Nurses Bring Holistic Mental Health Care to Healing

(This article was published in the SW Florida Health and Wellness Magazine)

For decades we have talked about the limitations of treating the symptoms of diseases while ignoring underlying causes and healing modalities that address the whole person.  Although making some headway in changing the outdated healthcare paradigm, additional shifts in the delivery of care for the whole person are still be amended and transformed.  The current paradigm makes it extremely challenging for nurses to carry out their jobs optimally. Indeed, the time constraints and structures presently in place in the present biomedical system can lead to an internal struggle of conscience for nurses, with negative emotional and physical impacts on our front-line caregivers. Eventually, this ongoing inner battle can turn into burnout and a dishonoring of one’s own healing purpose in life.

Nurses would gladly step in to provide integrative approaches, if adequately trained and with the support and encouragement of the rest of the healthcare team.  As a result, more nurses are turning to holistic care as the lifeline to help their patients, finding that many of these evidence-informed techniques and approaches can be introduced within the framework of the current system and will begin the paradigm shift over time.

For example, nurses trained in holistic mental health know that a patient’s mental health, attitude, and reduction of fear play a vital role in the outcome of their healing. Although it is outside their scope of practice to provide “therapy” for the patient, we know from the most recent research on mirror neurons on interpersonal neurobiology that when nurses can be fully present with their patient, and providing informal cognitive-behavioral strategies, healing outcomes can be significantly optimized. Bottom line: there are many holistic tools nurses can use, within the guidelines of health care, to improve outcomes for patients.

Now let’s look at how Nurse Becky works with Bruce who had his first heart attack at age 49.

While some research suggests heart attacks may be caused by chronic hostility or a history of complex trauma, the standard treatment of care is to provide pharmaceutical medications. However, during brief intervals of time with this young man, Nurse Becky can educate him on cognitive-behavioral techniques and forgiveness allowance that are not only life changing, but may significantly reduce the risk of Bruce suffering a second heart attack.

Let’s take a look at how nurses trained in psychoneuroimmunology can expand their caregiving capacities.

Nurse Nancy knows from the psychoneuroimmunology research studies in her holistic mental health training that toxic thought patterns can contribute to specific physical illnesses, especially rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.  She can gently probe for those unhealthy belief systems, then provide specific rational-emotive techniques for patients to begin to pivot their core schemas, maybe even making some patients more open to beginning psychological therapy after they leave the hospital.Many patients who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), re-experience the negative physiological symptoms when they are introduced to a strange situation or new hospital experience. The psychoneurological effects of this syndrome can prevent their ability to heal.  However, the polyvagal theory provides a more updated version of the functioning of the nervous system allowing for the interruption of hypervigilance. Using this knowledge, combined with the vast amount of recent research demonstrating the benefits of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), nurses can easily teach patients (especially children) simple tapping procedures that can provide immediate relief.Brain nutrition (often considered behavioral nutrition) is so very vital in both mental and physical healing and wellness.

Nurse Randall understands the psychological complications, including chronic depression, that often result after a heart attack or stroke. After Randall gains more knowledge in some basic behavioral nutrition, he can educate his patient on the importance of having proper balances of Omega-3, B12 and D3 to help prevent the onset of a depressive syndrome.  He can then encourage his patient to seek further advice from a physician or other qualified health professional. In addition, Randall’s knowledge of motivational interviewing will provide inspiration and incentive, allowing the patient to more easily make behavioral and nutritional modifications.

Grammy Gloria is only a few days from making her transition.  She has so much unfinished business that she wants to clear up before her passing.

The family sits in the room in silence because no one really wants to talk about death.  Instead they sit uncomfortably and make passing comments about the weather. Nurse Monica knows that Grammy can have a much more peaceful passing if she can talk with her family and get closure on some of these emotional and spiritual incompletes laying heavily on her heart. With some training on how to gently initiate this difficult conversation, Monica can facilitate this process by asking the right questions, which can make a huge change in the quality of Gloria’s transition, not to mention ease the grieving process for the family.

For optimal healing, patients need to be in uplifting, compassionate atmospheres that foster enhanced consciousness and higher levels of personal vibration.  By learning basic evidence-based integrative health coaching techniques, nurses can play a key role in optimizing healing for patients and changing the paradigm of health care.  In the process, they will contribute to bridging the gap in healthcare that may have been causing their own workplace stress and cognitive dissonance.

Dr. Nickerson’s Certified Integrative Health Coach Training Program is a one-of-a-kind holistic mental health care training program that can be used as a stand-alone mental health certification or as an expansion of present practitioner or healthcare knowledge and expertise.  

For more information and registration, visit the IHC Training Page or contact Dr. Nickerson at or call 1-888-339-8443.  Dr. Nickerson is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist both in Canada and the United States.

What nurse graduates have to say….

“I have been a nurse for many years and I know quality teaching and passion for what one believes in and Wendy delivers on all fronts. I feel I have been given a gift by being a student with Wendy and I have already put this knowledge to use by assisting family members, and helping clients within my practice. My own inner passion for learning and knowledge has been rekindled by this program and I continue to learn daily because of these comprehensive and holistic mental health techniques.” – Sue Boiduk, RN
“I immensely enjoyed taking the Integrative Health Coach Training Program (IHCTP) taught by Dr. Wendy Nickerson. The information in the course was organized and well taught.  Wendy uses a holistic approach which included an energetic perspective into the coaching process. I liked the variety of coaching modalities that were introduced because they support healing from a mind-body-spirit perspective. This course would be especially useful to nurses who want to have a more integrative approach and independent role in their nursing practice. I was able to apply what I learned from the IHCTP into my own nursing practices. Wendy’s enthusiasm, openness, and ability to think outside the box is phenomenal.  I highly recommend this program.” –  Sandra Couts MSN, RN, CIHC

Blog Post written by:

Dr. Nickerson's professional experience as a psychologist and personal passion for developing the mind-body-spirit connection have fueled her success and devotion to training individuals and organizations to foster whole wellness.

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