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Treat the whole person (Tolle totum)

Treat the whole person *Tolle totum* relates directly to the philosophical concept of holism.
How individuals view their health and their world is an important part of delivering clinical care.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

In naturopathy, there’s a core principle called Tolle totum which translates to “treat the whole person” in Latin.

This principle is closely linked to philosophical ideas about holism, which is central to naturopathic practices. Tolle totum as a naturopathic principle recognises the spiritual, psychological, functional, structural aspects and vitality (remember the vital force and vitality) of an individual as being part of an inseparable whole (remember the naturopathic philosophy holism). Further, the principle recognises that individuals are interconnected and interdependent with family, community, and environment.

The underlying concept of “treating the whole person” is about being holistic in naturopathic care delivery, which stems from the Greek philosophers, but the codification of this principle stems from work conducted more recently (i.e., in 1986). By definition, treating the whole person recognises that individuals as a whole, represent a combined and complex interaction of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, environmental, genetic and other factors Lloyd et al., 2021. This principle covers who people are as an individual and who they are in their world Gustafson, 2018, including the interconnections of family, community, and the environment Lloyd et al., 2021. The principle reinforces that each person is interconnected with various aspects of their world, which can contribute to health and/or illness. The principle also recognises that the internal and external influences on health that must be managed and maintained to achieve optimal well-being.

This holistic principle aligns with broader philosophical thoughts about holism. Holism emphasises that the parts of something are interconnected and can not be fully understood in isolation. In naturopathic medicine, this translates to viewing the body and mind as integrated systems, where imbalances in one area can affect the entire person. For instance, think about how stress and emotional well-being can impact physical health. A naturopathic practitioner employing Tolle totum would take these factors into account, looking beyond the surface symptoms to identify underlying causes and imbalances. The link between Tolle totum and holism becomes clear in the way naturopaths approach treatment. Instead of just addressing symptoms, naturopaths aim to uncover the root causes of health issues, which is another naturopathic principle. By doing so, naturopaths can provide individualised and comprehensive care that promotes overall health and well-being.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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