Wellness Counseling: A Holistic Approach0
My Approach to Counseling
I value a holistic approach to life. I believe in resilience, imagination, creativity, and that people can and do heal, through integration, balance, and, most of all, synergy. This is how I healed, and I really wish to bring that energy to my role as a counselor.
What do I mean by synergy? I mean where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, for instance, I believe healing can begin to unfold in the safe space of a counseling session where the counselor listens to the story the client tells like it is supremely sacred, and, at the same time, models the wholeness the client seeks.
If this experience is then combined with other new, positive experiences in that client’s life, they can move toward the tipping point of change through synergy. It could be whatever else in particular resonates with them in their experiences, even on subconscious or unconscious levels.
I believe people can change and heal in great part because of my own experience in doing so.
I really do believe in the resiliency of the human spirit. I think most people, given enough time, love, and skills can be whole and functioning. I think one of my strengths as a counselor will be in being able to hold sacred space for people for as long as they need in order to at least start the healing process.
Counseling is based on a wellness model. I really like that, and that was a crucial factor in becoming a counselor. I believe that most of us are, as the quote from somewhere goes, only a few adjustments or new skills away from having our lives work.
MY VALUES AND PRIORITIES AS A COUNSELOR
My priorities right now are peace and wholeness. I can see how this might be conducive to certain kinds of clients, but maybe not others who may expect more dramatic reactions from me. I do think a lot of the world seems to operate from a place of drama and survival. So it will be important for me to keep that energy out of my therapy space.
It is interesting because I also subscribe to the Buddhist notion that suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they currently are. So, I can see how I will need to keep at least accepting things and clients exactly as they are as well, whether or not I work with them.
Also, maybe everything unfolds the only way it can? Then again, I believe in the power of the human imagination to improve upon the nature of things as well. I guess that is the duality of the nature of existence anyway: balance between the yin and yang forces in the universe.
It is largely because of my personal experience with trauma that I decided to become a counselor. I have had to deal with some unusual life circumstances such as chronic illness and domestic violence. These experiences have made me strong. They most definitely tested me. I had to go straight through the fire in order to heal. By that I mean I had to allow myself to feel everything that came up, but at the same time let it all burn away too, and find a way to make peace with my past.
Most importantly, I had to learn not to identify with what I experienced. I wish the same thing for my clients. I hope they can realize how strong they are, and to never give up on themselves, no matter what they’ve experienced. This is one of my main priorities as a counselor: to hold that kind of energetic space for my clients.
At the same time, I realize they will have their own agenda and needs as well. I do believe that the client should be in the driver’s seat. But I also believe the role the counselor plays is extremely important. I believe the relationship between the client and the counselor is where change takes place. I will address this topic more toward the end of this paper.
I believe this is the basis for counseling: to help heal and move on from the past. In coaching, we focus on the present. Focusing on the present is always great, but sometimes your past is unresolved and keeps you from being in the present. In a counseling setting, I think resolution of the past plays a role for many clients. But I would never assume to know what is best for them or where their focus should be. That is their choice.
In exploring my personal values, it helped me to realize how many strengths and assets I really do have, many that would be very useful as a counselor. Some of my strengths include empathy, compassion, kindness, being a good listener, intelligence, being genuine, striving for excellence, being mindful and passionate, and exuding peacefulness. I also know a lot about health in general, which is kind of a nice bonus for some people.
I am also great at connecting the dots, or seeing the big picture, or patterns in the big picture and interpreting and integrating what I have seen and experienced from seeing those patterns. Beyond empathy, this may be my greatest strength. I think intuition – or emotional intelligence – plays a role in this trait as well.
Having a strong sense of intuition has been really helpful in wellness coaching. I think it will be an asset of mine in counseling as well. So, I value my values and strengths as hopefully being useful in helping at least a little corner of the world to heal.
WHAT IS MENTAL & EMOTIONAL HEALTH?
I am a huge believer in the mind-body connection. So, to me, even what someone eats can play a role in whether or not they are mentally and emotionally healthy. Your digestive tract looks very much like your brain, and there is definitely a feedback loop – or at the very least some kind of communication – going on between the two.
But I think mindset plays a huge role – maybe the biggest role – in whether or not someone is ultimately “healthy” or not, regardless of the cards dealt them. Whatever your circumstances are, I think achieving self-efficacy in mind is critical and can also be a tipping point toward being and feeling well. I believe a major role of counseling, for me at least, is to help people achieve or at least move toward this sense of self-efficacy or at least peace of mind.
