Holistic therapy is any form of therapy that treats the whole person, taking into account the mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements of the person. This is because holistic therapy recognises the mind-body-spirit connection, and interconnection of the above elements. In the holistic approach, disease is said to result from disturbances within all these elements. Emphasis is further placed on the body’s capacity for self-repair in appropriate conditions.
Holistic therapies usually encompass most therapies falling under complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Complementary and alternative medicine groups together all medical products and healing practices that fall outside the realm of conventional medicine. While complementary therapies are therapies that are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment, alternative medicines refer to those therapies that are used in place of conventional medical therapies. Many people usually opt for a complementary therapy, to benefit from both worlds.
Many CAM therapies, on top of being holistic health therapies, are also natural therapies. A natural therapy is a healing therapy that emphasises on natural health. A holistic therapy qualifies to be a natural therapy if:
1) It acts within the physical realm of existence, i.e. it works on the body alone or on the mind-body connection. It excludes those therapies that work on invisible energies or auras.
2) It can be physically measured or detected by the physical senses.
3) It aims to promote health and wellness, or to treat illness. Thus a therapy that treats an illness but does not promote general health would not be considered a natural therapy.
4) It is simple, slow acting and inexpensive. The slow-acting aspect is included as it is a holistic therapy that aims at encouraging the body to rely on its self-healing abilities.
5) It is under the individual’s control, meaning that it target’s aspects of the individual’s lifestyle which are within the individual’s ability to change.
CAM therapies, as a type of holistic therapy, can be categorised as follows:
1) Alternative Medical Systems: These are medical systems that evolved earlier or apart from conventional medical systems. They include Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayuverda, Homeopathy, Naturopathic medicine among others. Many of these systems embrace the tenets of holistic therapy in their modes of treatment.
2) Mind-Body Interventions: These are alternative healing techniques aimed at enhancing the mind’s capacity to influence functions and symptoms in the body. They include yoga, meditation, and hypnotherapy and prayer therapy. Once again we see the holistic therapy approach in these techniques.
3) Biologically-Based Therapies: These therapies use substances found in nature, such as foods, herbs and vitamins. These therapies emphasise taking a natural healing approach to the mode of treatment that is adopted.
4) Manipulative and Body-Based Methods: These are methods that focus on the manipulation or movement of one or several parts of the body. They include Chiropractic therapy, Osteopathy, Reflexology, massage therapy among others. They also embrace the tenets of a holistic therapy.
5) Energy Therapies: These are alternative healing therapies based on energy fields. One type of energy therapy is the Biofield therapy which acts upon a patient’s energy body, or the body that surrounds and interpenetrates his physical body. By manipulating this energy body, a healer can promote the natural healing of the physical body. Examples of this type of therapy are Pranic healing, Reiki healing and Therapeutic Touch. The second type of energy therapy is the Bio electromagnetic-based therapy which uses electromagnetic fields such as magnetic fields, pulsed fields and alternating-current or direct-current fields to bring about healing.
In Australia and in Sydney in particular, CAM therapies are practised and taught by various practitioners and training institutions. Whether one is seeking a complementary therapy or a natural therapy Sydney has the practitioner or institution that is needed. Indeed, the city is well-known for its high calibre natural complementary health providers and training centres. The CAM therapies and practitioners that one can find in Sydney include chiropractors, holistic natural health centres, naturopathy, osteopathy, reflexology, yoga, Reiki healing, Pranic healing among others.
In modern times, more and more people are opting for a more holistic therapy when seeking treatment for ailments, as they have become aware of the mind-body-spirit connection, and that focusing on one element in isolation may not fully treat the ailment. This awareness has in turn helped CAM therapies to grow in popularity and to be more readily acceptable by the general populace.