For some people in therapy, talking about emotional distress is enough to feel better. Other clients, however, need to explore healing not just through their words but in the combined space of the mind, body, and spirit. When a therapist works across all of these dimensions, it’s called holistic therapy.
Holistic therapy is a therapy approach that views a client’s strengths and struggles as influenced by a combination of all areas of life. Many holistic therapists aim to explore how the client is doing in more than just their cognitive thoughts or behaviors, such as by exploring the mind-body connection or spirituality. Some therapists even take holistic therapy a step further by offering yoga, dance, or movement-based therapy!
If you’re thinking about starting therapy, we’ve collected the most important information about this wonderful therapy approach so you can decide if a holistic therapist is right for you.
What are the 5 areas of holistic health care?
In holistic therapy theory, there are five areas of health, and wellness is achieved through focused attention on all five of these areas, inside and outside of therapy sessions. Healing comes from finding balance in each area, so it’s important to address the whole person when looking for a boost in wellbeing.
Physical comfort is much more than whether the client is feeling relaxed in their chair during their therapy session. Finding physical balance involves ensuring the right amount of sleep each night, a nutritious and substantive diet, and regular exercise or movement.
When the body is healthy, works properly without pain, and feels energized throughout the day, you have room to focus on your emotions. Sometimes, physical symptoms like fatigue or hunger can impact mood. Feeling well physically takes away the possibility that your distress is a result of an imbalance in your body.
Most clients begin therapy because they seek emotional support. This area describes mood, affect, and feeling. A client might feel different across different days, settings, or social groups. When someone feels imbalanced emotionally, they may feel overwhelmingly sad, scared, anxious, disconnected from others, lonely, or empty.
In therapy sessions, therapists encourage their clients to talk about their thoughts and feelings. By paying attention to how you feel, you may work out what’s causing your distress. When emotions become painful, therapists may take their clients through mindfulness or relaxation practices like deep breathing, visualization, or meditation. You might notice, this not only engages a person’s emotional self but also their physical self — which goes to show that the nature of holistic therapy is an interconnected web of healing.
The social area of holistic therapy describes the person’s social network. This includes their friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, even acquaintances. As social creatures, relationships with others are vital; making sure that these relationships are healthy is a top priority for holistic therapists.
When people generally think of spirituality, they may think of religion. However, spirituality can play a role in therapy without being religious. Spirituality describes believing in a higher power, knowing there’s a reason for living, or tapping into your inner soul.
Balancing your spiritual self may mean spending more time in nature, reflecting on humanity, or praying to whoever or whatever you believe in. For those who are religious, practicing your faith in a way that feels authentic and comfortable for you may bring you greater peace.
Mental wellness differs from emotional wellness in that it centers on keeping your brain active, engaged, motivated. Humans tend to need cognitive stimulation to maintain a sense of wellbeing.
What do you like to think about? What types of projects do you enjoy? This could describe doing a crossword, learning nuclear physics, playing an instrument — there are many ways for to activate brain pathways and this is an important component of leading a holistically balanced life.
What is the goal of holistic therapy?
The goal of holistic therapy is to address healing across all domains of life. While talking about emotions in therapy is a key way of alleviating distress, there are other parts of life that might benefit from attention in therapy. More than that, different people find healing through different parts of their lives — some like to dance out their emotions, others like to pray to their higher power, and others enjoy reading a good book!
Holistic therapy aims to grow awareness of the five primary domains of life. By understanding what’s happening across your life, you can find an overall balance that values more than just emotions.
What are the benefits of holistic therapy?
There are many benefits to holistic therapy. Because holistic therapy focuses on multiple domains of life, holistic therapy clients are likely to see an increase in positive lifestyle habits across the board. This leaves people feeling strong in their minds, bodies, and hearts.
Clients benefit from the versatility of holistic therapy. There are many ways to take care of the five areas of the whole person, so many clients find the individualism of holistic therapy helpful for their personal preferences and comforts. If you like candles, aromatherapy might be a good way to engage your sense of smell! If you like writing, journaling about your desires might be a good way to be introspective about your emotions! And if you enjoy spending time with your grandparents, you’re building your social health! Holistic therapy creates the opportunity to approach healing from all directions.
What is a holistic therapist and what do they do?
A holistic therapist is a therapist who values all areas of a client’s life — they focus on working with the whole person, rather than a diagnosis, condition, or situation. In session, holistic therapists examine a client’s physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. They help the client find balance across each of these areas.
Holistic therapists do this in a wide variety of ways ranging from breathwork to cognitive behavioral approaches to acupuncture to faith counseling. Because of holistic therapist’s diversity in style, it’s important to find a holistic therapist that practices in a way that suits your preferences, interests, and comfort zone.
What can I expect from a holistic therapist?
When you work with a holistic therapist, you should expect to answer questions about multiple areas of your life. Your holistic therapist will assess your life across all settings, so they will certainly ask you about your physical health such as sleeping and eating habits, social health including if you’re dating or who your best friend is, spiritual health if you believe in a higher power, and more.
Holistic therapists will address your problems from many angles. They may recommend that you work together on a plan to either create new habits or break unhealthy habits. You can also expect to have the opportunity to try new things, all with the support of a professional.
What happens in a typical holistic therapy session?
In a typical holistic therapy session, your holistic therapist will ask you how you’re feeling — and the answer they’re looking for is multidimensional. How are you feeling physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? And so on.
You may address only one area in a therapy session, or you might address the balance across all areas of your life. Depending on the type of holistic therapy your therapist offers, you may engage in mindfulness exercises or body movements. Your therapist will then ask you to assess your comfort in the various areas as you learn what feels good and what feels uncomfortable, a lesson you can take with you outside of session.
What is the most popular holistic therapy?
There are many popular holistic therapies that clients particularly enjoy, including acupuncture, homeopathy, meditation, dance therapy, massage therapy, reiki, or breathwork. Your therapist may offer these services as part of their psychotherapy practice or they may refer you to a specialist (especially for the more physical treatments).
However, a key part of holistic therapy is the growing understanding of who you are as a whole person, so circling back with your holistic therapist to talk about how you feel is an essential element of successful holistic healing.
What is the best holistic therapy for anxiety?
There are many holistic therapies that address anxiety. One popular holistic therapy practice is mindful breathwork and deep breathing exercises. These practices calm down both the body and the mind, drawing a strong connection between the two. Other holistic therapies that decrease anxiety include yoga, mindful eating, cognitive behavioral work, and spending intentional time with loved ones.
While many of these practices occur in the home, it’s important to work with a holistic therapist who can guide you through your journey and provide professional insight into your health.
Is holistic therapy effective?
Yes, holistic therapy is effective for boosting wellbeing. Because of its physical and physiological nature, holistic therapy can impact how you feel day-to-day.
However, it’s important to note that holistic therapy varies in nature and describes a wide range of treatments — from reiki to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)! Some holistic therapies are more effective than others. Regardless of the type of treatment, working with a qualified, experienced holistic therapist is vital to the success of the therapy.
If holistic therapy sounds like something you want to try, find the perfect holistic therapist for you by filtering Zencare’s therapists by Approach. You’ll then see each therapist’s profile, which includes an introductory video and an easy way to schedule a call with the right holistic therapist.