I also think spirituality and/or faith can be really useful in cultivating wellness in certain types of people. To me, faith is also part of synergy, or even what I call coherence. When you feel connected to a bigger picture, health can easefully flow from that connection. Health can then become about something greater than one’s own self. It is about the flow and exchange of energy in general. Health can also just be about showing up: for counseling, life, etc.
HOW DO PROBLEMS DEVELOP?
I believe most problems develop when people get out of balance, whether that due to genetics, themselves, their environment, or even just bad luck. Attributing a problem to bad luck may be a cop out, but I believe luck could possibly play a role, just as serendipity can as well.
I also think stress can play a huge role in whether someone feels well or not. Clinical depression has been shown to involve an up-regulation of the HPA axis, which can lead to depression, due to chronically high cortisol levels.
I believe clients are good people who just happen to have issues or problems they need worked out. I have even read of a case of someone with schizophrenia who was able to use flow coaching technique – to focus on what activity kept her in “flow” or “in the zone” as it were, enough to hold down a steady job and be a functioning member of society. Turns out she loved pedicures. They kept her mind in a flow state of being. So she was able to turn that flow state of mind into a full-time job as a pedicurist.
I don’t believe people are broken and need to be fixed. I will admit I am a little nervous to “diagnose” people, but I understand it is part of the job. I also understand that it will lead to consistency of care, and even benefit the person by leading to the use of evidence based techniques, which is a big part of what we do in coaching as well.
We also seek flow in wellness coaching, which I think could work as well in counseling. As defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi “…flow is the experience people have when they are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake, stretching body and mind to the limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).
Of course, in counseling, this “something difficult and worthwhile” is change itself, in order to have a fuller, richer life. To me, synergy is an extended concept of flow. It’s finding that place where theory meets relationship meets alchemy. I believe that when people focus on what’s going right instead of wrong, allow more positivity into their lives, and even allow the synergy of grace into their lives, they can find that place of flow and begin to change.
HOW I BELIEVE PEOPLE CHANGE
Let’s face it, change is hard. I know how hard it is because I had to do it myself in order to have to have at least managed recovery from a chronic condition. I had to change my diet in ways that most people wouldn’t be too psyched about. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I stay away from sugar, caffeine, chocolate, fried food, refined foods, etc.
I know how hard it is also to find the strength to pull out of an emotional black hole created by the effects of trauma. I know how hard it is to come to the realization that self-worth is inherent, and should not nor can be dependent on outside influences.
Change is a process. People do not change overnight, or in a straight line. There are distinct stages people go through. In wellness coaching, we are aware of the trans-theoretical model, and use it often to determine where someone is on the spectrum of change. People change best when they align with their highest values, in my experience.
To me, what you focus on takes focus. Again, mindset is crucial to changing. This is why mental health is so critical to health overall and why counseling is so needed. From a scientific P.O.V. we have the biggest brains. Whether this was due to design or genetic abnormalities, it doesn’t really matter. Because we have bigger brains, we have to take care of the dominion.
I heard someone say once that counselors are the new priests. I think there is some truth to this, in that counseling may very well be a new form of spiritual practice.
THE SYNERGY OF RELATIONSHIP
To me, counseling is all about the relationship between the client and the counselor. Whether the client is in the driver’s seat or whether it’s a shared space, it’s the sacred space of relating that is the doorway to healing. Relationship reigns supreme, not only in counseling, but in life in general. This relationship can be the one you have with yourself, your parents, friends, co-workers, your coach or counselor, Nature, God, etc. I believe it is in the space between one another that synergy occurs: relationship not only exists, but it allows us to be our genuine selves.
Why does healing happen in the space between relationships? I’m not sure I know why100%, but it is a gut feeling I have. This is where damage occurs as well, so it makes sense that this is where healing would happen as well.
However, as Carolyn Myss says, you must move to a higher level in order to heal. You cannot heal at the same level where you experienced separation. So, while I do believe it is in the spaces between relationship where healing happens, there are other factors involved as well.
One must integrate the positive new experiences one has with a counselor, with other people, etc. So, it’s not just the new, positive interactions that can help one to heal, but the integration and processing of these new interactions.
One must integrate these experiences within one’s own self, which involves free will and the willingness to change and go deep into the interior of the mind and body. Integration takes time, and it involves the synergetic effects of positive new experiences from many different sources.
It is kind of like eating a great meal that has many different flavors and nuances, prepared with great care by someone who loves to prepare food for other people. The synergistic effects of enjoying that meal go way beyond just the ingredients that make up that meal.
I hope to serve as a positive influence for whomever seeks shelter in the safe space of a counseling relationship in order to heal their past and move on to the next level of life.
If you would like to experience wellness counseling, you can contact me either through here, or visit my counseling website.
My wellness counseling website: