Holistic therapist or influencer?

· 8 min read >

With the spread of holistic disciplines and the birth of influencers we entered a new era of marketing. Thus, what was born as a set of disciplines for the psycho-physical-spiritual-emotional well-being of the person, to provide for the shortcomings of traditional medicine, becomes a stage for freak shows.

Holistic influencer

By now the world market has been imbued with the figures of the so-called influencers. To sell you have to make yourself known and to realise that you have to constantly post on the main social networks. Post what? Elements related to your work? Not at all! You have to share what attracts people, what is trendy and is fashionable nowadays. So, if you are a yoga teacher, you have to take photos in which you are in a contortionist pose, wearing clothes of which you are a promoter, with a dog or a cat in the background; if you are a young girl, thin and pretty even better.

The maximum can be reached if you make a video while doing a sequence, always with the clothes of which you are a promoter, with the little dog jumping and wagging its tail around and maybe, in the end, your boyfriend arrives and kisses you. Then if you finished the yoga teacher training six months ago and it’s only a year that you practice, does it really matter? Yet all of this with yoga has nothing to do with, but the world of social media doesn’t give a damn…


For we are indeed one with Nature; her genetic fibres run through all our being; our physical organs connect us with millions of years of her history; our minds are full of immemorial paths of pre-human experience. ”

Jan Smuts

History and principles

Holism comes from the Greek holos, meaning “total”, “global”, “whole”, “all”. The terms “holism” and “holistic” have been used for the first time by Jan Smuts, a South African philosopher, politician and intellectual, in his book Holism and Evolution, published in 1926. It comes from this book the concept that “the whole is more than the sum of the parts ”, one of the cornerstones of holism, in which the importance and value of the whole are described as an organic, vital, realized and perfect entity. The fundamental functions of holism, according to Smuts, are:

  1. in the first place, Holism is a creative feature or process, and as such shows itself in the up-building and differentiation of organic structures and their functions
  2. this creative Holism accounts for the whole course of Evolution, inorganic as well as organic
  3. it is a general organising, coordinating or regulating process in organisms expressing itself in a measure of guidance, direction and control
  4. this regulation and control finds expression in the structures and functions of organisms generally, but sometimes special holistic organs are evolved, which seem specially destined to assist in the exercise of this regulation and control
  5. it appears in this scheme as a fundamental feature of this evolutionary world; and the concept of Holism is one of the ultimate categories of its description and explanation
  6. as we proceed upward in the course of Evolution we find Holism characteristic also of all values. Love, Beauty, Goodness, Truth: they’ are all of the whole

Jan Smuts, Holism and Evolution

One can sense the complexity of the subject, applicable and applied to everything that exists in the Universe, including the Universe itself. To better understand the concept of holism, let’s take some examples: our galaxy is made up of planets, stars, satellites (dark matter, dark energy, etc). But it is not an abstract, arbitrary entity, a simple set of celestial bodies. It is a living unity, with an organic, structured “soul”. So it is for each group, set, for each “whole”. Including the entire “final” that is the Universe. For Smuts, holism is this tendency of everything that exists to join in wholes. For a more in-depth study of Smuts and his works, I suggest this article.

Holism and Oriental philosophies

In the East the situation is different, or at least it was until recently. The holistic approach (although this term was not used) can be found as early as the 13th century BCE especially in India, but also in China (although later) and consequently, it has spread throughout Asia. We need only to think of the Upanishads, philosophies like Vedanta Advaita, Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism and all their derivatives. In the West similar theories have been found late, in Plotinus and Neoplatonism (III – IV century AD). Baruch Spinoza subsequently recalled them, after Giordano Bruno.

Another great personality to have a holistic ante litteram approach was Goethe, loved and often mentioned by the aforementioned Jan Smuts. Apart from these individual cases, in the Western mentality holism is a fairly “new” issue. No coincidence that those who approach it undertake, very often, trips to Asia to nourish themselves at the source of holistic philosophy, commonly shared and lived in everyday life. Otherwise, the holistic ones refer to the new (now not even too much) theories of quantum physics, mostly because of the lack of references in our western culture.


Nowadays holism is a discipline that is widespread and known, at least superficially, especially concerning complementary medicine (or alternative, as it was called until recently). It is full of so-called “holistic therapists”; they are mostly people who, disappointed in some way by the reductionist method of allopathic medicine, have devoted themselves to the study of disciplines and techniques whose purpose is to bring the whole person back to the state of well-being. If you have a stomach problem, perhaps acid reflux, most doctors will prescribe you drugs to take for life, as they do not cure acid reflux but its effects. They do not investigate diet, psychological motivations, lifestyle, emotional condition and so on. Now, faced with this, many people have tired of feeling themselves treated as a “thing with legs”, without human contact, and have put themselves in the hands of those who, instead, make the humanity of the most important parts.

The problem is that, not being a subject considered scientific, since there are no regulations of any kind, anyone can pass himself off as a holistic operator and blow smoke by ripping off those who turn to him. We have heard a lot of these cases and are those that cause holism to be relegated to a pseudo-therapy, a placebo, “freshwater”. Despite this, holism continues to enjoy a growing reputation. More and more are the yoga teachers, shiatsu therapists, masseurs, pranotherapists and so on. Emerging from this mare magnum has become almost impossible, so even holistic operators have begun to make use of modern marketing techniques. This is how holistic influencer is born.


