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Episode 3 How to Integrate Holistic Strategies Into Clinical Practice Safely and Effectively
Episode 330th March 2021 • The Holistic Counseling Podcast • Chris McDonald, LCMHCS
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Are you a new holistic therapist working in the traditional clinical field? How can you safely integrate holistic strategies into a clinical setting? Which clients can you introduce to holistic therapeutic practices in a way that is best for you and for them?


  • How to overcome the nerves
  • Getting started with holistic strategies in your clinical practice
  • Which clients to introduce to holistic strategies


Something I learned from my yoga practice, which applies to any new strategy, is to become comfortable with it, and that means practice.

To make it the most effective treatment you need to develop a personal practice with it to get comfortable with it to do it right early.

The best way to become accustomed and confident with any new skill is to practice it. Spend time working on it alone and then practice it alongside people close to you such as family members, partners, friends, and even colleagues.

Working on your new skill with people who are unfamiliar with it is an incredibly good way to learn how to introduce it to a new class or client one day, and to prepare yourself for the kinds of potential struggles and issues a brand-new client may have.

Another bonus of practicing often is that you can inform your clients of the benefits that you have experienced firsthand due to your daily routine, meditations, yoga, and so forth. Your clients will be more willing and optimistic to follow your advice and wisdom when they see that you practice what you preach.


I learned the importance of building on the trust and the relationships you have with your client first before recommending different kinds of practices and treatments.

Ease into it, take your time to get to know your client and for them to become accustomed to you before jumping into any strategies that would be completely new for them.


  • If you are practicing in person, make sure that your counseling space is welcoming, soothing, and comfortable for your client to try new things in. If you intend to incorporate movement-based practices such as yoga into the treatment, make sure to inform your clients to wear comfortable clothing.
  • If you are practicing over telehealth, be aware of the space behind you and make that space as visually pleasing or soothing as possible. Keep your space clear, clean, and together.

When you are starting your sessions, whether in-person or over telehealth:

  • Start your counseling session with some kind of ritual such as lighting a candle, using essential oils, or starting with some grounding and breathwork before diving into whatever it is they would like to talk about. Explore this idea with your clients and see who is more interested in adding this into their practice.
  • You can gently explain the benefits of a ritual before each session, and what to expect such as the timeframe of the ritual.
  • Follow their non-verbal clues to see how they are interacting with the new practice.
  • Do not close your eyes: you want to be fully present and checking-in with your client.
  • After the ritual, tune-in with clients. See how they experienced it in their body or with their feelings. You can note whether or not to change anything in the future.


Look at that scale, the readiness-to-change scale. Those that are higher on there are willing to do anything are the ones you want to try it with …. Because some [other clients] may not be willing to do this … when you are starting out get those clients who are on a higher level of readiness to change.

In a way, working with clients who are more ready and open can also help you to build your confidence because you are working with a client who is more open to trying new things, who will ask some questions, and be excited to try something different.

Listen to those clients who talk about holistic practices they already do in their home or in their daily routines, because they may be open to trying new things or adding new things to their own routine.

Listen to the clients who feel stuck with their traditional talk-therapy because they may enjoy the different approaches to therapy that you can provide for them.

After the client leaves, check-in with yourself. Did you enjoy the practice? What can you do better or differently next time that is best for both you and the client?

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Welcome to the Holistic Counseling Podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice, and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey.

Welcome episode three of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. This is another solo episode. My first five shows are going to be all solo. So this is going to set the foundation for this podcast, and then I'm going to get to some guests in some interviews, which I'm so excited about. But last week I discussed scope of practice versus scope of competence and protecting yourself from liability as a holistic therapist. If you miss that, be sure to check it out. So important for all of us to make sure that we're covered.

This week's episode is about how to integrate holistic strategies into clinical practice safely and effectively. So from the start to the finish of a session, I'll provide you with a lot of general ideas and tips just to get you started. So let's get to it. So first, what is your first step? Let's say that you do some trainings and you're ready to go, but you have a lot of nerves and you're not sure how to get started. What do I do? So the first thing that I've learned, and this goes back to my yoga training, which applies, I think to any kind of new strategies is to get comfortable with the new strategies. And that means practice, probably don't want to hear that. The other thing to add to your list, but I think it is a part that you don't want to skip, so you don't want to go from training on a Friday and then Monday, bam, here I go. No, let's not do that. So to make it the most effective treatment, you need to develop a personal practice with it, to get comfortable with it, to do it regularly.

Just as an example, with yoga, part of our training, they really pushed us to do a daily meditation, some kind of yoga practice. Now that doesn't mean an hour a day of yoga, an hour meditation. No, sometimes I do 10 minutes of yoga in the morning and a 10 minute meditation, bam, I've done 20 minutes, but it's just getting into that consistency with that that is so important. And it's funny because we have a practicum at the end of yoga training to show our skills in front of the whole class and the teachers. Yes, very intimidating. But it was funny because the teachers knew who was doing practice at home and practicing on their own and who wasn't. They could tell because you can really see who is most comfortable with the poses and in their own bodies, which I thought was very interesting. So you have to practice enough so it becomes like second nature and find people, safe people to come to practice on like friends, colleagues, family, my poor husband.

