From the desk of
Guiding philosophy for Wholistic Integrative Care
Wholistic care � Addressing the person rather than merely treating
her or his problems � Including body, emotions, mind, relationships,
and spirit � Dis-ease is addressed along with disease � Health awareness and prevention of illness � Caring and curing are emphasized equally � The person who is the therapist is as important
as the therapeutic modality used � The recipients of care are full participants in their
own care and treatment
Wholistic care addresses the person who has the disease rather than the disease the person has.
Western medical practice has tended to specialize in treating various parts of people. Several factors have contributed to this trend:
First, the overload of medical information makes it impossible for any one practitioner to master all aspects of medical care. Specialists can master certain parts of medical knowledge and develop treatment skills to much greater degrees than generalists.
Second, greater technical skills and efficiency are developed when teams of health care professionals specialize in narrower aspects of medical and surgical care.
Third are the personal preferences of practitioners. Health carers may find greater interest in medical, surgical, psychotherapeutic, social, or spiritual aspects of their patients.
Fourth, medical training focuses heavily on physical causes of disease and often does not prepare health care professional to deal with psychological causes and concomitants of acute, chronic, and terminal illnesses.
While the sub-specialization of medical practice may suit the treatment preferences of practitioners and may promote efficiency in medical management, many patients complain, "There is no one who addresses me as a whole person. I am a person with an illness, not just an illness. And I have all sorts of problems around the illness that are a part of the illness and need addressing just as much as the physical part of the illness does."
This is one of the main reasons why people are paying billions of dollars annually out of their own pockets for complementary therapy treatments.
Wholistic medicine addresses the whole person - body, emotions, mind, relationships (with other people and with the environment), and spirit, assuming that each component may need attention individually but that each is intimately related with all of the others. Emotional or relational problems may bring about stress reactions in the body. Physical conditions may influence psychological states and alter relationships. Spiritual upliftment may make difficult emotional and physical problems more tolerable. We tacitly acknowledge this in our language, as the origins of the word heal are in the Germanic and Old English roots of haelen, "to make whole."
Many complementary therapists practice within wholistic frames of reference. For instance, acupuncture assumes that proper balances in subtle energies within the body and diet are vital to health. Homeopathic clinical histories may require two hours of explorations concerning a person's personality, stresses, lifestyle, family history, and relationships, in addition to very detailed explorations of symptoms, history of illnesses, immunizations, and more. A broad range of hands-on therapies views the body and psychological states as a unity, sometimes referring to this as the body-mind. These include many types of massage, reflexology, Applied Kinesiology, Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki healing, and more. Some practitioners of these therapies also focus upon spiritual awareness in their interventions.
Clients of many complementary therapists are often as pleased with the fact that someone has taken the time to listen to them as with any of the specific therapeutic interventions they receive.
However, not all complementary therapists have a wholistic approach. Some apply various methodologies in a mechanistic manner, focusing primarily upon symptoms and not on the whole person.
Self-care is strongly emphasized in wholistic treatment. Diet, abstention from harmful substances, exercise, relaxations, meditation and imagery exercises may be prescribed as essential aspects of treatment.
The role of the wholistic health care professional is often that of a model, a counselor and a companion in the journey of life -- as much as that of a therapist and advisor.
When you bring a problem to a wholistic therapist, one of the first questions you may be asked is, "What do you think this symptom or illness is saying?" This often leads to a discussion of stress factors, dietary and lifestyle considerations, and support systems that you may be able to alter in order to improve your condition. "Who is the pain in your neck?" or "What do you think your stomach is grumbling about?" may bring into focus some of the ways in which people somatize their stresses or unhealthy lifestyles.
De-stressing is a major focus of wholistic care, both as a treatment and as a preventive health measure. Learning to deal with illness is another focus.
Caring is emphasized more than curing. Although complementary therapies may add many options for treating illnesses, the wholistic approach emphasizes caring for the person as the highest priority. The caring and counseling skills of the therapist are often as important as their knowledge and skills in their particular therapeutic modality.
Death is accepted as a natural part of the life process. People are helped to understand and anticipate the process of dying, to make living wills in which they specify the measures they wish to have applied to themselves when their physical and mental health may be severely impaired.
The physical and psychological wellbeing of health carers is of great importance in wholistic care because the carers are themselves instruments for enhancing the wellbeing of patients. Wholistic carers believe that one of the most important ways of introducing holistic approaches is to model for their patients that which they wish to teach.
Wholistic carers often follow many of the self-care practices that they advocate, such as diet, exercise, and various ways of de-stressing.
Wholistic care encourages carers to find peer support and supervision that enables them to de-stress from the burdens of clinicalcaring. De-stressing enables carers to be more available for their respants, to deal with the responsibilities and stresses of clinical care, to empathize with patients' emotional distress, and to model for respants how to deal with problems.
Wholistic care is much more a set of attitudes and ways of being than a set of methodologies. Those carers who have adopted wholistic approaches usually find that their lives are substantially enriched and their ways of coping with stress are markedly enhanced. However, this approach may not appeal to every health care professional.
You may quote part or all of this article if you include the following credits and addresses:Copyright � Daniel J. Benor, M.D. 1999
Reprinted with permission of the author, P.O. Box 502 Medford, NJ 08055 www.WholisticHealingResearch.com DB@WholisticHealingResearch.com