What do I mean when I say "Holistic"?
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
The world “holistic” is often used in a variety of settings nowadays and it can be confusing exactly how a practitioner approaches their work when they use that term. “Holistic” is a popular word but the way it is used sometimes can create confusion as to where a practitioner might be on a spectrum of “western mainstream” to “woo woo New Age.”
So I want to be transparent about how I work and what I mean when I use the term. But first, a little background.
I was trained in psychology and I am licensed as a psychologist. The qualifications for my license means that I received training in diagnosing and treating mental disorders that impede social and occupational functioning. It means that I received training in evidence based methods at addressing the way in which our thoughts and feelings impact our behaviors. There’s A LOT more to this but you get the idea.
I am a native East Coaster and I left behind everything that was familiar to me to pursue my graduate training at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology all the way in California in order to get training in treating the SOUL. This was so important to me. I had too many of my own spiritual experiences that western psychology in the early 2000s failed to acknowledge or explain. Graduate school was a training for me to help others but also an earnest inquiry into myself too.
There I learned that the idea that everyone is on a spiritual journey, that there are methods that can increase one’s consciousness, that we can use psychotherapy to heal wounds at levels of depth that go beyond the conscious mind and into our bodies, our souls, has research to support it. You read that right. Most people think that spirituality, studies involving consciousness, spirituality, paranormal experiences or parapsychology, are all just wonky topics with no scientific basis. Those of us who have studied these topics academically not only know the research exists, we contributed to it! The problem is that mainstream journals have a bias (that my beloved professor Charles Tart used to call “scientism”) in which they refuse to publish rigorous research studies in these domains for no other reason than the fact that they just don't fit with the predominant worldview.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know that in my approach to incorporating consciousness raising methods like meditation, mindfulness, or yoga for instance, I am not doing it to impose my own beliefs on you. This would be unethical anyway. It is because they are evidence based.
So what do I do that makes my work “holistic”? I don’t just see your problems as only the result of possibly unhealthy thought patterns (though that may be a good part of it). I see you as a spiritual being having a human experience. Your suffering is likely showing up not just in how you are coping emotionally, or how you are perceiving your problems intellectually, or how you are relating to others socially, but you might be having physical symptoms too. When we suffer, we suffer all over the place. Chances are, by the time you decided you needed some help with it, your life as a whole probably feels like a huge mess. You now have a holistic problem and holistic problems need holistic solutions. If your soul hurts, no amount of cognitive therapy is going to fix it.
In addition to how I conceptualize your challenges, my approach is one that incorporates methods from western psychology (because they are known to work) and also yoga, meditation, creative arts, movement, somatics, and mindfulness. In June 2019, I will be getting training in hypnosis so we’ll soon be able to add that to the mix too. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there is a Truth that we are all on this earth to discover through our own experiences. It’s OK if you are atheist, agnostic, Methodist, Hindu, etc. These approaches do not contradict anyone’s teachings. I also studied world religions in both undergrad and graduate school and to me, they are all languages to explain the otherwise unexplainable. I can speak a little of all of them. So I encourage my clients not to hesitate to incorporate their beliefs or lack thereof into the work we do. It only makes it richer.
Please comment below if you have any questions or experiences you’d like to share!