Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Holistic Psychology?

The practice of clinical psychology can involve many types of therapy as well as advice-giving and counseling. When I talk about holistic psychology, I do not mean a type of therapy, but a philosophical approach that informs my approach to therapy.

Many approaches to mental health rely upon what we call reductionism--the idea that the mind and the body are separate and can be treated separately. The whole idea that mental distress is cured by a pill falls into this category. In contrast, the holistic approach says that each individual is an indivisible whole and must be treated as such. Thus, a mental health issue such as depression is not a "mental illness", but an adaptation of some sort to the individual's current reality, and a whole picture needs to be formed of the individual in order to adequately treat the problem.

In the same way, physical ills are influenced by a variety of factors we call stressors. stressors can be internal or external, mental or physical. temporary or permanent. Even a cold is influenced by the weather and the state of your immune system, not just the exposure to a virus. Some illnesses are more multi-determined that others. Irritable bowel is more a disease of response to stressors than the flu, for example.

The holistic approach requires individual treatment planning and a collaborative relationship between professional and client, rather than a traditional doctor-patient relationship. In this regard, I often refer to myself as a teacher or even a tour guide. The client cures him- or herself--I lead the way. With this approach, you have a sense of control over your fate and gain mastery over the problem that was vexing you.

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