Wellbeing isn’t just about being happy, wealthy/successful or in good physical health/wellness. It is about a combination of our love for what we do each day, the security of our finances, the quality of our relationships, the vibrancy of our physical health and our role and contribution to communities (Rath & Harter 2010). The medical approach to healthcare tends to see each of these areas separately; however in reality they are completely intertwined and cannot be separated. It might seem easier to treat the critical areas in our lives as if they are independent, however an intense focus on one area of wellbeing can actually be detrimental and lead to feelings of frustration and even failure. One good example of this is weight loss; where we are quick to buy into diet/exercise programmes that promise to help us lose weight but will likely give up if they conflict other areas of our lives.
American psychiatrist, Dr. George Engel first expressed the need for a new medical model in 1977 suggesting that physicians instead of separating the body from the emotional makeup of patients in should adopt a biopsychosocial model. He believed it was important to examine all areas of life, including body-mind health, interactions with your environment and others, with these interactions being interdependent not independent of one another.
With so much interest recently into the field of epigenetics (factors that switch on and switch off our genes), Dr Engels theory is proving correct. If our genes can be silenced or activated over time by chemical changes caused by lifestyle modification; diet, exercise, social interactions, stress levels and even levels of happiness, our approach to healthcare needs to take an holistic approach and address all areas of wellbeing. The good news however is that epigenetics is reversible and we therefore have more influence over our wellbeing than often led to believe.
The role of a holistic therapist is to do just this and look at their client as a whole person rather than a collection of symptoms. Gill Wright Holistic Therapist at Rowan House Health and Wellbeing Centre tells us about the skills a holistic therapist needs and how she approaches her clients:
A Holistic therapist takes into account that everyone is unique and tailors the treatment to that individual; developing their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional awareness and wellbeing. The holistic therapist needs many skills in order to assess and help individuals develop these aspects of wellbeing. The key to a successful therapeutic relationship is about building a rapport based on trust. To do this a therapist needs to ‘tune in’ to their client from the moment they meet by observing their body language and nonverbal communication, being attentive to the individual and interested enough in the client to explore all aspects of the clients’ life. Being able to ask the right questions in the most appropriate manner i.e. being interested