Holistic Massage Therapy
The journey of a holistic approach
Working from a holistic, integrative perspective, the body is viewed as a reflection of the whole person and of all lived experiences. The body is the "home" of emotions (including the non-conscious dynamics), belief systems and spiritual expression. Many health care professionals have intuited this early on in their work and thankfully, we now have the science to better appreciate the mind body connection.
Being "holistically informed" directs the treatment. The therapist does not limit his or her interest to the state of the body but also the joys and challenges that are going on in the client's life. This let's the therapist know what resources the client has, as well as, any ongoing stressors that may impede the healing process. They in effect, direct the way the treatment unfolds.
In this case, the therapist invites treatment intention by asking: "If you and I were successful what would change for you?" She begins a dialogue of inquiry that touches on many aspects of her client's life. The answer to her questions informs where the client might be starting and the expectations held.
Take this example...
When we were writing this article, Erika referred to hip pain that would periodically arise from out of nowhere. She attempted to relieve the pain through stretching, physical therapy and movement practices like yoga.
A cycle of healing and repair went on for years. Despite that she had an excellent physical therapist and was motivated to reduce the pain, her hip would go out without warning. In other words, her hip would go into contraction outside of her awareness.
Nonetheless, it wasn't until she began to increase her capacity for awareness did the pattern became evident. She did so through body psychotherapy.
With each step towards greater awareness, the breadth of the holding pattern became evident. She discovered that whenever she was approached around her head by a dentist, a health care worker or even her hairdresser, it triggered a contraction in her hip. She'd find herself sitting only on her right hip. It was an ancient pattern.
And once she became aware of the pattern and was not afraid of the discharge, her yoga practice became a tool for healing. Without this awareness her previous experience of yoga did not have the same impact.
Until she was ready to have this awareness she had to rely on outside help to deal with the contraction and subsequent tissue and nerve pain...unitl her next visit to the hairdressor, the dentist or when she became anxious. Only with a wider awareness to the pattern was she able to interrupt it.
You see, it was initially too painful to have that awareness. She needed to learn how to titrate and shift body states, how to access resources, how to contain and tolerate high states of arousal and how to discharge. These enabled her to move through the underlying physiological responses of fight/flight/freeze that were holding the pattern in place.
Through her therapy she was able to recognize the pattern and identify how an early surgery played out the pain tension cycle in her body. The trauma of a long ago surgery had ramifications that were being felt today.
Now she says she can sit at the dentist or hairdresser and can release it immediately the moment it starts.
The limitations of a Western medicine model
The essential initial task is for the therapist to meet the client where he or she is at. Many clients approach physical problems from a Western medicine perspective, one of symptom reduction and specialization. In western cultures much of the health care system is organized this way.
Here's what I mean.
Working with a client the therapist concludes from several of her client's responses that there is a strong belief in a Western medicine approach: In essence, it's as if the client is saying, "I want you to fix my shoulder". In this case, the client might also be saying that her belief is that the body can be manipulated in such a way that healing is automatic.