The definition of holistic care can vary from person to person. As a fairly new concept in health care, it is not fully understood by many. So let’s discuss this in more depth by answering the following question I received from a site visitor.
Hi, I’m studying nursing and I’m very interested in the holistic side to giving care. However could you please help get a full understanding of the term holistic care. I currently think it to be to think of the “whole picture” for the patient. For instance, if someone is suffering from stress, look at whether there any money issues, diet, sleep issues etc. Thank you, Zac.
Yes, you are on the right track. Looking at the whole picture is the basic underlying tenet in holistic health care. However, it’s a little more comprehensive than that.
The term holistic can have different meanings to various people, so to some degree, it depends on the interpretation of the individual you are talking to on the definition you will get. Here is how I see it.
Holistic health care addresses the body, mind, and spirit (by spirit, I mean the non-physical essence of who we are). For example, if someone has a medical health condition, we look at how it impacts them emotionally and spiritually and vice versa. In order to function most optimally, all three aspects of the physical, emotional, and spiritual should be addressed because they are interconnected.
Additionally, it encompasses all other aspects that are entwined to create an individual, like personality, behavior, environment, socialization, and conditioning. For example, when we help someone design a healthy diet plan we don’t just give them a list of foods to avoid, we must also give them tips and support for adhering to their restrictions and help them let go of socialization and conditioning. And any good healthcare practitioner is aware that environmental toxins from common everyday chemicals and even our social environment can play a role in all health conditions.
The healing path or health care plan in a holistic approach will be different for each individual even if they share the same diagnosis with others. Dosages, diets, methods of treatment, etc. will vary for each person depending on other health conditions they may face, the overall level of health, their unique biochemistry, sensitivities, and needs on all levels.
Each person and situation is unique, even those with the same health condition do not have the same experience. Each person may be impacted differently and not everyone responds to a particular treatment the exact same way. Even though you may share the same health condition with someone else, each of you has a unique body chemistry and genetics and the same disease can have a different process or impact from person to person. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. For example, one person with migraines may need to avoid one list of foods while another person needs to avoid a different list of foods.
To this point, in my holistic approach to health, I help you individualize your diet according to your unique biochemical needs. At the core of my approach is the belief that the foundation for healing is built first and foremost with the foods that you eat and your dietary needs will be influenced by any health condition you may be facing or what you are aiming to achieve, and therefore, the diet should be personalized to address these aspects as well.
A primary factor that differentiates holistic care from traditional care is that it focuses heavily on self-care. The patient or client is heavily involved in the whole process of the health care plan from diagnosis to treatment. They are encouraged to be an active participant in research, education, treatment options, and on-going care. Responsibility for your healing lies in your hands, not your doctor’s.
Holistic healthcare practitioners tend to believe that the most powerful tool each of us has for healing is knowledge. The more informed an individual is about their own condition and body the better it is all around on all levels. It helps the client feel empowered and less dependent on the system. In mainstream medicine, the practitioner knows best, but in holistic care, the body of the individual is the one with the most knowledge. The patient is encouraged to learn how to be in tune with and listen to their body.
Unlike modern medicine, we look for the underlying causes of a condition instead of just treating symptoms and individualize the healing plan for each person’s unique needs. For example, someone with depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, or cravings for sugar and carbs may have adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, Candida overgrowth, and/or neurotransmitter imbalances. All these avenues must be explored and ruled in or out. When the underlying issues are addressed then symptoms improve.
A holistic approach to health does not necessarily completely exclude the use of pharmaceuticals. However, they are chosen only as a last resort and used in addition to the natural methods, not instead of. In most cases, synthetic medication does not heal or address the roots of any health problems, they only work as temporary band-aids that ultimately cause more deterioration in health or new and more complicated health issues in the long run. However, there may be circumstances when a pharmaceutical may be called for and the best course of action, particularly if we are dealing with microbes.
In holistic care, it’s important to remember that achieving optimal health does not always mean that we are “cured.” It may also stand for living and functioning as optimally as possible with your condition, managing it as best as possible. Attaining peace and harmony in the midst of the storm, while striving for more optimal health.
Let me guide you along your holistic health path. Regardless of what health condition you are facing, I can help you move toward a higher level of health and optimize your physical, emotional/mental, cognitive, social, and spiritual health by discovering the underlying contributors to your symptoms, individualizing your diet, and exploring a variety of self-care strategies that enable you to take control of your own healthcare plan.
Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed.