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Holistic Therapies: Your Questions Answered

The Benefits offered by the Holistic Approach to Wellness

A tea infuser containing herbs and flowers, which are spilling out.
Herbal Tisanes for health and wellbeing (credit: Marisa Harris, via Unsplash)

What is Wellness?

That really depends on your perspective. Some people look at Wellness as primarily being Mental and Physical Health, with everything else in a person's life being secondary to these factors.

This article, however, takes a holistic, more integrated approach - as do I; in my therapeutic practice with clients, with my students in my teaching work, and in my own personal approach to "life, the universe and everything".

My affinity towards Eastern Philosophy, my curiosity and geekiness have all influenced my approach and way of thinking. Put simply, everything is connected; in infinite, often intricate ways.

What exactly is a "Holistic" approach, in relation to wellness?

The holistic approach to therapy and wellness takes into account all of the different facets and aspects of a person's experience and life history, their environmental/social and familial context, personal characteristics and tendencies, as well as their symptoms.

A holistic practitioner will often seek to build as full a picture as possible (and practicable), of their client. This picture will be as close to a 360 degree view, and this picture gives the practitioner insight into their client's

  • longer-term energetic patterns,

  • constitution,

  • environmental factors at play

  • likely imbalances; and their long-term issues as well as shorter-term symptoms alleviation/management.

The practitioner will then look at ways to support their client using their treatment modality, skill, knowledge and insight. And crucially, they will also identify and look at steps their client can take, to support their own healing/wellness journey, between appointments. This will be based on their energetic needs as viewed through the framework being used by the practitioner (for example, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Homeopathy etc) which are not always interchangeable.

If you're considering having more than one type of Holistic therapy, and it's not with the same practitioner, it's important that you loop in both/all therapists you're working with. It may be that they will are willing to liaise and integrate approaches directly with each other, for your benefit - and if this is the case, you will need to agree to their sharing information/notes about you, for GDPR purposes.

Differences between the Holistic approach, and "Mainstream" or Western Medicine

Where Western medicine often looks at symptoms in terms of cause & effect, then eliminating the cause (surgical or pharmaceutical) or managing the symptoms, the Holistic Practitioner is more likely to look into ways to support areas needing longer-term work, whilst helping to alleviate shorter-term symptoms, considering all the factors at play for the person.

For example, a person may have a virus, brought on or worsened by deficient diet, poor heating and therefore a weakened immune system. The virus is only one part of the picture which needs to be looked at - the root cause and other effects of that, will need to be addressed as well - otherwise the client or patient is likely to return with the same, or a more serious related condition in the future.

Some Holistic, Natural and Complementary therapies

This list is not intended to be exhaustive! As new modalities are being innovated all the time, this is just a short list of some of the more mainstream, well-known Holistic therapies you may be familiar with, or may even have tried out for yourself. I'm mainly basing this on the list of therapies which are regulated by the CNHC at the time of writing this article (11/2023), alongside some other well-known and established therapies (some of which are referenced in this article on the UK Mental Health Charity "MIND"'s website.

A Shiatsu practitioner treating someone's back.
Shiatsu is one of the UK's regulated Holistic therapies
  • Alexander Technique Teaching

  • Aromatherapy

  • Bowen Therapy

  • Colon Hydrotherapy

  • Craniosacral therapy

  • Healing

  • Herbalism

  • Holistic Chiropractic Care

  • Homeopathy

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Kinesiology

  • Light Therapy

  • Massage Therapy

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness

  • Microsystems Acupuncture

  • Naturopathy

  • Nutritional Therapy

  • Osteopathy

  • Reflexology

  • Reiki

  • Sports Massage

  • Sports Therapy

  • Shiatsu

  • Yoga Therapy

Physical therapy on the shoulder of a person lying on their side.
Holistic Therapies can support the Medical approach

How does Integrated Healthcare (between Holistic therapies and Western Medicine) Work?

In recent years, many more mainstream healthcare providers are working together with Complementary Therapists, to make sure that their clients are receiving the best possible care. Aside from the benevolence/compassion aspect (which is of course, at the heart of why most people choose to work in healthcare), there seems to be a growing awareness of the connections between mental health/wellbeing, and how well people respond to medical treatment.

There have been numerous studies into the effects of stress on physical health. In recent years, there have been breakthroughs in science's understanding of the huge impact that emotional/psychological stress has on the human body. This article by the American Psychological Association looks at the hugely wide-reaching physiological effects that long-term stress has, and the damage it does to the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems!

In addition to this, already over-stretched Health Systems were pushed to breaking point during the 2020 pandemic. A report by The British Medical Association noted that during Covid-19

...waiting lists drastically increased. There was also growing awareness of the ‘hidden backlog’ of unmet need - patients who required care but had either not yet presented or who had referrals cancelled due to reprioritisation or lack of capacity.

Mental Health Services were also seeing a hugely increased demand during the pandemic - in an article on Mental health trends in the United Kingdom, the Nuffield Trust (an Independent UK think-tank) cited 2021 census figures that during 2020, the leading cause of deaths of people between 5 - 34 was "intentional self harm".

A stressed-looking Medic.
Over-stretched and under-resourced.

The UK government's response to this massive shortfall in resources, was the "Health and Care Act 2022" - the intention of which is to improve local services for citizens, by integrating GPs, Hospitals, Social Care and other service providers.

So how do the recent changes in the approach of mainstream Western Medicine, relate to Holistic Therapies?

Well, on one hand, this appears to show that mainstream Healthcare in the United Kingdom is now taking a more "holistic", joined-up approach to Healthcare and Wellbeing. And as Complementary Therapies' Professional Associations and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council or CNHC (the UK Government's Regulator of Complementary Therapists) have been working hard over the years. The CNHC has been working to bring up the standards, skills, working practices, advertising standards and ethical codes of Professional Complementary Therapists (who meet their accreditation requirements and sign up to the register). They promote robust scientific studies to build evidence of the effectiveness of the therapies they regulate; build awareness, and advocate for/inform of Complementary Therapies, with GPs. This is one of the reasons that some GPs had been referring patients to Complementary Therapists, before this Act was passed.

We make the case to government and a wide range of organisations for the use of complementary healthcare to enhance the UK’s health and wellbeing. We raise awareness of complementary healthcare and seek to influence policy wherever possible to increase access to the disciplines we register.

Working in partnership

For a Complementary Therapist or Natural Healthcare Professional to be eligible for referral or to work within NHS clinical settings, they need to be accredited by the CNHC. The first step is done through one of the CNHC's member Professional Bodies. This entails either

  1. Passing a professional qualification accredited by that Professional Body as meeting the standards and guidelines of the CNHC. This will entail meeting set criteria around having built up sufficient hours of treatments given (and received), producing case studies, being assessed whilst giving a treatment, and taking a questionnaire/test to ensure they understand fully, and are able to implement the CNHC's principles, Code of Ethics, best practice, client-focus and safe working - including a section on human physiology and anatomy, as well as health symptom red-flags. All this (and more) goes into the process of becoming accredited as a CNHC-registered Holistic Practitioner - including factual and robust notes/reporting (GDPR compliant) between practitioner and GP, where required. Having passed this qualification, the practitioner submits their certificate to the Professional Association in question, and receives a second certificate, which shows that they have met the criteria to be eligible for entry to the CNHC's register; or

  2. Having sufficient years of experience working in professional practice, and building the relevant portfolio of evidence / meeting the criteria and requirements of the Therapy in question, and having your Professional Association review/assess your application, issuing a certificate to those who meet the requirements.

Having obtained the certificate, the practitioner would then apply to the CNHC for membership, sending a copy of their certification, Insurance, and other standard requirements, as well as a registration fee.

The CNHC "Kite-Mark"/logo
A Marker of Trustworthiness for Holistic Therapists

The CNHC then sends them a certificate of registration, including their registration number, and the date that year's membership expires (when it can then be renewed, if the practitioner chooses). The CNHC also provides resources such as their logo for use on promotional materials (only to be used relating to the therapy registered), information, pro-forma appointment cards, posters and more. When a therapist is registered and eligible to use the CNHC's logo, this is a strong marker of trust for them and their practice. The more therapists who choose to invest in their professionalism, ongoing skills/knowledge development and in the reputation of their therapy(ies), the better recognition and integration these therapies will be able to gain, in our increasingly integrated Health and Social care systems!

The Way Forward

I believe that one of the hidden blessings we can choose to take from the horror of the Pandemic, is in fact, a more integrated healthcare - because in order to keep working, it has to be, in my opinion.

Another thing we have the opportunity to do is to improve everyone's awareness of what tools from the Holistic world are out there, so that they can build greater self-reliance and autonomy in managing their day-to-day wellbeing. When people are more resourced and empowered to understand how they are on a more subtle level, as well as simple practices they can build into daily life, and adjust/tweak as their needs change, I believe that in itself, leads to higher levels of wellbeing, and less fear/avoidance around health concerns when they do crop up.

One of the ways I work, is to explain and make Holistic self-care more approachable to people, in practical down-to-earth ways. We can all do more than we know, to support ourselves and each other - and it's my mission to bring better wellness and wellbeing tools to everyone. It's my belief that wellness is a right - not a privilege!

Check out my Wellbeing tools (guided meditation recordings, e-book and self-acupressure cards, in my online shop.

Or if you'd like to take a course you can use for self-treatment, check out my Reiki courses as well!


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