Wholeness Focused Therapy vs Pathology Focused Therapy

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Pathology Focused approach seeks to remove sickness, leaving people un-sick.

Wholeness focussed approach seeks to facilitate increasing levels of wholeness, finding people heal as they live more fully, leaving them living a more connected & fulfilling life.

To do this I work with models of human wholeness & development that seek to balance 4 aspects of human wholeness (Heart Centred Thinking, Full-bodied Feeling, Full Presence Sensing & Deep Imagination), while also understanding our connection to what unites us as humans & also what makes us unique as individuals. These models incorporate the best of modern psychological understanding with millennia of wisdom from nature-based peoples from around the world and incorporate the human need to be connected to both nature & culture. Seen through this lens many common modern mental & emotional health ailments are clearly imbalances or lacks of fundamental facets of human wholeness &/or disconnection from self, nature & culture. This larger frame of reference, locating the individual in nature and culture, is a far broader approach to merely trying to change how someone thinks or feels about themselves or their experiences, which equips them to live past their difficulties into a fuller life of meaning, self understanding and purpose. These Models are large enough to be inclusive of a person’s meaning making system (religious, spiritual or philosophical).

Traditional approaches to Therapy tend to be pathology focused in that they focus on the presenting issue or what is wrong to try and remove that “pathology” (thoughts, behaviours or emotions). This is very understandable as psychotherapy has its origins in Psychiatry and the medical model of trying to make the sick well again. This is a worthy ambition but we live in a time where our society is seeing more and more people diagnosed with a growing number of pathological, psychological disorders (Current DSM V has 30% more Disorders listed than its earlier counterpart the DSM IV), and no real signs that our decades of increasing psychological understanding are making our societies any more psychologically healthy (statistics in fact showing a disturbing trend the other way).

In more recent times we have gotten rid of the term mental illness in preference for the term Mental Health, but in reality the pathology focused model is still really dealing with mental illness, so a wholeness focused approach actually offers a practical way to put this good intention into action.

Isolating individual pathology to work directly on them might work well enough with physical health, but with such a complex system as Mental & emotional health, where the way the limbic system interacts with sensory input to create all manner of subtle neurochemical responses and adjustments, in turn effecting emotions, mood, levels of arousal & therefore thoughts & behaviours, there needs to be a more big picture whole of situation approach; a different system for mental health compared to physical health, if you like.

There is a good analogy in science already for the need for different systems for a similar process; colour mixing. There are 2 systems of colour mixing that are similar & yet almost opposite, and it depends on what it is you are mixing colour of. One is the mixing of paint(subtractive system) & the other is for mixing light (Additive system).

To mix paint colours, which most people learned about in their early years, we use the subtractive system, Primary colours of Yellow, Blue & Red = where Blue & Yellow make green & Red and Yellow Make Orange etc, & the absence of colour is white.

Whereas to mix light the primary colours are Yellow, Cyan & Magenta & the presence of all three in equal measure brings White and the absence of colour is Black. This system is how computer screens and projectors work.

So we have the same task => Mixing Colour, but a different context; Paint or Light. Providing a different system. With paint we address the colour directly adding shades and tones & primary colours to directly effect the outcome, but mixing light is more about getting the balance right.

And so there is the analogy: The pathology based (medical model) is the subtractive (paint) system of colour mixing taking, away the wrong colours to get the colour right (health). Whereas Mental & Emotional health (using a wholeness focused approach) are the Additive (Light) system of colour mixing adding more of the right colour to bring health.

Perhaps the clue was there all along with the fact that a psychological break through could be described as enlightenment 🙂

(this is really a whole other piece on the issue of reducing mental health down to a chemical imbalance in the brain and more importantly naively thinking that we can tinker with this complex system)

It has to be a little naïve to think that selectively tinkering with the levels of one neurochemical can fully address the complex interplay of the human limbic system. Where emotions, memory & arousal are regulated by these various structures of the brain on a continual feedback loop affecting all neurochemistry. It is little wonder that many people whose only treatment for mood disorders like anxiety & depression is pharmaceutical through SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) find some relief at first, but then go on to need increasingly higher doses to experience the same effects as their limbic system works against the medication if there is still things within the persons life to trigger a limbic fight, flight or freeze response. Whether it be unprocessed past trauma response or the inability to process & Experience emotions there are many factors that can be better addressed by increasing a persons access to facets of their wholeness.

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