Home Page Image

Navigation within the Clinical Care Section

Whole person care
Information for patients
Patient consent
Aims and Objectives

Return to Clinic Index page


Whole Person Health Trust Clinic

What is whole-person health Care?

This brief explanation was produced for patients in the Whole person clinic run in 2003 at my GP practice. This was a Christian practice ans so is written from this point of view, although patients seen came from all religions and their faith was, of course, respected and our approach adapted accordingly.

Each week as I interview new patients who have been referred to the Whole-Person Health Care Clinic, I am asked the question – “What exactly is a whole-person approach to health care?”  Each time my answer is slightly different as each person requires a unique explanation to enable them to grasp the concepts, but generally the answer to the question goes something like this -

It has been recognised for many thousands of years that men and women are more than just a physical body that responds to the environment in the same way as animals. Humans are first defined by a set of higher powers of reasoning, which means that the physical body is influenced by all of our thoughts and emotions.  Most people also recognise that there is an additional spiritual dimension to people in which resides the conscience, our set of moral values, our will power, and the set of beliefs with which we interpret the world around us. As Christians we believe that this spirit enables us to form a loving relationship with God.  In a healthy individual all of these parts need to be functioning correctly as they are integrated into the unique whole-person which is “me”.

Illness comes about in a wide variety of ways. Scientists have had enormous success in the past decades in understanding how the physical body responds to infections, or other agents in the environment, to produce mal-functioning of the body.  There are many exciting developments in the pipe-line as we understand more about how the genetic makeup can affect the health of the body.  At the same time we are increasingly recognising how the functions of the mind also affect health.  Any illness must be the result of a disease element (say a nasty virus), and the personal response of the body to that agent. This personal response is recognised to depend upon a large host of factors. These include the genetic makeup of the person, but also we recognise that other factors in the mental, emotional and spiritual realm can also affect our response to disease.

There are many interesting examples of the way in which faith plays a part in our health. Numerous studies have now been conducted in which a “placebo” is used to look at how effective a drug or other treatment is.  The placebo is an inert substance which looks exactly the same as the active drug, so that neither the patient nor the doctor knows which is the proper drug, and which is just a sugar pill. Most studies confirm that the placebo produces improvement in over a third of people, even though it is inert. This placebo response is little understood, but perhaps it occurs because the patient has put their faith in the medicine, and this belief activates the body’s immune responses and other, at present unknown, mechanisms to combat the illness.

As Christians we understand that we are made for relationships. We need to be in right relationships with ourselves (have the proper self-esteem and self-knowledge), with other people (not have bitterness or unresolved enmity with others), and with God.  Being in dysfunctional relationships affects our ability to be in harmony, and so affects our ability to remain healthy.  Our new approach in this clinic concentrates on the person rather than the disease. It does not replace traditional medicine, but instead seeks to strengthen the “inner person” so that they can have a stronger constitution which both resists disease processes, and enables the person to cope in positive ways with those diseases which are inevitable as we grow older.  Thus the whole-person is involved in being healthy and in responding to illness.

Yes, I do realise that the above explanation is a bit technical, and when talking to patients I make it much simpler with everyday illustrations.  When explained to people, the invariable response is that it is just common sense, and of course most doctors understand that this is the right approach to take. Unfortunately the process of understanding the individual person takes time, and in this modern world that is the one commodity which seems to be in short supply. In the whole-person clinic we believe that it is important to invest time in each person, so the assessment process takes around eight hours spread over several weeks. But as the beneficial effects are likely to last a lifetime we consider it time well spent.

Dr Michael Sheldon

Article reference: www.wphtrust.com/whatiswphcare.html by Dr Michael G Sheldon,
first written 20 Feb 2004, this version October 19, 2011 , (c) WPH Trust
Downloaded - date

Return to top of page



A brief introduction to the concept of whole person health care






Please note that this clinic is no longer in operation, having closed in 2006








This explanation varies according to the patient's belief system. Here is a Christian version.

  Updated October 19, 2011   Home > Clinic Index >> What is whole person care