Taking a Holistic Approach to Behavioral Health

One of the central objectives of the modern model of nursing curricula in many institutes throughout the United States is to generate graduates who are extensively prepared and can work at the entry-level in a range of healthcare settings. The principles of holism underpin this approach to nursing education. The notion that health is determined and defined by interconnected social, psychological, and biological elements underpins the concept of holism. Behavioral health describes the relationship between behaviors and physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being. This complex relationship would include the effects of diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise on physical and mental health. As the name suggests, holism seeks to heal the whole person rather than simply treat symptoms as they arise. Holistic nursing integrates physical, mental, and social health in an effort to provide patients with the highest level of care and offer independent coping mechanisms for patients and their families after discharge. Integrative medicine, particularly in mental health, has become an increasingly popular treatment method in recent years as society has shifted towards a more accepting and positive attitude towards behavioral health and as the understanding of various factors that impact mental health has increased. Post-pandemic, many people have come to realize the crucial roles that community, socioeconomic factors, and the physical environment have on overall health and well-being. Due to this societal shift and the consequential decrease in mental health for many Americans, holistic behavioral health clinicians are needed now more than ever. 

The Increasing Need for Holistic Mental Health Nurses

Relationships, productivity, and the capacity to deal with stress are all negatively impacted by mental illness. Emotional suffering can manifest as irritation, mood swings, abnormal patterns, and self-destructive actions, or it might somatize as physical pain. As biomedical science continues to advance, the link between physical and mental health has become increasingly evident.

The historical stigmatization of mental illness and behavioral issues has precipitated a desire for rapid solutions, generating the demand for a quick fix: the pharmaceutical method. Although drugs can help with neurotransmitter stability, the underlying or functional cause of the problem is likely more complicated. This complexity is frequently identified in dietary deficiencies, hormonal and physiological abnormalities (often a reaction to trauma), sociopolitical issues, or a combination of these factors. Complete recovery from psychological trauma requires consistent, gentle assistance to identify the source of the problem and the implementation of a care plan once in-patient care is complete to establish healthier coping skills.

Oftentimes, individuals experiencing mental health crises have no other option except to visit their local emergency department. Not only do these patients consume more resources than other patients, but they also experience longer waiting periods than patients in need of emergency physical care. Nursa’s health care staffing app serves nurses and facilities that work with this patient population to assist in mitigating this issue.

Integration of Holistic Mental Health Practices

Holistic behavioral nurses carry out many of the same basic tasks as conventional mental health nurses but with the added emphasis of making the patient feel calm, comfortable, and a part of their own healing process. Whenever possible, nurses should learn a patient's name, keep eye contact, demonstrate sympathy, and employ positive imagery and relaxation techniques to alleviate pain instead of delivering medication. Additionally, holistic behavioral health clinicians can assist patients with developing regular exercise routines, accessing nutritional foods, managing finances, and encouraging social engagement and social support.

Nurses in holistic nursing cultivate relationships with their patients in order to promote healing and wellness. Holistic nursing is based on the idea that a patient's biological, social, psychological, and spiritual components are all interconnected. These elements combine to make a distinct individual in need of a care plan curated for them. Thus, holistic nursing emphasizes tailored treatment by recognizing each patient's unique needs.

Holistic vs. Traditional Understanding of Mental Health

Different perspectives, diagnostic protocols, and treatment options are utilized in holistic nursing and traditional Western medicine. While holistic nursing maintains that a patient's illness or injury can be attributed to their experiences and environment, orthodox medicine focuses on genetics, bacteria, and viruses. Combining the most useful practices from each philosophy can facilitate the best outcomes for individuals suffering from behavioral health issues. 

Considering the links between the mind and body is the first step in establishing methods for reducing the prevalence of co-morbid disorders and supporting people who are currently suffering from mental illnesses and chronic physical problems. Nurses who utilize holistic mental health approaches may also integrate practices into their interpersonal relations and families, helping them not only in their work but also in their personal lives. 

Seeing the patient as an individual rather than the container of their mental illness is crucial to ensuring the best outcomes for behavioral health patients. Holistic mental health nursing will continue to grow in popularity as nurses adopt holistic ideas and practices into their personal and professional lives, as well as when patients' and society's needs change. Regardless of the situation or time, holistic nursing will maintain its focus on curing the whole person—the very cornerstone of holistic nursing.


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