approaching old age with negative expectations can directly affect how long you liveContinue Reading