Holistic Counseling: The Completely Approachable, Stigma-Busting Way to Prioritize Your Mental Health

BY NINA ELIAS

Real talk: my experience (and expectations) of counseling or therapy comes from what I’ve seen in movies or on TV—you enter a perfectly-decorated office inside a medical building, lay on the random chaise, and talk your therapist's ear off until your 60 minutes are up. 

After chatting with Lenore Stine, LPC, owner of Lehigh Valley Counseling, LLC on Elizabeth Avenue in Bethlehem, I walked away with a strong sense that holistic counseling is about so much more than, “…and how do you feel about that?”

After 19 years in the Lehigh Valley, Stine is not only affecting a culture shift around counseling, but she’s also building an incredible, support system of healthy resources around her. I stopped by her beautiful, calming space (her couch was way comfier than those weird chaises seem!) and picked her brain about what holistic counseling is all about.

First of all, what is holistic counseling, and how is it different from traditional counseling?

The short answer is, holistic counseling is about mind, body, and spirit.

To me, Western medicine is like this: your knee is bothering you, so let's look at only your knee. Holistic counseling, like holistic medicine, is about total mind, body, and spirit. It’s all about alignment, as well. If you’re tired, or you’re sick, or your thyroid isn’t functioning correctly, you can feel depressed or angry and anxious.  

I have my undergraduate degree biology from Wilkes University, so I often get a medical-based intake from my clients. That’s important to me, because many young clients aren’t seeing doctors regularly, so I will often send them to a doctor. If you have Hashimoto's, for instance, you have to work on that as well as your anxiety. But no one's looking at them in that realm, because they’re so young—but it’s on my mind because I understand the psychological implications of other health problems.

You can’t care for anyone else unless you care for yourself. If you’re standing firm and tall, people can lean on you.
— Lenore Stine, LPC

Wow, that’s a refreshing way to approach a patient.

People have a hard time looking at themselves. I don’t look at people like that they have issues—I view them as needing to make course corrections. I want them to ask themselves, where am I going, and why am I going there? Am I going there because my friends are, or because I really want to?

What else do you take into consideration with your clients?

Food and nutrition for sure—I want my clients to not only be aware of what they’re eating, but also how it makes them feel. I think about their exercise, substance use, and existing medical conditions. I raise their awareness about how all elements in their lives make them feel. And then, there’s meditation. Not only to treat, but also to figure out how their individual brains work.

You have a degree in Pastoral Counseling from Moravian Theological Seminary. Is there a spiritual element to what you do?

Absolutely. When something bad happens to someone, they want to make sense of it. Different religions and spiritualities approach this differently—Christianity goes like this: I’m starving here, but when I die I’m going to have a banquet. While Buddhism is all about no judgment, it just is. Path of acceptance.

From there, I can help my clients figure out where they fit within a non-secular realm, as well. Spirituality is not religion, it is how you walk through the world. But I ask them about their faith in order to figure out where they pull support from so we can create a customized spirituality.

Despite better representation of mental health issues in popular culture and politics, there is still quite a stigma around seeking treatment. What’s holding us back?

Judgment. I don’t judge you if you break your knee or have cancer—why am I judging you, or myself, if I have depression? People are so hard on themselves. They don’t think they’re worth it, or important. But you can’t care for anyone else unless you care for yourself. If you’re standing firm and tall, people can lean on you.

LIVE LIKE LENORE

Check out Stine's favorite local healthy hot spots

  • Beyond Juice on 3rd St. in South Bethlehem for green juice and smoothies

Even with so many healthy resources, it’s a challenge to advocate for your own health. Especially when Western medicine doctors and naturopaths are sometimes contradicting themselves. What’s your advice to reader’s going through this?

Above all, trust your gut. If you’re not getting a good feel from a practitioner, traditional or not, don’t do it. You’re already paying all this money! Too many of us want to fix things with a pill or an operation. Ask your doctor about five things you can do before that operation and then really do it. Do your homework, and commit.