Holistic Care

holistic  [hōˈlistik]

characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

What is holistic care?

By definition, holistic care is the practice of treating a person as a whole, taking into account all bodily systems rather than simply the analysis and/or treatment of a single part. The goal of holistic medicine is to see both the mind and the body as one system; the mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind. 

There has been a real move toward an holistic approach to health over the past decade. Leading care practices and hospices have focussed on overall well-being, rather than symptom management alone. There is greater recognition that mood, nutrition and environment have an effect on health, and that in looking at all aspects of a person's life and helping them find a balance, that better outcomes are achieved. Oftentimes, a person's social and spiritual beliefs are also taken into account when planning treatment.

Some aspects of holistic health are viewed or labelled as alternative medicine. Essentially the two main types of medical practise each have a stereotype:

1. Western medicine - a strict practice using man made pharmaceutical medication, 'evidence-based' or 'concrete' science and the treatment of presenting symptoms in isolation.

2. Eastern medicine - conversely seen as the avoidance of pharmaceutical medicine in favour of natural plant based medicine, finding and treating the cause rather than the symptom, and the belief that disease is caused by the person being out of balance, rather than being caused by a mutant gene, for example.

This is simplifying things dramatically but it is - give or take - the general viewpoint held by society at large. 

So, what has changed?

Firstly we have seen a huge surge of interest in holistic health through TV, film, radio and print media. This has thankfully dispelled the image of crystal balls and gypsy fairs, and brought light to the varied and long histories of indigenous practices, modern sciences and therapeutic benefits of many treatments on offer. That is not to say that there does Gnot remain some scepticism as to the efficacy of some treatments, but we are more informed and understanding of what those treatments are.

Secondly, there has been a major increase in the visibility of these services. Twenty years ago, alternative medicine practices were often tucked away and out of sight, but now these businesses can be found as readily and easily as a local mechanic. 

Thirdly, there was a major increase in disposable income throughout the 90's and 2000's. People became able to spend more on their health - whether it was fitness, vitamins, specialists or relaxation, there was a real want to take control of our health.

All of this has meant we have been able to make informed choices about what we put into our bodies. The one-size-fits-all approach to medicine has been replaced with an each-as-individuals approach that more fully takes into account our different health needs, and goals.

HealthCare providers

First you need to decide how you want to manage your health needs. If you already have  a fantastic GP, stick with them; good doctors are worth their weight in gold. Have a good talk to your GP about what your goals are and the 'alternate' options you are considering to achieve those goals - such as nutritionists or massage therapists. Together with your GP you can then develop a plan that incorporates your goals, his/her experience and your needs. 

If on the other hand you are unhappy with your current provider, it may well be worth finding a Practise that specialises in holistic health, or one that has an open view on alternative medicine. You are then getting the best of all worlds - training in conventional and alternative medicines