What is it
‘Holistic‘ comes from the Greek word holos, meaning ‘whole’. Rather than just addressing an immediate symptom, a holistic therapist will look for the underlying cause by considering current physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual states of health and wellbeing.
Holistic Therapy is a form of healing that considers the whole person — body, mind, spirit, and emotions — in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to the holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health and gain proper balance in life.
Holistic therapists believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health.
Holistic Therapy is also based on the belief that unconditional love and support is the most powerful healer and a person is ultimately responsible for his or her own health and well-being.
The notion of holistic therapy assumes that an individual’s self-perception (or their consciousness) is not to be found in any one particular area but is an integration of the entire person, including their physical body, mind (as a function of the brain), feelings or emotions (as a function of the interaction between the brain [central nervous system] and the physical body), and spirit (the higher part of oneself that connects one to others and to an understanding of meaning). Holistic therapy attempts to have the individual gain awareness of these connections between the mind, body, and spirit using a number of different techniques. The goal is to help individuals to develop a much deeper understanding of themselves at all levels, which can often lead to improved self-esteem and self-awareness.
Many holistic therapists attempt to use the individual’s symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse, as a method to foster higher awareness in the individual. Actually, this is not unlike the spiritual nature of many of the 12-Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A concept that has found its way into all sorts of psychotherapy, including holistic therapy, is a concept of mindfulness or attempting to gain full awareness of oneself in the moment. Holistic therapists attempt to get individuals in treatment to accept themselves in the moment as they are, where they are, and understand themselves on a deeper level. Once individuals have achieved acceptance of themselves, they can better release issues that are causing them distress. Relaxation, visual imagery, and other bodywork techniques are often used to assist individuals in these issues.
Bodywork consists of personal development techniques that use the human body as a gateway to self-improvement. These can involve:
- Breathing and relaxation.
- Reiki (transfer of energy).
- as well as many more like yoga Thai chi and acupuncture.
The goal of bodywork is to promote the mind/body connection and influence energy fields within the human body that affect one’s physical and mental health. While some of these techniques have benefits backed by research, such as massage, breathing, relaxation, reiki and meditation.
The Holistic Therapy Approach
The goal of a holistic approach is to balance all the different aspects of the person, so the entire person is addressed in treatment and not just one aspect of the person. For instance, in the traditional Western medical approach, someone with arthritis would be treated by a specialist who would address their arthritis with medicines and other interventions. Using holistic medicine, instead of just treating someone’s arthritis, the person’s emotional aspects, attitudes and beliefs (mental), relationships and how they are affected by their illness, and spiritual aspects (deeper rooted meanings about one’s existence and future) would all be addressed in the treatment process.
Benefits of Holistic Therapy
Proponents of holistic therapy report that this approach is effective in the treatment of different types of anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, stress-related issues, and trauma-related disorders, such as sexual abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the major limitation of the holistic therapy approach is its own focus. It is extremely difficult to actually reach an individual’s “spirit” or understand or observe if they have actually integrated their body, feelings, and spirit. There are no actual defined empirical standards that can identify whether someone has done this type of integration or whether they have not.