The culture of treatment for mental health is shifting. The demand for holistic health care is on the rise and the concept of holistic health and wellness is bleeding over into the mental health field. Many patients and practitioners alike are becoming aware of the need for holistic approaches to mental health care. No longer satisfied with the status quo, awareness of the need for change is growing.
This topic can be a bit confusing since holistic counseling is often used interchangeably with several other terms such as holistic mental health and integrated behavioral health. Some important distinctions should be made though and I will attempt to explain more below. The important thing to remember is that many people are looking for more than just medication and/or talk therapy. Many people want to improve their lives in many different areas not just improve emotional challenges. So let’s briefly look as some of the differences and then I’ll explain my approach to treatment.
First let’s consider integrated behavioral health. This is a phrase that’s sometimes confused with ‘integrative’ mental health. According to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Integrated behavioral health is simply an approach to treating mental health issues in a coordinated effort with other practitioners such as primary care physicians and specialists. This approach does consider whole body treatment rather than just a ‘from the neck up’ approach, but it’s still in the medical model framework and can still often miss the mark when it comes to holistic mental health. ‘Integrative’ mental health adds a component of complementary and alternative classifications into treatment for mental health.
When I approach treatment I consider more than just an integrated philosophy. Integrated treatments for behavioral health are important and I certainly don’t neglect that (I make referrals and stay in communication with PCPs and specialists when necessary and appropriate). I go one step further, however, and I try to incorporate complementary and alternative treatment methods as much as possible. This is the essence of a holistic implementation of counseling.
Essentially, when I work with someone, I will be working to assess the 7 aspects of wellness which include:
This is a holistic approach to mental health in it’s purest form. This is an approach that finds ways to provide balance to the whole person and all of life’s experiences not just the symptoms
In other words, holistic counseling addresses underlying causes of what brought someone into treatment rather than just focusing on symptom management. This could include diet, lifestyle, stress, job, intimate relationships, children, friendships, family, finances, etc. and incorporates recommendations that are a bit unconventional (by current allopathic standards) such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, genomics, exercise, nutrition, neurosculpting, biofeedback, gut-brain connection, and much more. (So there’s no confusion, please know that I don’t provide all these services, but I can help educate you on their importance and provide you with referrals when needed).
If you are interested in learning more about holistic mental health, a tremendious resource that I’ve come to highly value has been the Mental Wellness Summit. This is a gathering of like minded pioneers in the holistic resolution of mental health challenges. No where else will you find such an all encompassing source of information on this topic as such a great price. For those of you who can’t get to my office or who are just curious for more information I hope you will take advantage of this great offer.
Dr. Santan is currently practicing clinical mental health counseling in the Chattanooga TN area.