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  • Writer's pictureJan Johnson

What Does Holistic Mean?

woman with arms outstretched-meditating-nature
Wellness of the whole person

#HOLISTIC – a word that is well used. We see it as an adjective liberally cast before words such as lifestyle, approach, view and thinking; and especially in relation to complementary therapies. It is used to describe what a therapy offers, how we approach our treatments and the outcomes that our clients can benefit from. As a word, ‘holistic’ is a great all-rounder but what does it actually mean?

Holistic’ derives from the Greek word ‘Holos’, meaning whole.

In terms of philosophy the definition of Holistic is:

“Holistic is characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”

In medicine the definition is:

“Holistic is characterised by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.”

Balance stones

The principles of holistic medicine, both medical and complementary, regard the whole person with the aim of achieving optimum health and wellness. The whole person considers body, mind, emotions, spirit and societal influences. If one part of us is not working as it should, then this causes imbalances to all other parts and negatively affects overall health. The principles of holism are nothing new, having been around since the time of Hippocrates 2500 years ago and reaching back even further into Eastern history with Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

My new clients are often surprised at the range of questions I ask at their initial consultation appointment. We cover medical history, sleep habits, diet, exercise and home and work situation. Just as there are many parts making up a ‘whole person’, there are also many factors in life that drive our health and well-being. A client may be seeking reflexology for a specific health issue such as the relief of migraines for instance, but they are a person not an ailment and, therefore, are considered holistically. As a reflexologist and complementary therapist, I do not aim to diagnose, cure or give medical advice. I will listen to and observe the client before me and correlate the information from their consultation with the story that their feet tell me during their reflexology session. With this guidance I create a bespoke treatment plan and work together with my client to achieve their aims and goals.

Holistic means whole, but more importantly, it means listening, empathy, consideration and reflection. We are a fascinating amalgamation of our past and present, our nature and nurture, whether we are winning at life – or not. Holism is an ethos to be celebrated, giving us liberation from being defined by a medical condition, disability, social situation or cultural beliefs.

We are so much more than the sum of our parts.

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