Every doctor, therapist, naturopath and acupuncturist has a different answer to this question, because healing is a challenging and complex process rather than a magical and miraculous one.
Then there are the stories like this one: The doctor gives a woman three months to live, she doesn't accept this and does some soul searching/detoxing/visualisation/whatever, and three months later the doctor can find no trace of the disease.
Such spontaneous remissions do happen, although they are rare. Healing chronic conditions is more likely to take years of examination and experimentation as the person battles with whether to use medication or meditation, psychotherapy or prayer.
Holistic healers believe healing is about addressing many aspects of the self. There's a theory that the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit are connected and that all four have to be healthy and resolved if deep and permanent healing is to happen.
Dr David Nye, a medical doctor, homeopath and acupuncturist, says he realised long ago that the conventional Western medicine in which he was trained seldom results in true healing and can often be an obstruction to cure.
"Disease symptoms are an expression of the body's cry for help and its own attempt at a cure. In many cases, prescribed drugs effectively suppress these symptoms and prevent the inbuilt attempt to heal."
People who've struggled with their health often speak of their illness as a gift. They are thankful to have learnt incredible lessons, such as embracing their passions, getting out of toxic relationships, connecting deeply with others or nurturing themselves.
But the human response to illness is varied, and others cannot see any reason for their suffering and feel they can learn life's lessons in less severe ways. What we do have in common is the ability to heal. It may be a longer and more challenging journey for some, depending on the nature of the illness, the personality of the patient and the desire to heal.
As Nye says, "True healing is a journey with many mountains and horizons, and the motivation for achieving one's goal of health must be strong."
*Always consult your doctor before embarking on a new course of treatment or diet.