A holistic health colleague and I were discussing ways to promote our businesses last week and how to get our messages of wellbeing out to the general public.
What we couldn't decide was whether approaching potential clients from the viewpoint of emotional wellbeing was the best way to share, or if physical wellbeing was better. Why was this a dilemma for us? I think it lies in the fact that we, as therapists, look at wellbeing from a holistic point of view, while mainstream media presents to the public a very "physical symptoms and dis-ease picture" viewpoint.
In researching what the public is searching the internet for, the focus is very much on disease and symptoms labels such as Fibromyalgia, Plantar Faciitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, PTSD, Stress, Back Pain, Menopause symptoms, Cancer, Anxiety Disorder....
While there is no disagreement with the labels, a holistic therapist looks at each client as an individual and how those symptoms are specifically affecting them. How they are feeling, that day, on an emotional and physical level.
When a client comes to see me for a Massage Therapy session and lists their problem as Back pain. I'm assessing, as they move, how the pain is affecting their movement, is their spine appearing to be out of alignment, any signs of swelling or inflammation in the muscles, are they in emotional distress from the pain, what is it keeping them from doing, is it affecting their sleep, are they clenching their jaw or sweating from pain, how are they describing it, what words are they using...
Why so much in the way of assessment? I've probably already seen 3 other clients that day with Back pain and I guess I could treat them each the same way BUT is that really going to be beneficial for each? It might be but likely not. I assess because I want to know how this is affecting their overall holistic wellness and I want to treat them in such a way that all levels of wellbeing are addressed
I may find as I'm workingwith them that the pain began after an emotionally upsetting day. As they talk about this during their session the muscles will often open up and let my hands work out the pain and tension of the emotion. They may cry, laugh, get angry as the loosening muscles allow the emotion to be released...which is wonderful.
While they are likely of the mind that it was the massage that loosened the muscle, I'm more likely to believe that releasing the emotion was much more beneficial.
That was only one of the 3 clients that day with Back pain. What about the other two coming in with completely different circumstances but the same symptoms. Perhaps baby gaining weight is putting excess strain on the pregnant woman's back muscles, or they slept in an awkward position, or the busy teacher is stressed out and clenching their muscles.
That is why so much assessment happens.
So in getting back to the original dilemma around promotion, we wondered how to best get that message across as holistic therapists. I think what we decided was to go for the symptoms and use the language that potential clients understand, and then begin to plant seeds, educate and present the ideas that encompass holistic health and wellness.
That isn't to say we would try to change people. Each person has their own beliefs around health and wellness and what is best for them in the way of therapies. Each individual knows their body far better than I, and their beliefs bring them the holistic wellness they feel comfortable with.
As a therapist, it is up to me to honour and understand, learn from each client and adapt my therapy session to best meet their needs, and at the same time share knowledge about how the body works and it's amazing abilities to heal through holistic wellness.