The holistic model

by Jenna Robinson

Jenna Robinson's picture
Jenna Robinson

Jenna is a trainee counsellor, having studied for the last three years with the Open University and is about to undertake her next course entitled "Challenging ideas in mental health." She currently works as an online relationship adviser for TheSite.org and a chat moderator where she offers advice and support to 16 to 25 year olds who are often struggling with mental health issues and relationship problems. Jenna has also recently started contributing her advice to Bliss magazine, as well as helping out on Radio 1's The Surgery Facebook page.

Finished an essay on the holistic approach the mental distress, thought I would share some of it; let me know your thoughts....

Today the most prominent model used is the biomedical model. It relies on trained specialists submitting a diagnosis and prescribing treatment most likely to be medication or psychiatry (or both). It treats the symptoms of distress. There are many benefits to this model as it classifies symptoms and conditions and therefore with a clear diagnosis there is usually a treatment which is administrated by an expert dedicated to that condition. The diagnosis gives the illness roots of a physical form. Once the illness is diagnosed the person involved may feel relief to have an explanation and label and therefore feel less responsible for their illness.

Although this approach is measurable, is valid when it comes to training specialists and it manages to treat service users successfully  what I have come to realise from my reading is that there is the danger that the whole person is not treated. The holistic approach is a model that addresses this issue and how it can be useful in explaining the experience of mental health.

The holistic model is made up of five dimensions, emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological and social. At the centre of the model is the person, the service user/survivor. All of these dimensions must be evaluated when considering both the service user’s cause and treatment of mental distress; viewing the person as a whole and not just from the perspective of one dimension or individual parts, it embraces all aspects of the person.

If we look at depression, this is multidimensional and therefore affects the whole person. It affects the body causing tiredness (physical), one’s self-esteem and confidence is reduced which is represented by the emotional and psychological dimensions. One may also not want to be around other people or trust anyone (socially). The illness is multidimensional and therefore the treatment needs to be too. So as well as looking at medication (physical) for a person who is struggling with mental distress, within the holistic model, interventions may also include talking therapy (psychological), strategies on how to build confidence and integrate back into everyday life and how to cope (emotional), the consideration of any specific beliefs or values they may have (spiritual) and also exercise and group or support work may be incorporated (social). None of these dimensions can be ignored; they all have to be considered in order to treat the person as a whole and to make sure they receive the best possible treatment.

Although the holistic model considers the whole of the person and believes all parts of the person are interconnected, some medical practitioners still believe that mental and physical illness should be treated separately and are in no way related. The unfortunate thing though is that the boundaries between disciplines and approaches are strong, there are many specialisms boxed in such as medicine, psychology, philosophy and biology so blending those areas and taking the holistic approach is challenging.

Another challenge when implementing the holistic approach could be that people have certain expectations of psychiatrists, social workers and nurses when they come into contact with a particular service so they may just want them to do their job rather than enquire or try to treat other areas of their lives. However might this not be the client’s choice, if it is explained to them that they wish to treat them in this way. However if the client does not feel comfortable with this then this is their choice and the consequence of this decision should be explained.

The implementation of the holistic model in the experience of mental distress is one that I feel is very useful. It incorporates many facets and dimensions of the person and does not treat or label them as a symptom or diagnosis. However due to the fact that this model wishes to treat the person as unique and as a whole creates challenges, as it is difficult to implement one universal model to be used uniquely on each individual person suffering with mental distress.

Comments

I wholeheartedly agree - have always felt that a holistic approach is most effective, since mental health permeates every area of a person's being.

Brilliant insights - thank you for sharing your essay.

Sarah Myles

Thoughtful and intelligent. Thank you for sharing this. I think that the resources determine the approach taken. By this I mean Time, Cost and Professional qualification and experience. Medication is the cheapest and most used approach. You can find the cost of the drugs in the BNF. Counselling, CBT is more expensive. Clinical psychologists were hard to find. There has been a drive to train nurses, occupational therapists in CBT to treat more people. You can even do it over the phone. You can see the price of the training courses on the net, and the pay scale under the NHS pay scheme. Inpatient: intensive care is the most expensive. Risk: Can people be denied help by working the risk up? The decision to give one or any of these resources is determined by their availability and sometimes people go without the help they need.
What happens if someone is on antidepressants because of stress factors like workplace bullying? Taking antidepressants will not change their situation.
I think in that situation if possible the bullying needs to be reported to a member of staff that can be trusted. The workplace should be able to provide support for bullying and help rectify the problem. You are right, simply taking medication will not get rid of the problem but with help and support and engaging in holistic and talking therapies to alleviate stress it can be stopped. Jenna
Ideally yes, but in many circumstances you will just get sacked if you complain, staff will close ranks against you, make up 'facts', etc etc. I would urge you to spend some time at a magistrates court as it can give you some great insights to add to your counselling training. At court you tend (hopefully!) to get to the truth, which as you know is not that easy.
There are different paradigms for depression: neurotransmitter depletion, learned helpleness.

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