What You Need to Know About the Holistic Approach to Mental Health

Approximately 1/5 of adults in the United States (that works out to about 51.5 million people) live with some kind of mental illness. Are you one of them?

Do you need help managing your mental health? Are you want to do it in a more holistic, well-rounded way?

If you’re curious about taking a holistic approach to mental health care, keep reading. Outlined below is everything you need to know about holistic care and the benefits it has to offer.

What Is the Holistic Approach to Mental Health?

A holistic approach to mental health involves taking various factors into account, rather than just treating the symptoms of your mental illness. In other words, instead of just writing you a prescription for anti-anxiety drugs and sending you on your way, a holistic practitioner will dig deeper and try to get to the bottom of why you’re feeling so anxious.

They’ll assess the specific symptoms you’re experiencing, but they’ll also factor in your ecosystem and the impact it has on your mental health. In this context, the term “ecosystem” describes all the outside elements of your life, such as your family interactions, your job, your community, your friend group, etc.

Holistic treatments will evaluate the way these different systems intersect. A therapist will then work with you to create an individual treatment plan customized to your unique situation.

Examples of a Holistic Medicine for Mental Health

There are many different holistic practices that therapists may recommend to address mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. The following are some popular examples:

Lifestyle Changes

Often, therapists who take a holistic approach will address your lifestyle and certain behaviors that may be impacting your mental health (for better or for worse). They may recommend changes like increased exercise or a more nutrient-dense diet. They’ll likely talk about positive changes you can make to your sleep routine and social life, too.

These kinds of lifestyle changes might seem too simple to be effective. In reality, though, can often have a significant impact on anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. This is especially true when they’re combined with other practices.  


Another practice that a holistic therapist might recommend is meditation. They might teach you specific meditation techniques, or they might simply encourage you to spend some time each day sitting quietly and focusing on your breath.

Meditation offers a whole host of mental health benefits, including the following:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased stress tolerance
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sleep

There are many different ways to practice meditation. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a cushion or hold a crystal and chant (unless you want to, of course). Your therapist can walk you through a variety of options until you find one that works for you. 


In addition to meditation, a therapist may also recommend breathwork as a holistic answer to mental health problems. Breathwork involves altering the pace and depth of one’s breath to slow down the heart rate, deliver more oxygen to the brain, and improve one’s mood.

For example, a popular breathwork technique for those who struggle with anxiety is to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, and then breathe out for 8 seconds. The slow exhale slows the heart rate and can help you feel more at ease.

EMDR Therapy

A holistic approach to mental health doesn’t just involve meditation and changing your diet. There are plenty of other talk therapy techniques that can help you to dig deeper and get to the bottom of your symptoms.

For example, many holistic therapists utilize EMDR therapy. EMDR (short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is often used to help those who are struggling with unprocessed trauma or negative life experiences.

This type of therapy changes the way the brain responds to thoughts of traumatic events. It helps you shift away from the “fight, flight, or freeze” response and allows you to shift the negative emotions you’re carrying into long-term storage.

Internal Family Systems Therapy

Another popular holistic therapy technique is known as Internal Family Systems Therapy. This form of therapy identifies a person’s various sub-personalities, which are created when they experience trauma.

By identifying and giving a voice to each of these different subpersonalities, it becomes easier for someone dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues to find relief. As a result, they’re able to feel more connected to their core selves.

Pros and Cons of a Holistic Approach

As with any time of mental health treatment, there are pros and cons to taking a holistic approach. The following are some of the most important pros and cons to keep in mind: 


Holistic therapy practices do a great job of getting to the bottom of a person’s unique mental health struggles. It doesn’t involve simply writing prescriptions and sending people off to figure things out for themselves.

Holistic treatments also don’t rely on cookie-cutter plans to address complex mental illnesses. Instead, they address the whole person and treat them as an individual. Therapists factor in the patient’s unique life experiences and make changes as often as needed to ensure that they continue to progress.


One of the primary downsides to holistic mental health care is the fact that many people question its effectiveness. Some, including medical doctors or more traditional therapists, may be skeptical of a holistic approach and be hesitant to recommend it. This, in turn, can turn some patients off from seeking the help they need.

For those who are hesitant about seeking holistic mental health treatments, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental illness. A variety of treatment options can work for you, including less conventional modalities.

Try a Holistic Approach to Mental Health Today

Does a holistic approach to mental health care seem like a good fit for you? Are you interested in trying one (or more) of the treatment options discussed above?

If you’re ready to experience the benefits of holistic mental health care, we’re here for you at Intensive Therapy Retreats. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a free consultation call.