The Role of the Holistic Practitioner and a Story of Poop

Yup. Poop.

Before I begin: I don’t profess to speak for anyone but myself here, despite the use of the collective “we” in some cases.

Moving on!

We, students of the art of holistic care, are in a constant state of growth. Whether we are brand new, a few yeas old, or boasting decades in the field, we all continue to grow and learn as we interact with our clients, the greater community, and with other practitioners as clients ourselves. The following is an example of how the work of a practitioner might translate into everyday life, and offer an opportunity for reflection. (Yes, it’s a true story, and yes, this is what it made me reflect upon…)

I have plenty of relatable tales, but for some reason, this experience stuck out, so I’m going to share it while I describe its bearing on a set of skills that a holistic practitioner utilizes in a clinical setting.

See, it sounds boring when poop’s not thrown in!

The other day, I stopped at the grocery store for a sponge or something equally trivial. As I checked out, they offered me a small plastic bag. I rarely take bags, but I knew we were running low, and I like to have extras on hand for gathering muddy clothes and collecting kitty litter. I left with my bag in hand and set off towards home, having a good think and enjoying the beautiful weather.

A few blocks later, I noticed a man walking ahead of me with his dog. The dog paused and did his business, and suddenly the man was exuding anxiety verging on panic. I scanned the situation and noticed that his eyes were darting around and he was patting his pockets. I knew immediately that he was not prepared to pick up his dog’s poo, AND he knew that I had spotted him.

I caught his eye, removed my parcel from the bag, and offered up the plastic receptacle with a smile. His relief was tangible. “He never goes twice on one walk!” he exclaimed. “No worries,” I replied. Crisis averted. Gratitude all around. He was offered a solution, and I was not only overjoyed that the debatable bag went to good use, but that no one would have to skirt dog poo the next day.

Clinical experience, you say?

Ok, here it goes:

  1. First off, I can’t fail to mention the importance of acquiring tools: A practitioner is continually aware of that spare “bag,” herbs, diets, bodywork, etc., and seeks a constantly expanding knowledge of options and resources to add to her/his collection. We don’t want to be pack rats about it – it must remain organized, and our own tools kept separate from others who possess tools that we do not – but having as much mastery and awareness as possible of the many tools available to clients is something that will always enrich the process. This isn’t technically clinical, but it certainly holds weight.
  2. The art of sensitivity, or, picking up on unspoken needs: The energy of humanity surrounds us every day. Some are naturally more attuned to this than others, and the best practitioners that I’ve worked with and observed have found and connected to this energy in their own subtle yet profound ways. It allows them to take into account more than what is said or written by the client. It’s the “reading in between the lines” that allows them to get a full picture of a person’s unique needs.
  3. Care without judgment, or, empathy: In the case of the dog man, I recognized his struggle. If he had walked away, I would have been sympathetic to his situation, and acknowledged without judgment that he was in a predicament and that it was simply the decision he made in the moment. We can never know a client’s whole experience. Yet, clients come to holistic practitioners when they are ready to, at least on some level, “think outside the box.” This brings with it a level of vulnerability that often requires a delicate dance. The challenge is being willing to interact, to move, to respond, and also to gracefully back away in honor of the shared goal of creating beauty.
  4. Generosity: We spend much of our time acquiring tools and techniques from the world around us. It’s a bevy of resources for seeking people. Holistic practitioners support mind, body, and spirit. Our role is to connect, assess, nurture and share.
  5. Positivity: We trust the process. Ego is displaced. We practice non-attachment. We “hand over the bag” with a smile and a nod of encouragement. A follow-up is often a part of the process, but in holistic care, the client must also take responsibility and act – and we believe that they will! We have a carefully thought out approach, but then we must trust our clients to take the next step, and we must have faith in what we profess – that the body has the innate ability to heal. We are nurturers. We are guides. If we do not believe it to be true from within our very core, then we cannot expect the same from the souls who reach out to us.

And that, my friends, is the poop analogy.

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