Certified Holistic Health Counselor: Job Duties and Requirements
A holistic health counselor encourages patients to actively participate in their healthcare and wellness. The counselor considers the entire person - the body, mind, and spirit - to help clients improve their health through everyday lifestyle choices. There are a variety of degrees that are suitable for a career in holistic health.
Overview of Holistic Health
There is no accepted standard definition for the term 'holistic health'. It is generally used to define two different concepts.
The first is to use 'holistic health' to describe a philosophy for treating the whole individual. Holistic health practice considers a person's mind and spirit in addition to his or her physical symptoms to determine underlying causes for ailments. This definition more accurately describes the medical applications of the field and might include studies for those already holding a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). A medical doctor may prescribe pharmaceuticals, recommend a low-sodium diet, and suggest more leisure time or reduced stress at work, thus encompassing the patient's whole life.
The second definition uses 'holistic health' interchangeably with 'alternative health'. This usage often refers to a rejection of traditional medicine and reliance on alternative treatments alone. However, it is not an accurate description of holistic philosophy because not all alternative health treatments consider the whole person.
Job Duties of a Holistic Health Counselor
Holistic health counselors are not medical professionals, but they may work in conjunction with traditional medical providers. Holistic health counselors address a client's feelings, attitudes, and knowledge toward treatments to achieve wellness goals. Incremental steps are often recommended over the course of several months to help a client change specific behaviors. Individual lifestyle practices such as diet modification, meditative practice, alternative health therapies, exercise regimens, and environmental health awareness may be recommended in combination with traditional medical advice.
While there are a few structured holistic health programs, there are no uniform educational requirements. There is at least one school in the United States that offers programs leading to a Certified Holistic Health Counselor designation, but this is not a nationally-regulated certification. It is more likely that aspiring counselors will decide to pursue a specific licensed field (such as nutrition, massage therapy, herbalism, or acupuncture) that will allow them to provide legal healthcare treatment. Then, they can study holistic principles and philosophies as they apply to the chosen specialty.
Not all programs carry the same weight. Prospective students should be cautious of training or certification that purports to be for holistic practitioners, since 'holistic' is a philosophy and not an independent field of health. Some fields related to holistic health may require years of intensive study (like naturopathy), while other training may be completed in a few months.
It is important to check individual state regulations for the field of interest. For example, in some states, massage therapists must graduate from an approved program and pass a national exam in order to become licensed to practice. An individual looking to combine holistic health counseling with massage therapy would need to meet these requirements.
The salaries earned by holistic health professionals vary widely and depend on a number of factors, such as field of specialty, experience, and location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chiropractors earned a median annual wage of $66,160 per year. Massage therapists earned median salaries of just $35,970 in 2012, per the BLS.
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