Holistic health is such a broad term. Here at Caritas Center for healing in Tucson, we begin with a straightforward way of thinking about it. Then we can talk about how to practice it. Three little words:
They form together into a “whole-istic” picture of the individual. They work together to create a healthy “you.” Holistic health addresses mind, body, and spirit. Spirit means your enthusiasm for life that arises from your deepest inner reaches; or spirituality, the practice of expanding and rejuvenating the spirit.
Ask a holistic health practitioner if the body can be treated separately of mind and spirit and the answer is likely to be “yes, but if the root cause of symptoms in the body are in the mind or spirit, they must be treated together.” Otherwise, the symptoms are likely to resist treatment. Doesn’t matter how many acupuncture sessions you book or yoga classes you take, you must treat the whole person.
Ask an allopathic physician the same question and–if they subscribe to the dominant paradigm in Western medicine–they’re likely to say that the body can be influenced by other aspects, but acknowledge that they are trained primarily in treating the body as its own unit and to intervene primarily with pharmaceutical agents or surgical procedures. Increasingly, thanks to the influence of a grassroots movement, increasing scientific evidence, and leading voices like Dr. Deepak Chopra, and Tucson’s own Dr. Andrew Weil, there are programs such as University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine that offer training to M.D.s in more holistic approaches. Additionally, more and more physicians are familiar with and more open to a broader variety of treatments even if they were not trained in them.
Fortunately, plenty of evidence is accumulating to convince at least some members of the evidence-based (allopathic) medical community of the efficacy of the holistic and integrative medical approaches.
Listening to the Body: Somatic Metaphor and Clinical Somatics
What if the medical symptoms a person experiences fall outside of the standard model for cause-and-effect? For one, it means that traditional treatments will not help them as much as they should and are unlikely to address the root issue or source. For these symptoms and issues, the source is sometimes found in how the body expresses a problem that ultimately connects to the mind, emotions, and/or spirit.
Dr. Larry Burk, a board-certified radiologist, is an expert in somatic metaphor: how the body speaks through the patient’s story. Clinical Somatics is another term associated with this emerging field of medicine. In other words, you see a health practitioner because of a health problem, and in describing your life, you reveal the source of the problem.
Somatic metaphor is only beginning to catch on with the medical community at-large, but for Dr. Burk and others who listen closely to their patients and their life stories, the proof is in the results. They are able to step in where traditional medicine falls short. For example:
- A woman with ovarian disease talks to her physician about her empty marriage and unfulfilled desire to have children. The organ affected by disease is the same organ associated with her unfulfilled desire. Her body tells her where she is emotionally and spiritually wounded. That’s somatic metaphor.
- A patient seeks treatment for a bad rash and talks about a recent car crash. The crash didn’t cause the rash directly. The source of it is the patient’s wrecked nerves.
- A man seeks help for chest tightness and speaks about the stress of his job. The somatic metaphor is found in his body’s expression of the feeling that the life is being squeezed out of him.
In these cases, you can’t treat the symptoms of the body and avoid the mind and spirit. Holistic health means “treat the whole person.” For holistic health practitioners, it means really listening to their patients and reading between the lines.
Bottom line? If you have symptoms that aren’t being helped at all or as much as you’d like by traditional medical treatment, the causes might go deeper. A holistic health practitioner might be able to help you.
Holistic practices can help with health issues after they have manifested, but preventative medicine is the best cure. How? You’ve heard it before:
- Good diet.
- Regular exercise.
- Healthy relationships.
- Healthy work environment.
You know this already. It’s common sense. But for many people it’s easier said than done. That’s why establishing a relationship with a holistic health practitioner is better done now rather than later.
You can benefit by visiting the holistic health practitioners at Caritas Center for Healing in the Armory Park neighborhood of Tucson. We offer massage therapy, acupuncture, counseling, exercise classes (meditation, qigong, Egoscue), Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbalism, and many more modalities.
Finally, check out our events page for classes and workshops. Caritas hosts a wide variety of holistic health events.