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Holistic therapy training involves academic and hands-on lab preparation in one or more of the following alternative medicine specialties: movement therapy, massage, acupuncture, or transpersonal therapy. Training in visualization, postural therapy, aromatherapy and nutritional healing may also make up some holistic therapy training programs. The goal of such preparation is to teach aspiring holistic therapists how to use organic materials and life energy to promote wellness of the entire human being, including physical health, emotional health, spiritual well-being and psychological soundness. Expertise in holistic therapy can often be used in conjunction with traditional medicine; for this reason, many psychologists, nurses, and other health care workers may seek training in an alternative therapy.
Learning how to help clients integrate spirit, body and mind is a key objective of holistic therapy training. Therefore, most coursework involves a study of Eastern spiritual and healing practices, which are anchored on the mind-body-spirit connection. These practices might include meditation, rhythmic breathing, Ayurveda, and exercises like yoga and tai chi. Beyond that, other whole-person integration strategies include healing through the use of music, art, reflective journals and dance.
Training for aspiring holistic therapists usually begins after enrollment in a university or trade school that offers a major or minor in a holistic medicine discipline at the associate degree level or bachelor degree level. A graduate certificate in holistic therapy can be completed in less than two years for those who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Generally, massage therapy is the only holistic therapy for which one can earn a license with only a high school diploma. Several colleges also offer a master of arts in holistic health or doctoral programs which enable students to become doctors of nature and open their own practices.
Bachelor degrees in holistic medicine may also be marketed as a bachelor’s of integrative health, bachelor’s of oriental medicine or a bachelor’s of alternative health. Holistic therapy training at this level generally includes extensive scientific study through multiple courses in anatomy, physiology, herbology, and nutritional research. Graduate certificate programs may be marketed as certificates in general holistic health, holistic nutrition consulting, and Asian holistic therapy. Many schools allow certificate-level training to be completed partially or wholly online.
Master’s level holistic study, which generally takes between two and three years to complete, includes advanced study of the topics offered at the bachelor and graduate certificate level. Also included are courses targeting energy medicine, homeopathy, natural stress management, and exploration of ancient medical practices formerly used by Native Americans. Practicums, research projects and hands-on laboratory practice of holistic principles are an additional part of the master-level holistic therapy training. Analyzing and experimenting with the effects of healing plants are additional parts of graduate study.
Aspiring holistic therapists who have earned an undergraduate degree or graduate certificate often continue their training as interns at holistic medicine centers. Those with master degree credentials typically begin private practice since they have completed practicums and had extensive hands-on training. To strengthen credentials and employment potential, degree-holding therapists can also seek national certification.