Historically, holism has been an integral part of occupational therapy. According to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT), holism is defined as "the perception of the client as a whole person ... (whose) overall state of health ... (is) a result of a complex interaction of factors including physical, mental, socio-cultural and spiritual components" (Mccoll, 1994, p. 73). Mccoll (1994) suggests four principles that guide holistic occupational therapy practice:
Health is an experience and is not merely the absence of illness. This implies that everyone experiences health differently. Occupational performance can be subjective and should be assessed with the client to understand their views of performance.
Clients are integral to their care and have the capacity to determine their health. Clients are the experts in their care and know what it feels like to experience balance or imbalance in occupational performance. Therapists have essential roles in supporting and collaborating with clients to understand their experiences related to occupational performance.
Health is affected by a client's environment and not solely of the individual. This acknowledges that a client's health and wellbeing can be positively and negatively affected by environmental factors. Occupational therapists need to assess and intervene in real-world environments when working with clients.
Illness is a normal part of life and provides an opportunity to learn about oneself. Occupational therapy (and other healthcare services) provides clients with an opportunity to become more aware of their health.
Reference: Mccoll, MA (1994). Holistic occupational therapy: Historical meaning and contemporary implications. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61 (2), 72-77.