In recent years, self-care has shifted from expensive, instantly satisfying indulgences like manicures and massages to consistently nourishing activities like prioritizing sleep, developing a regular meditation practice, and spending time with loved ones. It’s a development fueled by a much-needed awareness of better mental health that makes self-care more accessible and, as a multitude of research suggests, supports real, long-term wellbeing.
But even if outdated notions of self-care disappear from our social media feeds, a new trend emerges: #selfhealers. His followers argue that Western medicine is not the holy grail of healing, but that an individual – unlike a doctor, therapist or alternative practitioner – already has the tools in him to free himself from unhealed trauma, unhealthy relationships and mental illnesses such as anxiety and even genetic diseases.
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In pastel Instagram quotes with inspirational captions (some examples: “Let go of the shit,” “Repeat positive affirmations,” and “Identify emotions”) the term feels encouraging. Similarly encouraging is the advice of self-healers to find relief through tools such as shadow work (exploring the negative emotions and impulses of the self), Reiki, and acupuncture (both can be used to treat both mental and physical health). Diet, yoga, Ayurveda and unlearning code dependency patterns. Finally, there is ample evidence that many of these practices can improve mental well-being and general well-being.
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The Potential Dangers: The self-healing movement is vague and involves resistance to research-based science, medicine, and Western treatments that have proven helpful for many people. Any message that discourages people from feeling like they have treatments that might help them can do harm, says Dr. Nancy Zucker, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Duke University.
For example, if someone has anxiety and depression and feels that their current psychiatrist or medication isn’t working for them, they may be interpreting social media self-healing messages to mean going without psychiatry or medication instead of the provider or medication to switch and combine these therapies with other self-care practices such as exercise and meditation.
Health care is not black or white, and multiple approaches are sometimes required. But every option should be on the table as you are trying to regain your balance and whole feeling, as we do in yoga, says Rebecca Butler, yoga teacher at
Fort Worth, Texas.
The appeal of DIY healing
Some holistic practitioners who call themselves self-healers are self-appointed. others are medically trained psychologists who reject what they have learned in medical programs. They often reject what is widely recognized as the authoritative manual in Western psychology for mental health, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The regularly reviewed manual describes mental disorders and symptoms and offers criteria for their diagnosis. According to Zucker, the DSM is useful for targeting patients with treatments that have been shown to be effective for specific diagnoses. However, what a person does with a diagnosis is a different matter. Some people may identify too closely with their disorder (instead of seeing themselves as a person who happens to be diagnosed with a particular disorder as well). The big question sugar has to ask is whether a diagnosis gives someone a point to explore further or discourage someone from having life experiences, such as: B. socializing or trying out a new hobby that might help them feel better. Other experts criticize the DSM for not taking into account the ecological, social and cultural influences on psychiatric illnesses.
Nicole LePera (@ the.holistic.psychologist) is one of the biggest advocates of self-healing and holistic psychology. LePera is specifically concerned with the traditional Western approach to mental health and the DSM in particular. The psychologist who became an Instagram influencer and has 2.9 million followers – including celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dax Shepard, and Lena Dunham – has claimed that mental illnesses don’t run in families, but develop from trauma . But that’s not always the case: research by the National Institutes of Health has found that at least five serious mental disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are genetically linked. In a 2019 Instagram post, LePera described addiction as a “coping mechanism for regulating the nervous system” rather than a disease. However, there is evidence – including a landmark 2016 report from former General Surgeon Vivek Murthy – that it may be a chronic condition. (LePera declined to comment on this article.)
There are many qualified, licensed counselors who specialize in holistic therapy. However, there is no specific license for holistic consultants. This lack of accreditation could be the biggest hurdle to the movement’s legitimacy. Brendan Vermeire, a functional medicine advisor and holistic health practitioner, recognizes that the self-healing industry is related to the Wild West and calls for a standard of education. “It’s a little too free and open,” he says. However, Vermiere notes, “If an unapproved health coach can do work to turn a blind eye to doctors, it shows the gaping holes in our health systems.”
Butler is drawn to LePera’s contributions to self-healing because she doesn’t believe that Western medicine understands all there is to know about healing. She likes that self-healing encourages people to look for new therapeutic methods without claiming a uniform approach. “I do not understand [LePera] I say “only do it here” or “don’t ask for help”. I see them say, “Here are some tools”, not “These are the only tools”.
The price of western medicine
Self-healers are also quick to point out that Western treatments are not always accessible or inviting to everyone. For example, traditional psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is often expensive. Jamila Reddy, a writer and self-empowerment coach in Charlotte, North Carolina, says this is especially true of blacks and other people of color who have traditionally been poorly cared for because of historical racism and the fact that they have less confidence in the medical community at large than whites.
Reddy’s take on self-healing is one of empowerment: “When I talk about it, I think about using our inherent potential to choose our response to what is happening to us and what is around us, and some healing for us to create yourself and not always rely on other people. ”
However, because the definition of self-healing is imprecise, others may interpret it differently. Dionne Powell, MD, a psychoanalyst at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Education and Research who works for Cornell Medical Center and the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education at NYU, says there is potential for harm when people perceive self-healing as something they are doing Must fully participate their own. For example, trying to recover from a mental health condition such as major depression, an eating disorder, or a childhood trauma without asking friends, family, or health practitioners for support or help. “The easy access to self-healing [messages on social media] makes it sound easy. But healing is much more difficult, ”she says.
Sit in the driver’s seat
Self-healing has positioned itself as an antidote to Western medicine, but there are actually similarities between the two. “People coin a sentence or create a hashtag and it makes something seem novel that may not really be,” says David Austern, PsyD, psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. For example, when oysters sees a patient with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they are not simply prescribing medication or therapy. He also asks about their sleep, relationships, and spiritual life – many of the same factors that self-healers consider paramount. “We need [to understand] the whole person, because all of these factors could affect how their symptoms might manifest, ”Oysters says.
Ultimately, each patient’s values and preferences are different – and so are their most effective treatments. Individuals have to decide for themselves which tools are most useful, regardless of what hashtags they are promoting.
“There are so many different types of medicine and healing,” says Kat Fowler, an energy healer and Reiki teacher who hosts the Soul Awakening podcast. “There’s Chinese medicine, sound healing, crystal therapy, hypnosis, and so many healing arts to explore and see what makes you feel, and that’s part of the job,” she says. According to Fowler, the goal is to understand what treatments exist – Eastern and Western, and what amalgams in between – and that people are using modalities and treatments that work together to support their mental wellbeing.
Reddy compares it to operating a car: “Maybe you have a doctor and therapist and herbal medicine and a prescription in the back seat and the passenger seat,” they say. “But you are the person who drives.”