I've been thinking a lot lately about words and how people use them; specifically about how we speak of what we do in medicine. I find myself wanting to articulate why I reject the term "Healer." Here is the essence:
"Healing" is neither a transitive verb nor a noun*.
My first clinical rotation of the third year of medical school was Surgery. One of the things we dutifully learned was things that interfere with wound healing: infection, foreign bodies, poor blood supply, and so on. It turns out that the best we could do was avoid those things to the greatest extent possible so the wound would heal. What that means is that there is a natural, maximum speed for wound healing that we can't increase, although there are plenty of things we can do to slow it down. Our job is to make sure conditions are optimal, and then wait.
Certainly there are occasions when things go seriously wrong with the body (and the soul.) Injuries; tumors; abuse; they happen, and frequently require skilled care in order for the body's innate healing mechanisms to fully do their thing. I believe that abuse, be it sexual, physical or emotional -- especially in childhood -- can cause cancer of the soul that, like cancer of the body, sometimes needs some pretty heavy duty "psychic surgery" to allow real healing to occur. Even though the surgeon or oncologist or psychotherapist has to take an active role in treatment (often inflicting significant suffering, knowing (hoping?) that greater health and wholeness will be the ultimate result) the intervention is not the "healing."
Disease can be treated; cared for; medicated; cured. Suffering can be eased; soothed; ministered to. Not "healed."
People don't heal other people, whether they are doctors, nurses, skilled psychotherapists, or even mothers. We can't make people heal; we can only let them heal. Wounds heal themselves. Healing and wholeness are the natural state of living things, and bodies strive for them at the cellular level. Like our heartbeat, breathing, digestion, gestation, growth and all those other wonderful functions our bodies take care of for us (that can go wrong but usually proceed apace quite nicely, thank you very much) healing happens.
*[Edit thanks to Lynn Price, my fellow word whore.]