Holistic Therapy Types: An Overview

Updated June 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Holistic therapy is a type of mental health treatment that addresses a person's mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Instead of treating one aspect of health, it aims to treat the whole person by integrating mind, body, and spirit. 

Holistic therapy practitioners often use complementary and alternative medicine practices alongside traditional therapeutic approaches to provide comprehensive care. Understanding the uses can be a first step in understanding its benefits or whether it would be effective for you. 

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Take a holistic approach to mental health and wellness

What is holistic therapy?

Holistic psychotherapy involves using a combination of traditional and non-traditional therapies with the aim of treating an individual as a unique and whole individual. It may be used to reach a profound healing level by recognizing the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit in which some people believe.

Common holistic therapies include massage therapy, breathwork, and mindfulness practices, which can help promote relaxation and stress relief. Alternative medicine approaches, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, may be helpful in other ways. Through holistic treatments, you can seek alternative approaches that may complement more conventional treatments, such as medication.

Potential benefits of holistic therapy

Holistic therapies can offer various potential benefits to individuals in treating mental health conditions and managing physical discomfort. These therapies aim to promote overall well-being, reduce stress, and enhance one's quality of life by addressing the mind, body, and spirit. Below are further benefits to examine. 

A focus on the body, mind, and spirit 

One of the benefits of holistic therapies is their focus on mind-body-spirit connection. Through various practices, individuals can better understand their physical, emotional, and mental needs. This insight may allow them to better control their well-being and make more informed choices regarding self-care.

Anxiety reduction 

Holistic therapies often combine relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices that reduce stress and anxiety. Techniques like guided imagery, meditation, Tai Chi, and deep breathing exercises can help individuals achieve a sense of calm, improving mental health and overall well-being.

Alternative medicine adaptations 

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods and treatment options often form part of holistic treatment plans, providing clients with additional methods to support their healing. CAM includes practices like nutritional approaches, herbal medicine, yoga, and meditation. Some approaches and alternative therapies, like massage therapy and acupuncture, also focus on alleviating physical pain and discomfort. 

Empathetic care 

Holistic therapists often prioritize empathetic patient care, aiming to hear, understand, and support clients as whole persons. This personalized approach may allow clients to effectively address their mental health conditions or symptoms while receiving guidance based on their personal circumstances. Instead of using one method of therapy, holistic therapists may offer multiple types of therapy at once, sometimes called an “integrative approach.” This approach may be helpful for people living with more than one mental illness or challenge, such as a client with anxiety and depression. 

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Holistic approaches

Holistic therapy approaches have been practiced for thousands of years. In the modern day, they are becoming increasingly popular as many seek natural approaches to health and wellness.

It encompasses various techniques that integrate the mind, body, and spirit to address mental health conditions, physical pain, and stress, among other concerns. The following are examples of holistic approaches that may be used to pursue deeper understanding, healing, and well-being.

Massage therapy

One of the most prevalent holistic approaches is massage therapy. This treatment aims to relieve pain, promote relaxation, and improve circulation by manipulating soft tissues in the body. Different massage techniques, such as Swedish, deep tissue, and hot stone massages, cater to various needs. Massage may be beneficial for people living with various diagnoses, including breast cancer, chronic pain, and inflammation. However, consult your doctor for advice, diagnosis, and medical advice before partaking in massage therapy. 

Mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices in therapy can help individuals become more present and aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are common techniques to develop mindfulness, which can reduce anxiety and stress and boost overall mental health. Stress management can clear the mind, giving individuals the ability to focus more on work, family life, and other personal matters. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one type of therapy, an approach originating in ancient Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. This practice aims to stimulate the body's natural healing processes and balance the energy flow throughout. Acupuncture may treat various physical and mental health conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

Chiropractic care 

Chiropractic care is an approach that involves the manipulation of the spine and other joints in the body. By aligning the body's musculoskeletal structure, chiropractors aim to improve physical function and relieve pain. Chiropractic care may also improve nervous system function and overall well-being.

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine is a holistic approach that uses plant-based remedies to treat various health conditions. This practice has been used for centuries in different cultures worldwide and is often combined with other holistic therapies. Herbal medicine may be used to try to address a range of health concerns, including digestive issues, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Consult a doctor before starting, changing, or stopping an herbal supplementation routine, as some herbs may interact with certain medications, allergies, or health conditions. 

Energy healing

Energy healing is an approach that involves manipulating the energy fields in and around the body to improve health and well-being. Practices like Reiki and therapeutic touch use gentle touch or visualization to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and stimulate the body's natural healing processes. Energy healing can complement other holistic therapies and conventional medicine. 

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques may also be used to promote calm and reduce stress. For example, guided imagery may aid in improving sleep, mood, and relaxation by helping individuals visualize calming scenarios. Similarly, progressive muscle relaxation can assist in identifying and releasing stress by tensing and relaxing different muscle groups.

Holistic psychotherapy

Holistic psychotherapy aims to address the whole person through traditional talk therapy and alternative therapies. Holistic psychotherapy may include approaches like breath therapy, guided imagery, and hypnosis in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy to promote an improved understanding of oneself and mental health outcomes.

Working with holistic therapists

Working with holistic therapists can provide a comprehensive approach when seeking to improve mental and physical well-being. Sessions with a holistic therapist may include various holistic treatment methods tailored to your health concerns. Because some modalities may work better for you than others, reflect on what you're looking to achieve and discuss various options with your therapist. 

What to expect during a session

During sessions, a therapist may use a combination of traditional and alternative therapies. Some commonly used techniques include meditation, guided imagery, and breathwork. As with other types of therapy, individual experiences can vary according to personal needs and preferences. However, this holistic modality often focuses on improving relaxation, reducing stress, and enhancing mindfulness practices. Individuals might also learn new holistic coping mechanisms to manage their mental health conditions better.

How to find an effective therapist

Choosing a holistic therapist requires careful consideration of their qualifications, experience, and support methods. Try to find a therapist experienced in the approaches in which you are interested and whom you believe will best suit your particular needs, and consider the following tips: 

  • Check the therapist's qualifications and certifications in their modality. 
  • Consider the therapist's experience and previous work with clients with similar mental health conditions.
  • Ask about the therapist's approach to treatment, including which techniques they use.
  • Seek recommendations from friends, family, or healthcare providers.
  • Have an initial consultation with the therapist before getting started. 

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Take a holistic approach to mental health and wellness

Alternative therapy options 

While some holistic approaches can only be done in person, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic therapy, a mental health therapist can conduct other forms online. For example, an online holistic therapist may guide you through meditation and talk therapy or use distant Reiki practices. 

Online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may benefit people interested in holistic therapy for stress reduction because it allows clients to receive treatment from the comfort of their homes. This location may reduce the stress of commuting to and from therapy appointments and may help clients feel more relaxed and open during their sessions.  

Research has demonstrated that online interventions like online mindfulness-based therapy "have the potential to contribute to improving mental health outcomes, particularly stress."

Takeaway
Holistic therapy addresses the mind, body, and spirit in a comprehensive approach to promote overall well-being. With holistic psychotherapy, a combination of traditional psychotherapy and non-traditional approaches, such as breathwork and guided imagery, is used to support the individual as a whole person. 

Holistic therapies offer numerous possible benefits, including stress reduction, improved mindfulness, physical pain relief, and empathetic patient care. Online holistic therapy can be a convenient option for some individuals interested in finding new approaches to reduce stress and promote well-being without commuting to an office.

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