Holistic healing: Greater than the sum of its parts
A tai chi instructor helps students understand the health connection of this ancient art to modern healing. Photo by Craig Bares.

Holistic healing: Greater than the sum of its parts

Feeling down? You're probably tired, too. Feeling energetic? Odds are you're also feeling pretty good “inside.”

Public interest in the field of holistic health -- also known as integrative, alternative or complementary medicine -- continues to soar. Yet despite centuries-old traditions and St. Kate’s history in holistic health going back to 1984, perceptions persist that it is not "real medicine."

An event called Restore Healing, held in Minneapolis in October 2008, addressed this rising interest and gently moved participants past the myths. It was organized by current students and alumnae of the St. Kate’s Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies.

A variety of speakers and workshops introduced participants – the novices, the knowledgeable or the merely curious – to such holistic practices as acupuncture, healing touch, herbology and aromatherapy. Participants could attend the whole day or just one workshop; they could leave and return as their interests and schedules dictated.

Among the sponsors and speakers were the College of St. Catherine Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing, and the Mayo Clinic. If you’re surprised that such august bodies of mainstream medicine are actively involved in the practice of holistic healing, then you may want to develop a broader understanding of what healing means, says Pamela LaBelle ’08, who spearheaded the event.

“If I broke my arm, I'd go into the emergency room,” she says. “But as I healed, I'd want to know what other options are available to me besides, say, painkillers. I’d want to look at herbal remedies and other holistic therapies.” Informing people about the myriad options of holistic healing will help bridge the gap between Western and Eastern medicine – which may be less broad than people think.

How ‘Restore’ started
What sparked LaBelle's vision was the Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies at St. Catherine, from which she'll graduate in December. Coming from a marketing background, she originally planned to get an MBA. “But when I went to an info session for an MBA, it didn't feel like a good fit,” she explains. “I'd always had a passion for holistic healing. When I found the St. Kate’s program, I felt connected to it. It made sense to me.”

Other event organizers were also students or graduates of the Holistic Health Studies program. Aimee Prasek came to the program after earning her undergraduate degree in psychology with a concentration in kinesiology. “I kept trying to combine mind and body because I wasn't receiving that in my education,” she says. Finding the St. Kate’s program was “transcendent,” she says. “It really honored the mechanistic kind of thinking I had learned in my prior studies, but it also honored new ways of knowing.”

The College created the Holistic Health Studies Program in 1984 and entered a groundbreaking partnership with United Hospital to bring its certificate programs in Holistic Health to the hospital’s health professionals in 1996.

First offered in the fall of 2004, the Master of Arts program stemmed from huge public demand, says Associate Professor Janet Dahlem, one of the program founders.

“With the paradigm shift in health care [since the 1980s], we realized that students wanted this kind of graduate education,” she says. Organizers planned for 20 students in the inaugural class; 58 enrolled.

Dahlem says that Holistic Health Studies can complement a variety of fields, including healthcare, education, social services, and even business. The students come from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds; lawyers have enrolled in the program, for example, as well as nurses and teachers.

Pamela LaBelle, for example, launched her own marketing and consulting firm focused on holistic healing. Prasek is currently working on another degree, this time in health journalism and communications. “I'm not a practitioner [of holistic healing], and I knew that when I went into the program. Communications is how I'm benefiting from the field.”

Nancy Johnson ’07, another Restore team member, originally earned degrees in health and physical education, then earned a master's in special education. After working as a teacher for a number of years, she graduated from the Masters of Holistic Health Studies program last December. She calls the education “life-changing.”

Johnson is now working on a holistic health curriculum for high schools and colleges. She hopes to see holistic health techniques incorporated throughout all kinds of classrooms and subject areas, helping students to focus, concentrate and manage stress. Another team member and holistic health graduate, Annmarie Tenhoff, is director of a holistic high school.

Leah Eichmiller, a manager at Aveda, uses guided imagery with some Aveda teachers. But equally important, she says, is the holistic nature of the knowledge itself, which reaches beyond vocational or professional goals. “A big part of study holistic health is learning how to integrate it into your everyday life. It's not separate; it transforms you in all areas of your life.”

Judy Arginteanu is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. She has been an editor and arts reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

By Judy Arginteanu
Feb. 26, 2009

Contact Julie Michener, (651) 690-6521

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