Holistic Philosophy at ICPPD

At ICPPD we hold the three-fold notion that holism is a comprehensive way of viewing the human person, body mind and spirit and the interrelatedness encompassed and that it can be used to describe a way of growth for the person. 


The word holistic comes from holism, introduced by philosopher Smuts (1926). To him, holism was the evolutionary drive at the core of all creation. He coined holism from the Greek hólos, meaning “whole.” The idea of wholeness was pivotal to his theory as it is to anything “holistic.” It echoed the Aristotelian notion “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which also underpinned the 20th century revolutionary Gestalt approach and is often used, these days, to explain synergy and collaboration. DiStefano (2006) refers to Smuts as using the term holism to describe a “philosophical idea that emphasizes understanding the whole system, rather than specific unconnected events or phenomena”. In terms of providing health care, the use of the term “holistic” dates to the time of Hippocrates, over 2,500 years ago who emphasised the importance of establishing equilibrium within individuals, viewing the person as a whole being made up of many parts working in performance with one another.

Absolon (2010: 74 and 78.) writes that, “The context of our past has changed, yet we remain. We are Indigenous and we carry our ancestors’ stories, teachings, and knowledge.” Dunn (2019: 5.) reminds us that, “The roots of holistic practices derive from ancient wisdom and traditional healers”.  Mijares (2003) explains that some of these healing practices were outgrowths of ancient spiritual paths such as Indigenous spiritualities, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Daoism, paganism, and Goddess practices. This is endorsed by DiStefano (2006) who traces several branches of holistic healing back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as other parts of the world.

Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy

The aim of holistic counselling and psychotherapy is to appreciate the complexity and context of the unique lived experience of each person including experiences related to “developmental and acute trauma, social privilege, bias, and oppression, as well as issues pertaining to spiritual meaning, purpose, vision, creativity, and non-normative states of consciousness” (Maller et al. in Dunn, 2019: 85). Today, it is mostly accepted by mainstream psychology that our standards for mental health and our way of diagnosing pathology have been deeply biased by our often-uncritical acceptance of dominant cultural norms. This is now acknowledged by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2008: 2 and 88).

Holistic ethos in training and education at ICPPD

Regarding the term ‘healing’ which is used in connection with ICPPD programmes, Waldron (2008) explains that healing is often considered a lifelong process. McCormick identifies the healing path and outlines the role of spirituality in healing, the role of nature, the role of cleansing, the role of culture in healing, the concept of balance, the role of connection, and the role of ceremony in healing (2005: 293-294).

This is reflective of the description of our logo on the ICPPD website, “Our logo is the circle in which are seven interlocking discs. The circle illustrates and symbolises the idea of cycles, a continuous journey. The interlocking discs depict the holistic emblem of connection, inclusion, nurturance, empowerment, integration, community, and interconnectedness. It also represents the many aspects of the self and the concept of balance and wholeness, and more. This supports the holistic ethos and philosophy of ICPPD”.

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