Holistic Therapy: Definition, Types, and Benefits

Published on: 22 Nov 2021
Clinically Reviewed by Bisma Anwar, LMHC
woman sitting and meditating

Holistic therapy is also known as body-centered therapy or holistic psychotherapy. It combines elements of traditional therapy with alternative, perhaps less traditional techniques like meditation, breath therapy, and hypnosis. 

A key difference between traditional therapy on its own and holistic therapy is that the latter focuses on a wide range of aspects, including the physical, mental, and spiritual factors that all come into play when thinking about one’s well-being. A holistic therapy program dives into all of these areas to help the whole person on a much deeper level.

What Is Holistic Therapy?

Holistic therapy is grounded in psychosynthesis. It’s an integrative approach to therapy that works to understand the whole person. During a holistic therapy program, the work will be centered around the mind, body, and spirit connection in a direct attempt to try and understand how aspects in one part of your life can manifest as concerns in other areas. 

A holistic approach is based on the idea that when one part of our health is off, it’ll have a direct impact in the other areas. So, rather than labeling a condition someone has and treating that on its own, holistic therapy works to align every part of a person.  

After understanding all the aspects of your health, focus can be turned to addressing each item on a much broader level. Those who turn to holistic treatment through in-person or online therapy may do so in an attempt to ultimately have a deeper, more fundamental acceptance of their whole self. 

Holistic therapy has been found effective in treating several different psychological conditions, including: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Emotional difficulties or instability
  • Stress
  • Family problems
  • Trauma
  • Work-related problems

How does holistic therapy work?

A basic holistic therapy definition is: therapy based on a school of thought that looks at the “whole person” in an attempt to address their health and needs on multiple levels. This specialized type of therapy uses a variety of techniques, all aimed at helping someone understand each — or all — of their symptoms. 

The overall goal of the holistic approach is to create an intense sense of self-awareness. When done properly, holistic therapy can help you connect important aspects of your life that are working together in some way. By understanding how the mind, body, and spirit connect to mental health, you can overcome obstacles and get to the root of issues you may be having that are preventing you from living your best life.

Holistic therapy is commonly rooted in bodywork and mindfulness practices. It uses techniques often used in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). These holistic techniques are designed to help you understand your mind-body-spirit connection and promote relaxation so you can focus on healing.  

Some commonly used techniques that are used during holistic therapy treatment include:

  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation and guided imagery
  • Breathwork
  • Massage therapy 
  • Hypnosis
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Reiki
  • Yoga

The above alternative treatment styles are usually combined with elements of holistic psychotherapy used to further progress. Some of these can include:

“Holistic therapy works to look at individuals as a whole person instead of focusing on the particular disorder they are struggling with. It works to help clients make improvements in their lives by including how the mind, body, and spirit work together to address the struggles at hand.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC

What Are the Different Types of Holistic Therapy?

Holistic psychotherapy is a term that can encompass multiple types of specific treatments. Some of the common holistic therapy techniques are listed below.

Mind-body therapy

Mind-body therapy uses a group of techniques to increase relaxation. Each focuses on improving overall health by enhancing how your mind interacts with your bodily function. Techniques might include:

  • Hypnosis
  • Relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Visual and guided imagery
  • Biofeedback
  • Group support
  • Expressive art therapy (music, art, dance)

Eclectic or integrative therapy

Eclectic or integrative therapy uses multiple techniques to serve the goal of healing or making mental health progress. By taking a multifaceted approach to therapy, you might be able to address your specific and unique needs to promote real healing and growth. This approach combines multiple therapies and their elements to create a more holistic approach that is tailored and specific to each patient.

Spiritual therapy

Spiritual therapy uses both spiritual faith and your belief system to explore and address any problems you might be dealing with. This form of therapy seeks to treat your soul as well as your mind by using the faith you have in your higher power to analyze and address conflicts you face in life.

Somatic therapy

Somatic therapy is a body-centric technique that uses multiple strategies to help you heal from trauma, mental health conditions, stress, and more. During somatic therapy sessions, the focus is on breathwork, meditation, or even dance.

Benefits of Holistic Therapy

There are several positive aspects to holistic therapy, and it’s been found beneficial in a number of studies.

  • Greater understanding of the whole-being: One of the major benefits of holistic therapy is that the whole-body approach allows you to look at all parts of your being. By addressing your physical, mental, and spiritual health, you might be able to really connect the dots between these different parts of your life. Additionally, you can gain a deeper understanding of how each of these factors affects your overall well-being.
  • Learn coping mechanisms: Techniques you learn during your sessions can be applied outside a holistic therapist’s office. Coping mechanisms like breathing techniques and meditation can help you deal with stress in your daily life. If you’re suddenly triggered by anxiety, stress, or a difficult moment in general, you’re better equipped with the tools you need to navigate tough moments. 
  • Cost: Some research shows that holistic therapy is a cost-effective approach to physical and mental health. 
  • Adaptability: Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness used for stress and anxiety reduction can be easily adapted to other areas of life.
  • Beneficial to both mental and physical health: Deep breathing techniques that are used in holistic therapy have been shown to reduce stress levels while promoting relaxation. Both of these are known to benefit mental and physical health.

“Holistic therapy allows for clients to not ruminate on the particular diagnoses they may be assigned and work to normalize the struggles they are going through. It takes the feeling of being labeled away from the person to allow them to concentrate on how each component of themselves is integrated together and they may better understand how they best function as a whole.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC

How to Find a Holistic Provider 

If you are considering holistic psychotherapy and wondering how to start therapy with a holistic provider, there are a few steps to take so you can confidently begin the process. 

Do your research

Before you select a holistic provider, you want to research them a bit. Ask about training and how much experience they have. Find out if they have a specialty they focus on. Inquire about any associations or professional organizations they might be a part of. You can also ask if they’re affiliated with any hospitals and if they’re board certified by a reputable, credible medical board. 

Learn about the different treatment options available

When starting any therapy technique or a program, it’s important to determine if the treatment approach aligns with your needs. Before beginning, you should ask what a wellness plan includes. Do you have a mental health condition that requires medication in addition to holistic treatment? If so, ask providers how they plan to address all the combined medical factors you’re dealing with. 

Find a licensed therapist

Make sure that you find a licensed holistic therapist to work with. You can ask friends or family for a referral, do an online search, or even reach out to support groups for suggestions. 

Today’s approach to medicine and health is much more inclusive than it once was. By considering the whole person, and the mind-body-spirit connection, you may be able to address aspects of your physical and mental health in a totally new way. Connecting all three components can help you in every facet of your life.

To find a therapist that offers holistic therapy techniques, connect with a therapist today. 

Sources:

1. Shafran R, Bennett S. Interventions to Support Integrated Psychological Care and Holistic Health Outcomes in Paediatrics. Healthcare. 2017;5(3):44. doi:10.3390/healthcare5030044. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/5/3/44. Accessed October 28, 2021.

2. Behan, C. (2020). The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 37(4), 256-258. doi:10.1017/ipm.2020.38. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine/article/benefits-of-meditation-and-mindfulness-practices-during-times-of-crisis-such-as-covid19/076BCD69B41BC5A0A1F47E9E78C17F2A. Accessed October 28, 2021.3.

3. Ma X, Yue Z, Gong Z et al. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017;8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874/full. Accessed October 28, 2021.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

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