How the rise of holistic healthcare might actually put people’s health at risk

By Alma Fabiani

Published Oct 29, 2019 at 12:15 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

The rise of the wellness industry brought with it an excessive amount of healthcare apps that people quickly adopted without any questions. Some were good, and some, ahem, less so. Today, many will consult a doctor through the Babylon app, while others praise the wonders of digital therapy. Along with this wave of health tech arose the more niche market of holistic health care, characterised by the treatment of the whole person, rather than just treating the symptoms of a specific disease. But what exactly is holistic healing, and more importantly, should we rely on it to ‘cure’ our mental, emotional, and spiritual issues?

Among the holistic healthcare services is Healing Clouds, a platform for online holistic healthcare offering online therapy through live video sessions that aim to promote the benefits of holistic healthcare and bring awareness of it to the world. While some of the services the platform offers can surely be done through live chat and video sessions with a certified practitioner, such as communicating with a dietitian or a couples therapist, others pose problems. How exactly can video calls treat arthritis, diabetes, or even my PMS?

Screen Shot spoke to Asim Amin, founder and CEO of Healing Clouds, about where the idea for the platform came from, and the importance of conventional medicine in conjunction with holistic approaches. Amin’s mother suffered from osteoarthritis in her knees, which confined her to a wheelchair and impacted her mental health as well. After finding a “silver lining in Pranic Healing and Counseling,” she was back on her feet. “With the advent of healthcare globally, it is important that people take care of their health in a holistic manner where they address their mental and emotional health in addition to their physical health,” explained Amin. Because of the stigma associated with mental and emotional health issues, Amin decided to create Healing Clouds.

Platforms like Healing Clouds offer help to people that actually need it, which should be appreciated. The problem lies in the way these platforms may sometimes present that help. Instead of clearly stating that holistic health care should be used by patients as extra support, people looking at the website could easily assume that it promises to be the sole ‘cure’ to any kind of disease—from depression and cancer to “spiritual issues” and “limiting beliefs.” Putting a greater emphasis on the different dimensions of a patient’s life (psychological, social, or even spiritual) doesn’t sound wrong in any kind of way. However, it is wrong and unhealthy to depend only on spiritual guidance, and so is promoting it as this sort of miracle cure.

Amin explained that with Healing Clouds, there are some boundaries set, “Online sessions for therapy and healing are never intended to replace medical attention, rather, they are complementary to conventional medicine and they help you address your overall health and heal from within, whilst you’re on medication (if any).” While this shows that Healing Clouds, specifically, is careful about what kind of message it might promote, other similar services in the wellness industry are not that conscientious.

Having a holistic approach to some things in life, meaning thinking about the bigger picture, can be more than useful. But when did the definition of holistic become interlinked with spirituality? Mixing actual medical advice with a supercharged version of card reading is an approach that can prove itself dangerous, if used for the treatment of high-risk diseases. Some might not see mental health problems as ‘high-risk’, but with the mental health crisis that we’re undergoing, it is a growing matter that should be taken more seriously. More students are getting strongly affected by this crisis, and while a holistic or spiritual approach to ‘curing’ mental health issues is not presented to young adults as the only way to tackle it, it is starting to be more promoted than ever, through slick-looking apps and websites.

Most people diagnosed with a mental health condition can experience relief from their symptoms and live a normal life by actively participating in a treatment plan. This can include medication, psychotherapy, and peer support groups. A holistic approach to this treatment would be to also look at the patient’s diet, sleep, and surroundings. However, what is sold through this new trend of holistic healthcare is a cure in the form of spirituality. Relying totally on it could put people’s mental health, and therefore lives, in danger. In other words, receiving daily affirmations through my email account might lift my mood for a short time, but it won’t cure my depression.

A big part of the wellness industry has shifted from its primary aim—to heal, help, and keep people healthy—to another one; one that seems to contaminate every industry and aspect of our society: to make easy money by using people’s vulnerability. So please, rub as many crystals as you wish, enjoy yoga classes through video sessions with your instructor if you feel like it, but don’t forget, holistic healthcare is not the miraculous cure to all your problems.

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