Holistic Healing

Illustration showing the ingredients of proper nutrition, mainly vegetables and fruits

Holistic Healing

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Definition

Holistic healing comes from the idea of “holism” or the idea that our health is much more complex than simply viewing the symptoms of our physical bodies as “sickness”. Health stems from focusing on the whole self. This includes the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of health as well. A healer who uses holistic healing understands this and helps individuals achieve complete or whole health.

Holistic Healing vs. Modern Western Medicine

The holistic movement can be viewed as a reaction to the cold, symptom-focused world of modern conventional medicine. According to practitioners of holistic healing, medicine for most of history was holistic, especially within the Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions. Over the last hundred and fifty years, after the discovery of pathogens, medicine has moved away from holistic approaches. Since most disease is believed by doctors to be caused by microscopic things from outside that can be killed with medications, modern health practitioners spend most of their time searching for pathogenic causes of disease, treating most sicknesses with drugs.

At some point, the patient stopped being the focus of healing. Instead, doctors merely searched for symptoms that could be controlled with medication. Holistic healing looks to return medicine to its traditional basis with a focus on the patient and use the advances of modern science in concert with other methods to achieve “whole health.”

Using conventional medicine, when one comes into the doctor with complaints of migraine headaches, the most typical treatment is to be given a painkiller. Naturally, only the most irresponsible of doctors would fail to investigate if there were further physical causes of the illness such as a brain tumor of chronic stress, but the cure is often the same: medication. A holistic approach would look at the treatment in a different way.

What Happens at a Holistic Healing Session?

A healer with a holistic healing focus would begin a consultation and begin to work with the patient to find the true cause of the headaches. In holistic healing, the therapist, doctor, or healer believes that there should be a dialogue between the client and the medicine practitioner. Instead of telling the patient what needs to be done or forcing a treatment upon them, the holistic healer will help encourage the patient to heal themselves from within.

The consultation will involve a series of questions in order to find the deeper underlying cause of the headaches instead of merely looking at the symptom itself. Many practitioners of holistic healing philosophy see many of our ailments as a manifestation of imbalances. These imbalances could be mental, emotional, or spiritual, so it is best for the healer to address all these areas to find the root cause.

The holistic healing therapist will look at physical causes such as diet, physical activity (or lack thereof), or environment and recommend an appropriate solution. This could be a recommended yoga or exercise program to reduce stress and encourage blood flow. They could work out a diet plan with the patient to find the healthiest foods to eat. They can maybe find out this way if the headaches are caused by a food intolerance, allergy, or general unhealthy lifestyle. This will address a possible physical cause.

Healthy diet includes food like fruits, vegetables and seeds
Holistic healing therapist teaches that a healthy diet is important for overall health.

Next, they can discuss problems and stress in one’s life, maybe find out if there is some sort of past emotional trauma that is causing an imbalance. According to the holistic healing approach, there are many physical issues that could be manifestations of negative emotions.

So, some form of psychotherapy might be recommended. Maybe the therapist can administer massage, help the patient begin a meditation practice, encourage laughter therapy or other forms of emotional healing. Or potentially, find out of there are negative thought patterns that may be leading to unneeded stress or depression, then recommend affirmations.

The healer can also analyze the patient’s energy fields to find out if the headaches are the result of an energy blockage in one of the nadis, or if the chakras are in need of aligning. If these are a potential cause, the healer can administer or recommend reiki, crystal healing, bioenergetics, or other forms of energy healing. They can also offer acupuncture or other forms of Chinese medicine.

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The holistic healing therapist can also look at some spiritual causes as well. Maybe the support system of the patient is underdeveloped. So the patient can be led to different groups that could provide this support. Most practitioners of the holistic healing approach believe that the power of love has the unique ability to powerfully induce healing, so they focus on sending love to the patient and get them to connect to a higher power.

It is very important to remember that a holistic approach does not eschew western or conventional medicine, nor is it anti-medication (at least not in all cases). It’s just that they view it as just one part of their toolkit. Often the purpose is to mitigate the symptoms while the patient is undergoing true healing. There is also a focus on preventative treatments. By looking at the self as a whole, practitioners can manage total healing. It is actually a bit strange that many doctors would shut themselves off other ideas if they do have proper efficacy when used in concert with more mainstream methods.

Woman is meditating and sunbathing by a the peaceful lake
Holistic healers can help the patient begin a meditation practice.

Efficacy

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Science seems to widely accept that health is a multi-faceted concept. For example, one famous model of health comes from Maslow’s pyramid of needs. According to his theories, in order to reach true health and self-actualization, it is necessary to meet a hierarchy of needs, each level meant to be fulfilled before you can reach the next point.

At the bottom are physiological needs such as a healthy diet, sleep, water, food, air. Next, is safety, both in from actual physical threats and emotional ones. This is followed by a sense of love and belonging. Built on this is self-esteem or love for oneself, which can be helped by affirmations or psychotherapy. Finally, people can reach self-actualization, which can be viewed as a total health.

His theories have been criticized, stating that different cultures may have different hierarchies and ratings of needs, though few seem to deny that all parts of the pyramid are important.

Maslow's pyramid of needs colorful edition
Maslow's pyramid of needs means that in order to reach true health and self-actualization, it is necessary to meet a hierarchy of needs, each level meant to be fulfilled before you can reach the next point.

Connection Between Emotional, Mental and Physical Health

Many studies show that our physical health is influenced by a wide range of factors and thus a holistic healing approach to medicine may be the most effective method of healing. Studies have shown that there is a connection between our mental and physical health, so ignoring one of the two may be a bad idea.

Granted, there are specific psychologists who are actual experts on our mental health. Therefore, it is not recommended to forgo actual treatment from a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, but to have one physician who is looking at other areas of health can be beneficial.

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There is also a clear link between our emotional, mental, and physical health as well. If health practitioners can include a wide variety of methods that can help with stress and emotional issues, this can only be of benefit to a patient. Meditation, yoga, massage, and other activities have been shown to be relaxing and reduce stress and cortisol levels. Anything that can help aid in relaxation is ultimately beneficial. The same can be said about reiki, crystal healing, acupuncture, acupressure, and other alternative treatments.

It can be argued that due to the lack of scientific backing of many alternative treatment methods, it is useless to integrate them into a conventional medical practice. For example, many could see an energy healing component to a holistic healing practice as mere charlatanism, an attempt to squeeze out more money for ineffective treatment methods. Some argue that the claims of energy healers are so outrageous, even a child has the ability to prove it a hoax.

However, it could be argued combining placebo effects with clinically tested medicine may offer immediate help for some patients. Placebos are far from useless if the patient believes in them. If the patient does not elect to abandon scientifically backed methods, there is no harm in taking a multi-faceted view to health.

There doesn’t need to be a scientific study to show that people want to feel that they are being cared for. With holistic healing’s focus on love and the patient themselves, it may prove to be advantageous for many. Also, because there is a particular concern with preventative measures such as living a generally healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise, it is hard to criticize their methods as being outrageous, despite the fact that a lot of pseudoscience gets tied in with holistic medicine. It may be time for western medicine to embrace holistic healing ideology into its tool belt.

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