Q: My friend keeps telling me I should go to a holistic practitioner for an issue I am having, as he/she would be better equipped to handle my problem. What exactly is a holistic practitioner?
A: When I went into nursing, I was interested in caring for people and providing them with what they needed in order to “feel better”.
Very quickly, however, I realized that what I was getting into was something quite far from that. In todayʼs Western culture, allopathic, or conventional medicine, takes center stage. But it is changing. Conventional medicine includes using medications, surgical procedures, invasive diagnostic protocols, radiation and psychological counseling to treat illness and disease. Although these methods can prove to be extremely beneficial, they donʼt address everything, and leave more than a few looking around for a different way to get better.
In more recent years, the Western world has started to embrace more Eastern traditions, and has been incorporating what is called “complementary” therapies into mainstream healthcare. Although you could always find people practicing traditional Chinese medicine, natural medicine, Hypnotherapy, Aromatherapy and Homeopathy, you rarely saw any of these modalities be incorporated with the prescription of medication, therapy and surgical procedures.
When a practitioner is “holistic”, it means they take into account a myriad of factors that may be affecting, causing or worsening oneʼs current state of wellbeing, illness and disease. Instead of just addressing a person’s biology, a holistic or integrative practitioner will often use mainstream approaches, such as medication and psychotherapy, but will also incorporate different aspects of the individual into the treatment plan. A holistic or integrative approach would address biological factors (such as nutrition, physical activity, sleep and rest), interpersonal factors (such as relationships, social supports and community), psychological factors (such as thoughts and emotions), and spiritual factors (such as belief systems and sense of purpose).
A holistic practitioner may recommend psychotherapy for depression—but in conjunction with a specific nutrition program, a spiritual practice and the use of aromatherapy (essential oils). In fact, it has been noted, that when addressing the complex conditions attributed to the brain, such a mental health disorders, an integrative approach is the most successful.
When I discovered Holistic Nursing, I realized that all the ideal visions I had for caring for my patients as whole entities were a real possibility. In learning about the various aspects of people, and how to incorporate several perspectives before recommending treatments or lifestyle habits, I have seen the true beauty of what it is to be a holistic practitioner. It means seeing each client as a culmination of who they are physically, who they are in their minds, who they are in their families and who they are in Hashemʼs world.
We all want what’s best for ourselves, our family members, and friends when they are ill. By looking for healthcare practices that recognize the integral, whole picture, and incorporate all aspects of oneʼs life into oneʼs patient-centered care plan, I daven that Hashem should help all those who need see a complete refuas hanefesh and refuas haguf.