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Holistic Healing: The Holistic Approach to and Care for Healing

By: Toyoko Yasui, MSN, RN, AHN-BC, OCN, HWNC-BC, Holistic Nurse Coordinator, White Plains Hospital

The Holistic approach views the person or the patient as the whole, as the body-mind-spirit-emotion.

The words holistic and holism originated from the Greek word holos, meaning “whole,” underscoring the holistic approach to care that is aimed at helping a person reach the point of healing –a sense of well-being – even when cure is not reachable.

I have been working as a Registered Nurse for over 35 years and as Holistic Nurse Coordinator since 2014, having built a Holistic Care Service at White Plains Hospital. Our Holistic Care Program provides evidence-based Holistic Integrative modalities which complement conventional medical care, including Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Guided Imagery, Meditation, Relaxation techniques, Aromatherapy, Gentle massage (‘M’ technique), and Reflexology. 

The benefits of holistic care originate in the holistic view and approach. Recognizing the patient as the whole, not as body parts or symptoms, but as the body-mind-spirit, holistic nursing aims to help both patients and their family members promote their health, cope with their illness, manage symptoms, such as pain and stress, and improve their feelings of well-being. As research also shows, holistic care modalities help patients maximize the benefits of conventional medicine; when relaxed and well-rested, patients are more receptive to treatment, thus, reaching better outcomes.

Pain management and stress management are major conditions that holistic and integrative care can assist. Regardless of their diagnosis or conditions, no one wants pain; pain management is multidimensional, and is associated with such other symptoms as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Integrative holistic therapies that our program offers, when added to existing conventional treatments for patients, can promote relaxation and may relieve and change the perception of pain, even for a moment, thereby contributing to their healing process. Please note that holistic and integrative care are not a substitute for your current medical care.

Services at White Plains Hospital (WPH)are also available for caregivers, including patients’ family members and the hospital staff. Stress management for caregivers, including staff, is essential to create a safe, effective healing environment. Currently, the offerings at WPH are only available – free of charge – for inpatients and outpatients at the White Plains Hospital Center for Cancer Care and at the newest outpatient facility, the Center for Advanced Medicine & Surgery (CAMS). 

Holistic modalities introduced here can promote relaxation response, which is the opposite of stress response (“Fight or Flight”), activating the parasympathetic nerve system to relax your body and mind. They may lower your stress hormone levels, such as steroid and catecholamine, normalize blood pressure and heart rate, and support gastrointestinal function while promoting calming hormones such as serotonin and melatonin. All modalities can help to release good feeling hormones, such as endorphin. It can elevate your mood while nurturing your body and mind, thereby assisting a person to de-stress, boost the immune system, and promote well-being. 

Energy work is excellent for anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, pain, and well-being. Gentle foot massage helps peripheral neuropathy and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, which may be extremely painful and uncomfortable. In visiting the patient, if they are awake, I always start with deep breathing exercises and practice together, which, upon their discharge, helps the patient practice at home when feeling stressed.

Holistic integrative modalities and therapies we offer at the Hospital include the following:

Healing Touch (energy work) uses touch to influence the human energy system, specifically the energy field within and surrounding the body and the energy centers that control the flow from the energy field to the physical body. The non-invasive techniques utilize the hands to clear, energize, and balance the human and environmental energy fields, thus affecting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and healing.

Reiki (energy work) is a form of touch in which a qualified REIKI practitioner places their hands on the patient to assist in achieving relaxation, peace, and stress reduction to enhance a patient’s sense of well-being and aid in the alleviation of physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort. Reiki supports the philosophy that the body has a natural ability to heal itself.

Therapeutic Touch® (energy work) is holistic, evidenced-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being, enabling a person to repattern their energy in the direction of health, reduction of pain and anxiety, promotion of relaxation, and facilitation of the body’s natural restorative processes.

Guided Imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of imagination. Using internal experiences of memories, dreams, fantasies, and visions with the use of one or more senses, you can create a relaxing scene, mental retreat, or mental rehearsal. It can be used alone or combined with Deep Breathing and/or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. A pleasant image can often be generated by a person, own imagination, or recorded materials. 

Meditation is a body-mind-spirit experience. Originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions, meditation uses certain techniques, such as a specific posture, focused attention, and an open attitude towards distractions, to increase calmness and physical relaxation, improve psychological balance, cope with illness, and/or enhance overall health and well-being. 

‘M’ technique (gentle touch/massage), suitable for anyone to touch someone who wants to be touched, may be applied to Hands, Feet, Back, Face, or a whole body. It uses a series of stroking movements performed in a set sequence at a set pressure and a set pace, used for stress reduction, and is much lighter than conventional massage. Gentle stroking soothing movement is beneficial and safe for anyone who wants to be touched.

Aromatherapy utilizes essential oils extracted from aromatic plants to enhance health and well-being. It can be used for self-care and enhance a patient’s sense of well-being by alleviating discomfort while creating a healing environment.

Reflexology applies gentle pressure/touch to points on the feet, hands, ears, and face that are thought to correspond to other structures and organs running throughout the body. Several studies indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, and enhance relaxation and sleep.

In addition, WPH also offers and teaches relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercisesand Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).

If you are new to the holistic and integrative therapies introduced above, I encourage you to start with deep breathing exercises, using your abdominal muscles, and/or meditation. Even for just a few minutes each day, deep breathing exercises and/or meditation can promote relaxation and well-being. Many apps are available through your phone or computer. 

The White Plains Hospital Holistic Care team offers modalities based on each patient’s conditions/symptoms and, importantly, preferences. While all the holistic modalities can promote relaxation in patients, we respect the patient’s preference that some prefer to be touched while others do not. 

You may not change the reality of illness/symptoms, but holistic therapies can help you change within yourself to manage and deal with your stress or pain more effectively and promote your sense of well-being, allowing you to actively engage in your care and healing process. Holistic integrative modalities may restore and promote well-being through connecting body-mind-spirit-emotion. At White Plains Hospital, we safely provide our patients with the highest quality care with both High Tech and High Touch. 

If you would like to get in touch with the WPH Center for Cancer Care or learn more about these modalities, please call 914-681-2049, or go to the WPH website at www.wphospital.org.

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