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Holistic Healthcare: How is it Different?
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As a holistic mental health therapist I get asked how my practice is different than others quite frequently. So, I thought I would shed some light on how my practice is different, but also how holistic health (in general) is different than conventional or “regular” healthcare.
In my practice I hold a couple different credentials. I went to school for clinical psychology and became licensed as a mental health counselor in both WA and OR state. I also have gone through a training program and have health coach certification, which allows me to help people change their behaviors surrounding nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices that impact their physical health. I also have gone through trainings to become a registered yoga teacher and reiki practitioner. So, with these different licenses and certifications I can help clients address their mental and physical health by doing psychotherapy, providing education on nutrition and supplements, create behavior change with diet and exercise, give recommendations for how to move the body, and provide some light body work through energy work.
Now, onto how conventional (allopathic) healthcare is different than holistic (alternative) healthcare. Conventional healthcare focuses on treating the symptoms that people present with. Conventional medicine also believes that there is only one cause of disease states. It does not do a good job at getting to the root of the problem. Conventional medicine is great if your in car accident and break your leg, but it is not great at treating chronic illness like diabetes, metabolic disease, mental health concerns, autoimmunity, allergies, etc..
On the other side, holistic “alternative” medicine looks at how the human being interacts with both its internal and external environment. Holistic medicine also recognizes that there is many factors in why disease may occur. It recognizes that a person’s emotions, food choices, environmental toxins, exercise routines, relationships, ect can have an affect on one’s health and make them sick. So, instead of just recommending a medication or lifestyle change (without guiding you through how to actually make that change) like conventional medicine does, holistic medicine takes the time to get to know you as a person and then helps you make both internal and external changes to improve your overall health.
Conventional medicine focuses on only what can be found to be effective through science and treats the body like a machine. You may think, “well isn’t it good that conventional medicine’s treatments are researched based?” To some extent yes, but a lot of the research that is done is funded by large companies that have their best interest in mind, not yours. It sounds crazy, but research is skewed because of this. That does not mean all research is skewed but there is PLENTY of examples of how this happens.
For example, the Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a rigorous scientific study conducted between 1968 and 1973. It was a randomized controlled trial that looked into what types of fats are better for us as humans. Randomized controlled trails are considered superior when doing research because they are less likely to produce misleading results, like in observational studies where participants can make their own choices.
The study compared consuming saturated fats (animals fats like butter, tallow, and red meat) to consuming polyunsaturated fats (corn oil or vegetable oil). What was published from this study is that vegetable oils are healthier for us and reduce our risk of heart disease. But, when you look into the data, and what was not published, this is not the case. The study found that consuming vegetable oil lowered cholesterol but it was found the lower cholesterol fell the higher the risk of dying earlier. The study also did not find that consuming vegetable oils lowered one’s risk of atherosclerosis or heart attacks like they hypothesized.
Because they study did not yield the results the co-leader of the study, Ancel Keys, wanted, they only published a portion (that vegetable oils reduce cholesterol) and hid the rest. This study and the Seven Countries Study (which Ancel Keys conducted and again made some serious research flaws in) went on to be extremely influential in creating dietary guidelines that advise against eating saturated fats (like butter, animal fats, eggs) and consuming more polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils). These dietary guidelines still exist today but are continuing to make us more and more sick as nation. Although that was a long example, it provides a snapshot into how research can be skewed to fit an agenda. There is more to this story in regards to Ancel Keys and why he wanted to skew the data, so I recommend doing some research of your own to learn more about this.
What we can take from this example though is that scientific research is not always accurate and does not always provide us with the correct answers. Scientific research cannot always quantify or accurately look at why something works the way it does. There is a lot we don’t know or understand about the world and universe around us and just because we can’t fully understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t work or doesn’t exist. This is where the concept of energy comes in. Many holistic medicines believe and work with energy. These are labeled as “qui,” “life force energy,” “constitutions,” ect and play a vital role in how a client is treated when working with a holistic practitioner.
There is a time and a place for both forms of medicine, but in my opinion holistic medicine should be our first line of defense and conventional medicine should be used sparingly and in emergencies. Holistic medicine focuses on you as an individual, in your environment, and takes the whole picture into consideration. Holistic medicine then guides you through the changes you need to make to bring things back into balance again, and to me that sounds like something we all need.