There are a lot of buzz words these days. “Whole person care” is one of them. But, what does that mean?
In the Western world, we tend to “live in our heads,” giving much credence to our thought life and intellect. Although many wonderful innovations have come about due to the use of our mental faculties, there has been a cost. Recall, if you will, the last time you stood in a grocery store line or sat in a doctor’s office for more than just a few minutes. Did you struggle with the quiet? How long did it take for you to reach for your phone?
What about your body? How aware are you of the state of your body? Has anybody ever told you that your ears are really not supposed to be attached to your shoulders? Do you have stomach aches or headaches? Any idea why?
Then, what about you? I mean, you as a whole? How often do you try to compare yourself to others or forget to think (or purposely avoid thinking) about what you need?
The truth is, you are not your brain. You are not your body. You are so much more! Whole person care takes all of this into consideration. There are many ways to conceptualize this, but a common way is to think of yourself in terms of body, mind, and spirit.
Body. It may seem a bit silly to try to define the body. You know it is your brain, organs, skin – the vessel in which you are housed. It is the physical part of you. The part you can touch and quantify. The body houses great wisdom and information and is far, far more intricate and precisely wired than we generally give it credit for being (see Wonderfully Wired). Your body can speak to you and you will benefit if you listen. However, it is not always wise to let brain and body rule.
Mind. What is the mind? Ever thought about it? Dr. Dan Siegel, a forerunner in neuro-psychological research and father of Interpersonal Neurobiology, a relatively new field in psychology, defines the mind as, “The embodied and relational, non-physical entity that regulates the flow of information and energy”. This is the part of you that takes in the signals of the body and brain along with information in the environment (including from others) and uses it to make decisions – when it is called upon to do so. When we put our lives on autopilot and are driven by the body and brain, we may find ourselves in places we do not expect. Ever said, “Why did I do that?” This is an example of when “algorithms and rules” (which is what the brain uses for decision-making) do not work and you need to use your wise mind.
Spirit. Ah…this one can be touchy. There are many definitions of spirit. For this discussion, let us just say that this is the, again, non-physical part of you that makes you unique. Think about it. In all of human history, among the seven billion currently on the planet along with all the other billions who have or ever will live, there is one you. One. Ever. What is it that makes you, you? Is it purely DNA? We know that is not the case. Spirit is also the part of you that reaches beyond you to connect to others in a way particular to you. The drive to belong and to contribute are aspects of the spiritual. It is a great dialectic – as you are enough and capable just as you are and you need others. For health to occur, you need to be treated in concert with your social world, as well.
If you face struggles in any or all of these areas of life, it is important to treat the whole of you. Attending to mind and body with “formulas” or “diagnoses” is not enough when you consider the uniqueness of you. It is not sufficient to feed your brain healthy thoughts if you won’t allow your mind to steer you in healthy directions. If new things or times of trial tend to result in undesirable outcomes, it is better for the driver (or mind) to take control and steer the ship.
Consider the road you are on in life. If you need help navigating, or even determining your particular path (who you are and where you want to go in life), The Center is staffed with people familiar with this journey and are equipped to address the whole of you.
Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Program Coordinator, she is a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-Certified Group Psychotherapist. Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center; A Place of Hope, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.