When you say the word “whole” what comes to mind? Chances are that whatever you are thinking of at the moment, it evokes a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Getting a piece instead of a whole of anything can leave satisfaction unfulfilled. The basis for holistic psychotherapy is that a therapist approaches counseling with a “whole” perspective that encompasses body, mind and spirit and not just one or the other.
Each therapist approaches counseling based on various learned theories and philosophies. Some therapists believe that cognitive therapy is best because it gets to the root of faulty thinking that leads to dysfunctional feelings and ultimately behaviors. The therapists who adhere to a behavioral therapy model consider the behaviors that emerged through the lifetime and then counsel clients through replacement behaviors. The psychodynamic therapists, consider childhood issues that influence adult thinking, feelings and behaviors but on an unconscious level.1
You have probably heard of Sigmund Freud. Freud first addressed the influence the subconscious can have on our lives. We aren’t necessarily aware of the emotions and events that have created the layer on which we rest our perceptions, attitudes, reactions and anxieties, but they exist. All therapists believe there is a chain of events that flows from thoughts to feelings to behavior, but what influences the thoughts? That is the essence of psychotherapy. It considers a fourth element – the unconscious.
Holistic psychotherapy takes therapy to yet another level:
- Unconscious or internal influences on thoughts
- Thought patterns
- Resultant feelings and emotions
Therapeutic counselors practicing holistic psychotherapy work with clients who are ready to bring balance back into their lives. The imbalance is recognized through the manifestation of emotional distress or psychological pain, but the therapy addresses the many facets of human life that may be contributing. The goal is to eliminate the psychological distress but in a way that is enduring and not just a symptom treatment.
If you think carefully about this approach, it’s clear that holistic psychotherapy is about giving you the tools you need to prevent future imbalance between body, mind and spirit once therapy is complete. For example, in traditional therapy the thought patterns may be addressed but not the behaviors that are causing distress in your life. What happens in the future if dysfunctional behavioral patterns develop? You have learned to only deal with the mind.
Moving as a Unit
Holism recognizes that the body, mind and spirit are unified and a person moves towards a goal as a unit. If one unit is experiencing distress, the whole individual experiences distress.2 Since psychotherapy supports health interactions between the mind, body and spirit, you will learn to recognize when any of the three is not healthy. At that point you can utilize the methods for correction learned through therapy or you know it’s time to return for additional help.
One of the questions people frequently have is about the spiritual aspect of psychotherapy. The spiritual aspect is not about religion or faiths. In holistic psychotherapy, spirituality refers to feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction with life. Though some people may choose to turn incorporate traditional prayer and meditation as a component, that is an entirely personal choice.3 The holistic psychotherapist considers the spiritual component of therapy only from the perspective that it’s an essential element that makes up a whole person.
Holistic psychotherapy can:
- Greatly improve the chances of recovering from mental distress
- Provide more cost effective treatment
- Easily take advantage of communication technology giving broader access
- Recognize the connection between mental disorders and physical disorders
The body and mind are so interconnected that the mind can lead to a sick body. People who are depressed experience a release of organ chemicals that are similar to brain chemicals.4 When under stress, stress hormones circulate through the arteries and organs causing damage. There are many examples where your emotional and mental state impacts your physical state and both are tied to your spirit or sense of fulfillment.
Under the holistic psychotherapy treatment philosophy, each symptom of any mental disorder is considered to be a signal that must be evaluated and not just eliminated. In this regard, symptoms take on a more positive role during treatment because they lead to better understanding.5
Holistic psychotherapy is accessible to everyone via telephone therapy or cybercounseling. Don’t think that it must be only provided in person since it deals with body, mind and spirit. Phone and e-therapy has proven to be more effective for many people because it overcomes the issues clients may have with face-to-face therapy. For example, some people are more comfortable talking or writing a therapist in the privacy of their home because they feel less stress. You can also access the therapist by calling on a home phone or cell phone and don’t have to make an appointment at some future date. Transportation issues are also eliminated.
In fact, clients experiencing depression stay with phone therapy for a longer period of time than they do when receiving therapy through office visits. The researchers pointed out that the telephone becomes a therapy tool because therapists can reach out to clients as much as clients can reach out to therapists. All too often, people make office visit appointments and fail to show up or drop their treatment programs. Telephone therapy keeps clients and therapists connected.6
The advantages of telephone therapy are also found in cybertherapy or internet based therapy.
Holistic psychotherapy combines the best of treatment strategies for mental disorders. If you are suffering mental anguish for any reason, you are simply one phone call or one chat away from getting help.
1Fredricks (Dr.), Randi . (2008). Healing and Wholess: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse.
2Mansager, Erik and Len Sperry. (Jan 2004). Holism in psychotherapy and spiritual direction: a course correction. Counseling and Values , 48 (2), 149+.
3Westfeld, J. (2001). Spiritual issues in counseling: Clients’ beliefs and preferences. Journal of Counseling Psychology , 48, 61-71.
4Latorre, Mary Anne. (April-June 2000). A Holistic View of Psychotherapy: Connecting Mind, Body, and Spirit. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care , 67+.
6Paul, M. (2008, September 23). Patients Stay With Phone Therapy Longer Than Office Visits. Retrieved from Northwestern University: www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2008/09/mohrphone.html