Psychology and psychiatry often focus on pathology, diagnosing illness and treating it. Professional counselors focus on wellness, "a holistic approach in which mind, body, and spirit are integrated. It is a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated in a purposeful manner with a goal of living life more fully” (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000, p. 252). Instead of simply diagnosing and treating illness, counselors believe everyone can improve their lives through effort, guidance, and support. This is a central guiding principle of modern counseling.

Social Justice and Advocacy

The holistic approach to wellness includes focusing on change in the individual and also includes consideration of the individual’s acceptance and contributions within groups (e.g., family, community) and society at large. Many problems individuals face are partially caused by or exacerbated by social conditions. Professional counselors treat individuals but also advocate for social justice as a means of improving the human condition.

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