Thanks be to God that today through great discoveries and breakthroughs in the fields of science and technology, psychology, religion and spirituality just to name a few, life has greatly improved. However, there is still much to be desired especially in the area of healing. What is becoming real for us now is not just the need for healing but holistic healing. The drive for holistic healing has become a very important area of pursuit today. This is informed by the limitations of biomedical approaches to illnesses, human behaviour modification and diseases prevention and control. Hence, George Engel proposes the biopsychosocial model to understand medicine, human behaviour and disease (Egunjobi, 2016). Furthermore, there is constant call for the inclusion of spirituality by patients and clients during the course of treatment. This was not included by George Engel. However, people are becoming increasingly aware that they are psycho-spiritual beings made up of body, mind, soul and spirit and this has necessitated the inclusion of spirituality in treatment and counselling approaches today (Garfolo, 2015). Thus, this approach informs holistic healing to be precise.
Therefore, what is holistic healing? Before we define holistic healing, let us revisit the definition of health by the World Health Organisation. It says health is “A complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Notice that before the push for holistic healing, healing was only sought for one aspect of the definition of health above – physical healing. Therefore, holistic healing is a healing process that takes care of the whole person by addressing the core dimensions of the human person – body (physical), mind (mental, emotional and social or psychosocial) and soul (spiritual). The three are not understood as separate entities. Before now, it was like that and it defines the shortcoming of conventional health and healing practices. It sees a human being as a physical entity (body) without taking into consideration the mind and the soul/spirit. Talking of healing the body alone is to dwell so much on the bodily dysfunctions as against the mind which is to offer positive thoughts that are informed by goals and the soul/spirit which is responsible for our connectedness with God, meaning, a sense of purpose and the transcendental world. The goals of holistic healing are to create a balance at all levels of our human person – body, mind and soul/spirit, to heal our relationships, to respect and sustain our environment, to fulfill our purpose in life and to connect ourselves with the higher power – God.
There are key principles that drives holistic healing: first, our wellness rest mostly on unconditional love and support from our relationships with people because we are wired for the community. Secondly, we have innate healing abilities that we do not know let alone utilize. Thirdly, holistic healing focuses on the root causes of health challenges and not simply on symptoms. Fourthly, treatment is based on a team work (drawing skills and help from different experts) and finally, the human person is not a disease, even in his/her vulnerabilities, life force in him/her makes a difference.
Lastly, we need to identify some immediate techniques that could support holistic healing. They include the self-education and self-care of patients/clients on the importance of dieting appropriately, engaging in exercises, psychotherapy, psycho-spiritual therapy and counselling, building and sustaining healthy relationships. Other techniques are the applications of complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, massage therapy, naturopathy, and so forth. Then, the place of Western diagnostic, medications and surgical procedures are never to be neglected.
The gospel passage of Mark 1:40-45, the story of leprosy and a leper who approached Jesus Christ for healing is a perfect example of holistic healing. After the leper approached Jesus, what happened? He experienced healing on all the core dimensions of life: physically he was cleansed of his leprosy (Mark 1:42), mentally and emotionally he was freed from isolation, exclusion, segregation and marginalization (Mark 1:40-41, 45) and spiritually he was connected back to the community and God when Jesus said to him “Go, and show yourself to the priest” (Mark 1:44). Please read more and appreciate the place of holistic healing in your spiritual life. Health is wealth!
A diagram to illustrate the parameters of holistic health and healing. www.my-holistic-healing.com
Fr. John-Mary Atep.