So I've done a lot of energy healing on him and practice a lot of meditation breathing yoga. So yes, just find someone to practice. And different people and people outside of the field, I think it's good to practice with as well, because then you can practice introducing it as well as whatever your technique is. And practice enough so you realize the benefit so you can share that with clients because I know I've done that a lot too and share how, "Hey I've done daily meditation most days for years, and I can tell you here's my benefits." And once you can do that, you can really get real with clients and promote that with them so they can see that, wow, so she's doing it then maybe this is something, and she's already seen the benefits. This is something that I could do for myself as well.

So let's say you get your personal practice down, you got this, how do you get started and integrate it into your clinical practice? One thing that I learned on my own was just building that relationship first and the trust as your foundation. I wouldn't feel comfortable in like a first session or second session, even to just jump right in with it. I would really build that up and get to know each other so they feel comfortable and you feel comfortable as well because I think it would be kind of awkward if you didn't have that foundation built already. So you don't want to go gung-ho and jump right in because you're so excited to do this, to apply these new techniques. Don't do that. Make sure you just, I always say ease into it, take your time and you'll get there.

Now, if you do more movement-based things like yoga or other kinds of gentle movement with breath, anything like that, make sure you're dressed appropriately. You don't want any buttons to pop up or anything like that. Just notice what you're wearing and just being mindful of that, checking out your space and again, making sure your space is a safe space for your client to feel comfortable. And if you're in person or tele-health, and I don't know if a lot of you have thought about this, but making sure that what is behind you is comforting and nice for the clients to see as well. So you don't want to have like messes behind you and disorganization. So just make it really lovely behind you as much as you can with pretty pictures. I know I have my lit up tree now and you know, just making it comfortable.

One thing you can do to start is to create some kind of ritual to start your session. So this could be just lighting a candle or using some essential oils or just starting with some grounding. I've done this a lot with clients with just doing some grounding or breath work, and before we even dive right into whatever they want to talk about, let let's just start with that, and I tell them that this is going to help you to stay more focused during the session and to be able to get the most out of the session as well, to be most effective. So once let's just say that, okay, so you did your ritual, you got your space ready, so how do you do this? How do you dive in? So remember it's an invitation and you don't want to just say, "Hey, this is what we're doing today. Bam." No. So you want to kind of ease your way into this as well. "Would you like to try a new approach to ease anxiety or would it be okay if we started today's session with something different or with something specific like breathing?" and just kind of feel your way with that.

I know I try to figure out which clients might be more open to it based on what I really listened from the first few sessions to see, some might already have a breathing practice, so you could say this could be something they could add and facilitate for themselves on a daily basis. And then let's say, they say yes. And of course, if they say no, just go with that and just kind of explore that a little more and maybe this isn't for them. That's okay. Accept that. If they say yes, so discussing the benefits and purposes of the practice, so why do this? And I think that can really help for them to understand more about it and what to expect. So give them a time frame, "This is going to be for 15 minutes of our session," or five minutes, whatever it is so they can feel comfortable.

And remind them they can ask questions if anything's unclear or they can stop at any time if they're just feeling uncomfortable. I know with energy healing, sometimes clients would feel some warmth or some tingling, just letting them know that this is something to expect with this practice. And then once you get to actually doing the holistic strategy, so just really be mindful, tuning in, really scan their body, noticing your client's breath patterns. Are they getting shorter breath, which could indicate more anxiety or are they appearing more relaxed? Just start with their facial expressions, other non-verbal clues, just like you do with regular sessions. Just really tuning in to what's going on with them. You don't want to close your eyes. That was the other thing to remember because you really want to be fully present and fully checking in that everything is okay with them.

So after, so gently bringing them back somehow from whatever technique you're using and then processing. So processing, how did that go for you? How was your body feeling? Was there any surprises for you? Do you feel any different from when we started? So these are just some questions I always like to tune in with clients kind of get their feedback on this. Maybe there was something they didn't like, and that's good information for you to make a note of for next session, but just to let you know too. I will be doing a future episode more on the integration of yoga into clinical practice. So I will get more detailed with that. So I was trying to make this more general because if you're doing something, a different kind of strategy -hat's not yoga based, then I wanted to make this more general. So just tune in. So that's coming and that's one of my favorite things to teach is helping therapists integrate yoga into clinical practice.

