The term “holistic” has been trendy for several years. Merriam-Webster defines the term “holistic” as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of or dissection into parts.”
When counseling comes to mind, many people immediately think of correcting faulty thinking, processing emotions or reconciling relationships. What is not commonly recognized is that our soul–made up of our mind, memories, will and emotions–is heavily intertwined with our body, which is made up of our brain, thyroid, gut, immune system and so on. This interrelationship between our bodies and our souls, if not taken into consideration, can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis or ineffective treatment.
For example, say someone presents to counseling with symptoms of depression, and a counselor begins to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a well known, effective treatment for depression. The depression, however, is directly influenced by a problem in the thyroid and not just unhealthy thinking patterns.
Months of therapy could transpire with very little impact on the depression level. The thyroid is a small gland with a big job. When healthy, it secretes hormones and other chemicals, keeping a balance within the body. When unhealthy, it can impact the health of a number of systems in the body, including the emotional system. The best therapy treatment would not work if the thyroid were the culprit of the problem.
When we are considering therapy, a holistic view of counseling is extremely important from the standpoint of body and soul. However, there is another part of every human that should be considered in the holistic counseling treatment. A person is not just body and soul; rather, a person has a body, soul and spirit.
Humans were created with a spirit desiring a relationship with their Creator. The human spirit died when the first man and woman sinned and can only be resurrected through a choice to repent from our soul’s self-serving and detrimental attempts to lead and accept Jesus’s sacrifice for sins. The choice to follow Jesus resurrects the dead spirit inside of us. God places his Holy Spirit inside a person’s spirit to help lead her in relationship with him.
If the therapeutic treatment were to only focus on body and soul, a deeper healing by the Creator Healer himself is overlooked. This treatment is like taking medications for pain, cough medicine for congestion, and vitamins for increased energy when a person has lung cancer. The lung cancer is the problem and should be treated so that the other symptoms will dissipate.
In the same way, when we believe lies about who we are and who God is, our soul remains in control in certain areas of our life. Our soul is selfish, protective and immature at times. It works very hard to keep us from experiencing hurt. How God wants to grow the person through all circumstances in life is missed. Humanity lives in a fallen world. A pain-free life is an impossibility, yet many people expect this kind of life.
A holistic form of counseling–one that looks at body, soul and spirit–will not only work to correct unhealthy thinking, but seek to determine whether the causes are physical and/or spiritual. This counselor will seek the Holy Spirit who works as the facilitator in the counselor and as the change agent in the client. The therapists trust that any client not following Jesus in his or her office is there for a reason.
Counselors follow the guidelines of their licensing board and never push personal beliefs on a client. They trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding conversations and creating opportunities for the client to ask questions. Counseling from the holistic perspective of body, soul, and spirit facilitates deep, lasting healing in the lives of those struggling with what may seem on the outside like only cognitive or emotional issues but, in reality, may be a combination of problems in the body, soul and spirit.