Types of Holistic Health Practices

April 24, 2024

Discover types of holistic health practices, from TCM to WMHP, for a balanced approach to well-being.

Holistic Health Practices

Holistic health practices encompass a broad range of therapies and approaches aimed at treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of illness. Among these include alternative medicine, complementary therapies, natural healthcare, and integrative medicine, all of which fall outside of conventional pharmaceutical or surgical treatments.

Understanding Holistic Healthcare

Holistic healthcare is a philosophy that treats not only the physical aspects of health but also considers the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components. This approach believes that illness and injury often represent an imbalance among these elements, and achieving wellness requires addressing them in tandem.

One of the key characteristics of holistic healthcare is its focus on various disciplines, religions, and cultures to heal individuals, communities, and even the environment. Holistic health practitioners often draw from cultural roots and specific traditions such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Indigenous healing practices to minimize pain, alleviate symptoms, and promote spiritual renewal and community engagement.

Complementary and alternative therapies, now termed integrative therapies, are increasingly offered in clinics and hospitals across the country. This reflects a growing acceptance and utilization of such practices [1]. Integrative healthcare aims to combine conventional therapies with holistic healing practices to provide patients with the best of both worlds. This promotes collaboration between providers for optimal patient outcomes [1].

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has historically categorized holistic healing practices into five groups. This aids in understanding the key characteristics of different therapies or practices [1]. It's crucial, however, to assess the safety and effectiveness of both conventional and holistic therapies within an integrative healthcare plan, weighing the risks, benefits, and evidence of each therapy to determine its suitability.

Thus, the journey in understanding the various types of holistic health practices begins with a deeper appreciation of its core philosophy. It is a holistic approach to healing that respects the interconnectedness of all aspects of human health and seeks to promote wellness by addressing them in a balanced and integrated manner.

Types of Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies, also known as alternative medicine, complementary therapies, and natural healthcare, are a diverse range of healing practices that move beyond pharmaceutical or surgical treatments. These can include practices like massage, meditation, and acupuncture, which are aimed at treating the whole person [1]. There are various types of holistic health practices, but a fundamental distinction lies in the Eastern and Western approaches to holistic health.

Eastern vs. Western Approaches

Eastern and Western holistic practices differ in their philosophies, diagnosis methods, and treatment techniques.

Eastern medicine, which includes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), focuses on treating the person as a whole, encompassing mind, body, and spirit. The approach aims to diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases holistically, considering imbalances in the person's body rather than specific symptoms. Eastern medicine emphasizes prevention and utilizes alternative treatments like acupuncture and tai chi.

On the other hand, Western holistic practices also focus on the whole person but typically rely on diagnosing based on symptoms and utilizing medications for treatment. While it's not uncommon for Western medicine to include holistic therapy in treatment plans, the general approach is more focused on symptom management.

Approach Philosophy Diagnosis Treatment
Eastern Whole-person treatment Examines the entire body with a focus on imbalances Acupuncture, Tai Chi, Herbal Medicine
Western Whole-person treatment Focuses on symptoms Medication, Surgery, Psychotherapy

Despite the differences, both Eastern and Western holistic approaches have proven benefits. For instance, acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique, has been found effective in treating nonspecific lower back pain and, when combined with medical treatment, it was more effective than stand-alone medical approaches.

In conclusion, the choice between Eastern and Western types of holistic health practices often depends on individual preferences, beliefs, and specific health conditions. It's important to consult with healthcare professionals and consider all factors before choosing a holistic therapy.

Integrative Medicine

The holistic health landscape has expanded tremendously over the years, encompassing a variety of approaches to wellness that go beyond traditional healthcare. One such approach is integrative medicine, which aims to unite conventional and holistic therapies for a comprehensive treatment plan.

Combining Conventional and Holistic Therapies

Integrative medicine stands as a testament to the increasing acceptance and utilization of holistic health practices within the conventional healthcare framework. By bringing together alternative medicine, complementary therapies, and conventional treatments, it offers a balanced approach to health and wellness. This approach is characterized by a focus on the whole person, considering all aspects of their health, and a commitment to using all appropriate therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has historically categorized holistic healing practices into five groups. Understanding the characteristics of these different types of holistic health practices can provide valuable insight when creating an integrative healthcare plan.

Category Examples
Whole medical systems Homeopathy, naturopathy
Mind-body interventions Meditation, yoga
Biologically based treatments Herbal medicine, dietary supplements
Manipulative and body-based methods Massage therapy, chiropractic care
Energy therapies Acupuncture, Reiki

When integrating conventional and holistic therapies, it's vital to assess the safety and effectiveness of each therapy. This involves weighing the risks and benefits and considering the available evidence to determine the most suitable treatment options. In this way, integrative medicine promotes collaboration between providers, ensuring that patients receive the best of both conventional and holistic care.

In summary, integrative medicine embodies the holistic approach to healthcare, combining the strengths of conventional and holistic therapies to provide comprehensive care. It represents a significant shift in our understanding and approach to health and wellness, emphasizing the importance of viewing health as a holistic concept.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a significant branch of Eastern medicine, which adopts a holistic approach in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. As one of the various types of holistic health practices, TCM emphasizes the balance within a person's body and focuses on prevention through alternative treatments.