But back to this. So which clients should you try some holistic strategies on, because maybe you're just starting now and you haven't identified yourself or really advertised as a holistic therapist. Maybe you're someone who is just a general therapist and this is something you're dabbling in. So really look at that scale, the readiness to change scale. So those that are higher on that and willing to do anything are the ones you want to try it with. Because if someone's just like, "I'm so depressed, I can't even get out of bed," they may not be willing to do this. Sometimes they are, but I would, especially when you're starting out, get those clients who are on a higher level of readiness to change. And that way that can help build your confidence because if you get the first person, I think this happened to me too, with brainspotting, I got somebody who was so difficult about it and with so many questions and really struggled to get into it.

So just be careful who you pick because you want to make yourself feel most comfortable with us as well so you can be most effective. Listen. So listen to those clients. For those that talk about holistic practices, they may already do. I know I had one this week that already was talking about using Sage in her house and I didn't ask her anything about that. She just happened to bring it up. So really paying attention to what they're saying when they are talking about any other holistic practices they already do. And some people that feel stuck with their, be traditional talk therapy, or you get the idea that maybe they need something different.

So really try to figure that piece out of which clients would be most beneficial and take your time. You know, don't feel like you have to rush right in and do it with every single client that comes into your office to get better. Of course you want to practice, but you know, just really process and then after the client leaves, it's good for you to check in with yourself. How was that for you? Really reflect, what could you have done differently? What would you like to do next time to make it better? That's how we grow, by really tuning in to ourselves and our performance with anything new. How can I do this better next time? What could I do different? Even journaling about it? I know some of the yoga practice I've done before in courses have been included with a journaling component to kind of check ourselves and figure out where we are and where we want to go.

I hope that kind of gives you a bit of a start of how to really integrate safely and effectively as well as really increasing your own comfort with this. Because of course we're human. We get nervous. It's always hard to starting with new things then we second guess ourselves. So really building the confidence is going to be the number one goal for you as well, because the more confident you are with this, the more effective you are going to be, the more clients will be able to pick up on that as well. I did want to tell you just a couple quick case studies about how effective these holistic strategies can be, especially with anxiety. I have just seen amazing results. There's so many that I can't even begin to tell you have clients that have been helped, but I know one client in particular.

She was always just so dysregulated, had lots of anxiety and was hard to even settle down for the sessions and you know, just fidgeting. She had ADHD as well and what I would try to do with her as early in the session to just start with some breath work, teaching her some grounding and just some gentle yoga, seated yoga, movement and breath and what a result. So once I did that, she would be so much more calm in the session. We could really get to the issues that she wanted to talk about with more focus, which with ADHD, as you know, that's so important, but with a high dysregulation, it is amazing. And the only way I can describe it as what I tell people sometimes with some of the things I teach, it's like a curtain just falls. It's like that whole curtain of anxiety, stress, whatever word you want to use for it, dysregulation, it just kind of falls. And that inner person can really come out and connect with you and really tune into the session.

It's just like a different experience for therapy. Another client I had, she also, generalized anxiety, PTSD. When she started with her regular yoga practice and breath work, she would do the grounding. She was one of those highly, highly motivated clients. Her anxiety decreased significantly. It was just, I was like, are you sure? It's one of those things I just was in disbelief myself. I mean, she had a hard time getting through each day. But now she has occasional flare ups. It's not hard, but she's a lot better. Part of her issue too, with all the trauma was dissociation and with the grounding, I worked with her and doing some of the mindfulness instead of it happening several times a day, it only happens once in a while. So that's awesome, I think. So I just know that the holistic approach is treating the whole person and it really can make a huge difference for the clients you're working with.

And thinking about, especially who might benefit the most. So that might be something for you to reflect on to who on my caseload might work with this better? Is it those that are stuck or going very slow in therapy? Is it those that have been in therapy for years not making the progress that they'd like or you'd like to see for them? Or is it just some that they've tried traditional and just want something different? Because I do get people sometimes that just reach out, they're like, "Look, I've done the CBT thing. I've done traditional talk. Let's do something different because I feel like as not reaching my goals as much as I would like."

So that's a lot for one episode I think. So I just want you to go to the show notes as well. So I'll just try to put a good summary for you in there so you can really see what is the best way to integrate these strategies so that you could be doing it safely and most effectively. Next week tune in for a discussion on common ways that holistic therapists practice holistically. So I'll be going into some details on some different ideas that might be able to open up some opportunities or thoughts for yourself of what else you could add to your practice with clients.

But just remember that this podcast needs your support. So please, please remember to subscribe, rate and review today. Don't wait. I need your help with this. And this is Chris McDonald sending each one of you much light and love. Until next time, take care.

If you're loving the show, will you rate review and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform? We just started this and that helps other people find this show. Also, if you're feeling uncertain about your modalities and you want to build your confidence to be your unique self, why don't you to join my free email course, Becoming a Holistic Counselor over In my Becoming a Holistic Counselor course, you'll get tips for adding integrative care into your practice, what training you need and don't, and the know-how to attract your ideal holistic clients. If this sounds like the direction you are headed, sign up at

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.



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