What is Holistic Counseling?



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            First, let’s define each word. People are familiar with counseling or counselors because throughout our lives we’ve all had many types of counselors; from summer camp, to school. The Oxford Dictionary defines counseling as “the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties, especially by a professional”. At some point in almost everyone’s lives, the assistance of a counselor of some sort is needed. But what does holistic mean, and how does it pertain to counseling? The definition of the philosophy of holistic treatment is “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” as per the Oxford Dictionary. When the words are combined it means that holistic counseling takes into account every aspect of the individual’s life because each piece is equally important to the whole.


            Unbeknownst to most people, there are five main theoretical approaches to psychology and many professionals draw inspiration from more than one while helping their clients. The first approach is often associated with Sigmund Freud and is known as “psychoanalysis”, or “psychodynamic therapy”. This aspect of counseling mainly focuses on changing problematic behaviors along with the root of those behaviors. Freud famously tended to associate behaviors with some sort of sexual issue. Luckily, this area of therapy has been expanded and is no longer focused on repression and instead focuses on research, clinical trials, and the therapy’s efficacy.



            The second main area of counseling is behavioral, either normal or abnormal, and how learning effects behavior. This is most associated with Pavlov and his well-known dogs. There are many approaches within this therapy; including desensitizing, operant, and classical conditioning (the dogs), and has an offspring of therapy known as cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is the third main therapy. It is known to emphasize people’s thoughts more than actions because they associate dysfunctional thought to action. By changing one’s thoughts you can shape their actions- this is the basic message of cognitive therapy.


            Søren Kierkegaardis most known for his humanistic approach to counseling. This approach is akin to holistic counseling and has three main types of therapy: client centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, and existential therapy. Client centered therapy focuses on emphasizing the client’s personal concerns, cares, and interests and rejects the idea that the therapist is the expert on the client’s experiences. Gestalt therapy focuses on what is known as “organismic holism”, or the idea that the “here and now” is important, and accepting one’s own personal responsibility is the main goal. Existential therapy focuses on free-will, the search for your personal meaning, and self-determination.


            Integrative or holistic counseling is an approach to counseling that integrates a couple or all of the above techniques. To meet each individual client’s needs, a holistic counseling approach will often times get the best results. However, the specific combination of counseling techniques that will be helpful is up to the counselor and client, depending on their own unique concerns and goals.


            When it comes down to it, many counselors and therapists often take on a holistic counseling approach without even realizing it. It becomes more beneficial to their clients because their counselors take a look at every aspect of their lives to make sure they achieve their goals in counseling. It’s important to realize that every case is different and no two counselors will approach a situation the same way. If you have any questions please contact us here.



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