Principles and Treatments

The principles of TCM revolve around an understanding that the human body is a complex system of interconnected parts. Rather than focusing solely on symptoms, TCM practitioners diagnose diseases by examining the entire body, with a particular focus on any imbalances. These imbalances are often seen as disruptions in the flow of Qi, or life energy, throughout the body. The goal of TCM is to restore this balance, promoting overall health and wellness.

In terms of treatments, TCM employs a range of therapies. Acupuncture, for example, is a popular form of TCM treatment that has been found effective in managing conditions such as nonspecific lower back pain. When combined with conventional medical treatment, acupuncture was found to be more effective than stand-alone medical approaches [3].

Another form of TCM treatment is Tuina, a manual therapy similar to massage. This therapy has shown effectiveness in treating conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. When combined with routine medical treatment, patients experienced superior improvement over those who had routine medical treatment alone [3].

Treatment Effectiveness Treatment Used For
Acupuncture Effective for nonspecific lower back pain Combined with medical treatment
Tuina Effective for irritable bowel syndrome Combined with routine medical treatment

These therapies, among others, highlight the unique approach of TCM in managing health, focusing not just on the physical symptoms but considering the person as a whole. This holistic approach, considering the mind, body, and spirit, is what sets TCM apart from many Western medical practices.

Workplace Mental Health Promotion (WMHP)

As one of the types of holistic health practices, Workplace Mental Health Promotion (WMHP) is an approach that focuses on promoting mental health and well-being in the workplace. This approach is based on the principles of the WHO model and involves strategies that aim to create a positive and supportive work environment.

Strategies and Initiatives

Good practices for WMHP are aligned with the principles and the five keys of the WHO model. Examples include the engagement of all stakeholders and representatives, science-driven practice, dissemination of good practice, continual improvement, and evaluation. Actions to inform policies/legislation, promote education on psychosocial risks, and provide better evidence are suggested for higher WMHP success [4].

WMHP initiatives are based on psychosocial risk assessment and management, employee empowerment, and the development of personal health resources. These initiatives support the objectives of the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, which include promoting work participation, promoting safe and supportive working conditions, and reducing stigmatization and discrimination [4].

A major challenge in WMHP is the lack of coordinated preventive action. Education and awareness are needed to understand the impact and cost of poor mental health. A holistic approach that incorporates psychosocial aspects and explores possible psychosocial risks in the workplace is crucial for future success in promoting mental health at work [4].

The table below summarizes the key strategies and initiatives for WMHP:

Strategies and Initiatives Description
Engagement of all stakeholders and representatives Encourages involvement of everyone in the organization to create a supportive work environment
Science-driven practice Uses scientific evidence to guide the implementation of WMHP initiatives
Dissemination of good practice Shares successful practices across the organization to promote mental health
Continual improvement and evaluation Regularly assesses the effectiveness of WMHP initiatives and makes necessary improvements
Informing policies/legislation Advocates for policies and legislation that promote mental health in the workplace
Promoting education on psychosocial risks Raises awareness about the psychosocial risks in the workplace and how they can impact mental health
Employee empowerment Empowers employees to take care of their mental health and to seek help when needed
Development of personal health resources Provides resources to support the mental health of employees

These strategies and initiatives exemplify a holistic approach to mental health promotion in the workplace, highlighting the importance of considering all aspects of an individual's health and well-being.

Holistic Health Practitioners

Holistic health practitioners play a pivotal role in promoting health and well-being by treating the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. They focus on preventive care and patient education, and their roles and specialties can vary significantly. In this section, we'll take a closer look at two types of holistic health practitioners: naturopathic physicians and nutritionists.

Roles and Specialties

Naturopathic Physicians

Naturopathic physicians follow a holistic health model, spending considerable time with patients to understand the larger context of their health. Initial appointments typically last between one and two hours, with subsequent appointments lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. This allows them to gather a comprehensive understanding of the patient's health and lifestyle, enabling them to provide a more personalized and effective treatment plan [2].

These practitioners must complete at least four years of education in biomedical sciences and natural approaches to health. Their training program includes a minimum of 4,100 hours of class and clinical training. Naturopathic physicians made a median annual wage of $100,300 in 2021.

Practitioner Average Appointment Time Education Median Annual Wage (2021)
Naturopathic Physicians 1-2 hours (initial appointment), 30-60 minutes (subsequent) 4 years of education in biomedical sciences and natural approaches, including at least 4,100 hours of class and clinical training $100,300


Nutritionists with a foundation in holistic health education play a vital role in improving health by helping individuals, families, and communities improve their diet and nutrition. They can provide valuable advice on how to use nourishing foods to support health and well-being [2].

To become Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS), professionals need an advanced degree, supervision experience, and must pass a certification exam. The median annual wage for nutritionists was $61,650 in May 2021.

Practitioner Role Education Median Annual Wage (2021)
Nutritionists Provide advice on diet and nutrition to support health and well-being Advanced degree, supervision experience, and passing a certification exam to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) $61,650

In summary, both naturopathic physicians and nutritionists play essential roles in the field of holistic health, providing comprehensive and personalized care to support individuals' overall health and well-being. Their expertise is integral to the success of different types of holistic health practices, as they offer a more balanced and whole-person approach to healthcare.


[1]: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/western-vs-eastern-medicine

[2]: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-are-holistic-practices

[3]: https://www.stkate.edu/healthcare-degrees/what-is-holistic-health

[4]: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/western-vs-eastern-medicine

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4682024/