Healing the Whole Person: The New Wellness Paradigm


People today are taking proactive charge of their health and wellness. Rather than seeing illness or disease as inevitable or something they need to "prevent," people are recognizing their innate well-being, as well as their inherent ability to optimize it. No longer are they relying solely upon the directives, diagnoses, assessments, and advice from "experts" to determine and discern what constitutes well-being and health.

This trend does not necessarily mean that traditional, allopathic modalities and care are being rejected in favor of the alternative and non-traditional approaches, but rather that people are assuming an ever-greater role in their own self-care, truly embracing the mission and experience of integrative health and wellness. In essence, people are becoming their own experts. When combined with catalytic support of like-minded professionals, a client’s self-empowering energy allows them to determine and fully realize their optimal wellness potential.

What constitutes well-being and health? It all depends upon who poses the question and who responds to it. More than ever before, wellness is being identified from an individual, case-by-case perspective. What is considered "well" or "unwell" can vary greatly from person to person, professional to professional, situation to situation, and often, moment to moment. As people and their lives are constantly in a state of fluid change, so is their relative wellness. Wellness, too, is an evolving continuum, rather than something fixed, static, or finite. As such, the whole person is one who experiences ongoing, self-empowered life healing, rather than receiving fixes, cures, or prescribed treatments and solutions.

How do you define or measure wellness? What does well-being and health mean to you? How are you when you feel healthy or in a state of well-being? What have you done to contribute to your own wellness? What needs to happen for you to continue experiencing well-being?

Using the metaphor of a meal, there have been and continue to be many different models and approaches from which to choose when taking a proactive approach to your well-being. Allopathic or traditional perspectives have come to represent a traditional "main course," while the terms "alternative" or "non-traditional" have taken on roles as "side dishes" that are distinctly separate from their traditional "entree" counterparts. In time, these "side dishes" have risen to states of higher visibility, presence and greater acceptance. What cannot be ignored, however, is the far-reaching potential and capacity of our "new dining experience" in wellness: the complete "buffet" of integrative wellness.

By opening up one’s mindset to the array of choices offered by the most comprehensive "buffet" available, one need not be restricted to one modality over or instead of another. No longer would health, wellness, or healthcare be compartmentalized-any more than the people who experience it would wish to be labeled or placed in categories, especially for problems or issues that can be fluid or fleeting in nature.

It is up to clients as both "diners" and "creative chefs" to assert themselves and their role no matter which perspective they choose to adopt or which modality they choose to utilize. Being one’s own best expert entails the active involvement of both client and professional, and most importantly, both parties’ respect of each other’s unique role in the equation of their partnership.

So, where do the directives, diagnoses, assessments and advice of the old paradigm of "experts" versus clients fit in this new paradigm of healing the whole person? If the intentions, processes and approaches are holistic and consider the many facets, complexities and fluid nature of people’s selves and lives, then their places have a beneficial place at the "table." If, however, these tools are reflective of a power differential that places the client in dependency, or without the ability to contribute his or her perspective, they fall short of their holism, and fail to truly nourish anyone.

When it comes to holistic wellness, everyone has a seat at the table-and the right to decide for themselves what they wish to consume, digest, and assimilate each and every time. As professionals, we are catalysts who elicit the self-empowerment response within our clients to be their own experts. As clients, it behooves us to seek out wellness professionals who recognize our internal expertise, and who partner with us as we self-generate the most appropriate modality or path for our unique individual life situation at that moment in time.

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