Factors That Contribute To Holistic Mental Healthcare
Good mental health is about more than therapy and prescription medications. There are many factors that influence mental health that must be considered when caring for an individual’s wellbeing. Commonly known as holistic care or holistic medicine, this approach considers the entirety of a person, including their physical health, values, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and spiritual practices. A holistic mental healthcare ensures that care is personalized and more effective, acknowledging all elements impacting mental health to prevent future issues or complications.
Learning more about holistic care
Holistic care is an emerging practice among all areas of healthcare. One study from 2015 found that more than half of US medical schools offer courses in holistic care, also labeled as complementary and alternative medicine. The same is true for the mental health field. Anyone researching how to become a mental health counselor will find that the concept of holistic medicine is widely included in the core education. For example, the Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at American International College includes a core course about multiculturalism and the social bases of behavior. This course covers the impact of holistic factors such as “cultural, ethnic, and group processes, familial patterns, sexual orientation, gender roles, disability status, religious beliefs, age, organizational behavior, group dynamics, status and role, attribution theory, and leadership” on providing mental health counseling.
How can mental health counselors adopt a holistic approach for clients?
Regardless of why a client is referred to a mental health counselor, there are ways to incorporate holistic care into their treatment plan. Below are common themes that may be relevant or important to consider when working with patients.
Setting realistic expectations
A mental health counselor needs an accurate understanding of a patient’s history with therapy or mental health support, as this can often impact assumptions that a patient will make about future care. An individual without a history of treatment or illness may not understand what role a mental health counselor plays or how long treatment will last before they see results. Furthermore, when working holistically, a patient may not understand how hobbies or beliefs are relevant to medical care. Healthcare professionals may need to encourage patient participation by explaining the benefits of a more comprehensive view of treatment.
Culture and ethnic background
An individual’s customs and background have a huge impact on how they see and interact with the world. There may be stereotypes or stigma surrounding mental health that need to be openly addressed and discussed, as this might impact their willingness to engage with care and their perception of the counselor. They may also hold negative views about modern mental health treatments or be using traditional methods to manage mental health difficulties. Mental health counselors can use resources that are more familiar to patients or gently challenge them if current coping strategies are harmful.
Whether it is religious faith, a career goal, an important hobby, or something simple like walking a dog, most people have something that motivates them. Even for patients with mental health difficulties like depression or anxiety, they can speak to something they used to enjoy or would like to try in the future. By understanding how a patient makes sense of the world and what encourages them to continue with treatment, mental health counselors can bring a deeper meaning to the idea of recovery.
Moderation is a key goal of holistic mental health. Many people aim for a work-life balance, but there are many ways they can create balance in life. They may cut down on working hours, spend more time in nature, limit screen time, exercise more, cut down on processed foods, or join a support group to socialize. Individuals have unique tolerances and needs, and an excess can take away time and energy that might be better spent supporting another aspect of wellbeing.
Social contact is a basic human need. People benefit from being a part of a community with others who share part of their identity or beliefs. This can be especially true for people struggling with mental health difficulties, as peer support can normalize people’s experiences. It is important to create relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and other important figures in a way that is safe, respectful, and mutually beneficial. These figures may or may not want to be involved in the patient’s treatment plan. Establishing healthy boundaries and developing trust and rapport is a crucial step in maintaining good mental health and creating a reliable support system.
Studies have shown that holistic therapies are effective with helping patients manage physical pain and chronic illnesses. There are also positive habits that may prevent future problems, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Mental health counselors can help patients create such habits in ways that are easy or more convenient. They may also help patients refrain from bad habits, such as binge drinking or smoking, which can negatively impact their mood and mental state.
Recovery from mental ill health is not always linear or easy. For holistic care, a patient needs to consistently follow their treatment plan and not lose faith during difficult times. Mental health counselors will help their patients recognize potential struggles and implement preventative measures to ensure they continue with the effective strategies needed to manage their mental health.
The importance of holistic mental healthcare
Good mental health is not the absence of illness but the presence of wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of holistic care into modern medicine has had an enormous impact on patients and healthcare providers everywhere. By looking at the entire person and not just the illness, mental health counselors can offer personalized support that makes treatment more effective and useful for the patient. As mental healthcare becomes more rooted in holistic practices, society will gain a new appreciation for, and understanding of, the many factors influencing mental health.