Wellness is no longer defined by the health of our physical body alone. The level of awareness about the importance of our physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental health has steadily increased. Having a good holistic health definition is an important step toward understanding the holistic challenges and benefits created by this new perspective. 

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) holistic health definition says it is “a concept that medical practice, in the prevention and treatment of disease, should focus on the whole person—including physical, mental, spiritual, social, and environmental aspects—rather than on disease symptoms alone.” When this approach is used, patients are educated about their mindset, behaviors, diet, exercise, and other aspects of their life that impact their overall wellbeing. Behavior modification techniques are encouraged alongside conventional medicine to care for the whole person. 

Another commonly accepted holistic health definition is one that considers a person’s body, mind, and soul (or spirit) to support health and wellbeing. A person is viewed through these three dimensions that interact with one another. Additionally, rather than treating diseases, holistic health seeks to proactively prevent medical problems before they occur. Alternative medicine is often used to support wellness and includes a broad range of support like: 

  • chiropractic
  • herbalism
  • massage
  • energy work (reiki)
  • therapy
  • yoga/meditation
  • acupuncture
  • physical therapy
  • general western medicine
  • nutrition
  • personal training

No matter which holistic health definition is used, it most often includes support for five primary areas of health: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental. Treating the complexity of each of these separate areas of our being is challenging because of how they interact with one another. A problem in one area often impacts the others.

Integrative medicine is another commonly used word for holistic health and is a good descriptor of the holistic challenges of treating the body as a whole. If healthcare providers are expected to treat the whole body, they are often ill-equipped to do so. Here are 3 challenges of providing holistic health care.

Lack of training

Most often, medical practitioners have not been trained in all of the areas needed to integrate body, mind, and soul into a whole, functioning person. With education that emphasizes the physical body, physicians are generally not adequately equipped to treat emotional, social, spiritual or mental health issues.

Coordination of care

Another holistic health challenge is the coordination of care that’s necessary to provide the best wellness experience. Specialized providers are best suited to provide necessary care and this can be challenging for both providers and patients. Scheduling and treatment planning requires coordination and consensus.

Limited insurance coverage

Lack of coverage is an ongoing holistic challenge created by integrated care. Traditional medical treatment is covered while some of the less conventional treatments are not, leaving the patient with difficult financial decisions. In the end, holistic health care in its purest form isn’t affordable for everyone.

No matter what holistic health definition resonates with you or whether or not you pursue it through formal medical services, you can tend to your health today with these 6 tips to improve holistic health