Essential Tools for Whole Person Healthcare: Part 1 of 3

Essential Tools for Whole Person Healthcare: Part 1 of 3

 by Marilyn Schlitz & Elizabeth Valentina


Great strides have been made in the study of whole person healthcare. Integrating body, mind and spirit has become a key dimension of health education, prevention and treatment. Despite many advances in a wide range of holistic approaches, however, our health care system remains primarily disease-centered rather than focused on the well-being of the whole person.

To thrive as individuals and as communities of caring, we are called to develop an appreciation for both the inner wisdom of direct personal experiences of illness and health (your own and your patients), and for scientific and technological developments that may nourish the promotion of health and well-being. To gain insight into some of the basic tools that are used to practice whole person healthcare, a series of interviews were conducted with heath care experts who are at the leading edge of the new model of medicine. We have translated their insights into a series of twelve simple tools.

The series of interviews are available free online from the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Visit the IONS website, create an account (username and password), and when prompted enter passcode (different from “password”) “noetichealing.”

Below are 1 – 4 of the set of 12 tools distilled from these interviews.

Tools 1 – 4

1. Examine you worldview.  As you consider your work and the range of patients you see, it is clear that each of us brings a unique worldview, belief system, and way of understanding what promotes whole person health.  Our worldview offers a lens of perception from which we see everything.  As heath care practitioners, you bring your own beliefs and assumptions to patient care. Diverse healing practices and approaches to wellness can add to the richness of the healthcare process, but it can also add to the complexities as different approaches may come into conflict in the course of any treatment plan. Bringing awareness to these worldviews—your own and others—can aid you in your collaboration with co-works and communication with patients, many of whom may hold a different view of health and healing.  Stop long enough to reflect on your worldview, beliefs, stereotypes, and assumptions.  How might they be limiting you or holding you back? How might they offer new ways to communicate with patients from diverse social and cultural backgrounds?

2. Take an Integral Perspective. The integral model is based on an intuitive understanding of life and reality as an undivided whole.  Seeing yourself and your patients as social, emotional, physical, and spiritual beings can allow for effective and meaningful communication that promotes healing and therapeutic relationships. As a pioneer in holistic nursing and co-founder of the American Holistic Nurse’s Association, Dr. Barbara Dossey, noted: “An integral process is defined as a comprehensive way to organize multiple phenomena of human experience and reality from four perspectives: (1) the individual interior that includes personal and intentional dimensions, (2) the individual exterior, including behavioral and physiological dimensions, (3) collective interior, such as shared cultural meaning, and (4) the collective exterior, that involves the structures and systems in which health care operates… Moving beyond fragmentation, this integral view allows for a greater awareness of the complexities of human nature and healing.”

3. Develop healing relationships. As health practitioners, you are always in relationship; whether to patients, other practitioners, or yourself. As you enhance the relationship with yourself, you find that growth and support for all these partnerships brings about growth and vitality for all.   Enhancing vitality can come from adopting any one of a variety of contemplative practices: meditation, prayer, or connecting with nature. As Dr. Lee Lipsenthal, Founder and former CEO of Finding Balance in a Medical Life noted during an interview: “When we are in true partnership, that’s when real growth happens and that is success in health care.”

4. Healing wisdom comes through deep listening.  Informed by his passion for deep connections, Elliot Dacher, M.D., a pioneer in emerging medicine, encourages engagement in the profound process of listening in the healing relationship.  Developing and growing these capacities, as a life practice, dramatically impacts your ability to be present to another.  In Dacher’s words: “This level of presence and listening brings insight and wisdom to the healing environment.” This point is further developed by nurse educator Dr. Janet Quinn, PhD., who emphasizes that: “real healing is about so much more than the elimination of our signs and symptoms of disease.”

Check back for Part Two, tools 5 – 8.