– Grandma, I’m an influencer
– Just take care of yourself”

lefrasidiOsho, Twitter

Who they are

According to the definition of the Influencer Marketing Hub, “An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche”. These can be bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, managers of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Through the (massive) use of social media, they try to influence market trends, proposing various types of products, whether they be material (clothes, appliances, gym equipment, cars, etc.) or intangible (travel, bank accounts, various services, etc.). By now also many actors, singers, columnists, intellectuals have started to be influencers, perhaps driven by a desire for greater fame (or greater gain).

Influencer fever

Considering cases like Chiara Ferragni, there are many people who, starting from zero, throw themselves into the immoderate use of social networks in the hope of becoming famous and living by taking pictures and writing bullshit in the description. Usually, those who think in this way ignore all the work behind all this and expect people like Ferragni to live without doing anything from morning to night, then maybe it took them an hour to take a picture and it took twice of the time to find the right phrase, perfect background music, etc. The services that guarantee a high number of followers are born after this growing trend (when we often know that they are bots, virtual entities and not real people), of course, paid services, to which these neophytes turn. Because the basis of these works is to have many followers, many likes, many views.

So one person like Mia Khalifa, who worked as porn actress for just a few months, just the time it takes her to become famous, having more than 16 million followers on Instagram, can post pictures of her eating, making videos while she’s at the hairdresser, promoting her shitty t-shirts, writing books about her life, doing some photo shooting and living only on this. This is possible just because there are people who are interested in seeing photos of someone famous in his/her daily life: while he/she is eating, walking with the dog, kissing with his/her partner, buying a pair of socks, playing bowling, taking the plane. People who probably consider their lives sad and empty, so much so that they are more interested in those of others than on their own.

holistic influencer

The Holistic Influencer

A figure that is the embodiment of hypocrisy

Technically, marketing and holism are two antitheses. The second is based on the essence at the expense of superficiality, on the search for root causes, on hospitality no matter what, on compassion, empathy, listening: the person counts much more than results. Marketing is based on finding the best ways to sell a product or service, targeting the product, developing effective methods: the person is not important, the results count. The influencer must CONVINCE you to buy a product or service. It is simply his job. The holistic therapist should not convince anyone to do anything! On the contrary, he/she must bring your truth out of you, whatever it may be. It is absurdly paradoxical that holism is now mainly business: one has to sell stuff, sell him/herself, like whores, without scruples whatsoever.

By now holism has become this: riding the wave of the success of that or the other technique, perhaps learned in a short time, and selling it until you can make money. And when the wind turns, so does the holistic operator, adapting to fashions, to remain competitive, attractive. Everything becomes a competition, a competitive spirit, a race for the customers, a “miracles” competition, a techniques contest. But this is no longer holism, it is just business, of the most vulgar.

Social Networks

Thus, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are filled up with posts with philosophical phrases under the photo of the therapist who is cupping his/her client. Targeted emoticons are chosen, a formula is created to generate interest. Video in which the reiki therapist treats his/her cat. Questions are constantly posting on various topics to arouse the reader’s participation, usually on personal and sensitive issues, to try to touch the other people’s lives; the author of these posts is not interested in the answers, he/she only uses this formula to gain attention. People like pontificating about everything, so these are excellent baits. We have to admit that the influencer figure, although teased by most, is liked by many. Just think of those politicians who have achieved widespread acclaim despite the dubious morality and ideology, precisely because they continually post photos of their daily lives: the dishes they eat, the festivals they attend, the holiday resorts where they spend their holidays, etc. They share their thoughts about life, the world, their aspirations and their indignation.

You recognize the holistic influencer right away for this: he/she sells out his/her business on social media as an influencer does with his/her life. You know exactly what he/she did on that day and where, that the other day he/she worked until 1 am (as if it were a boast: if one works so much it is because he is a beggar who needs money …), to which conferences he/she will attend and with whom. You can see his/her big face everywhere: while he/she is treating a famous sportsman or actor (the famous ones that even the operator him/herself had no idea that they existed before they entered his/her studio), while he/she is cleaning his/her holistic studio, while he/she is doing meditation in the woods, while he/she is getting a massage “because today it’s my turn!”, while he/she is petting the cat. He/she writes that his/her art is unique, corroborated by a millenary medicine (of which he/she will have studied more or less the 0.00001%), that his/her method is original, is the “real one”, infallible and most used. He/she has studied with the best masters in the world because “for you, only the best”, since then what he/she learns will be used on the clients.

Beware of social media

As rightly, on one hand, the influencers, the fashion bloggers, the travel bloggers, the food bloggers and so on are taken for a ride, we must also pay attention to this dangerous and insidious figure that is the holistic influencer. In a world where appearances win, social media are the main tool to appear. Unfortunately, they can show only that: what appears. They don’t show you the messages that such people send in desperate asking you how is the situation in Ireland (when I worked there), because they are in trouble. Who is able, does not need so much publicity. If you are good, your customers speak for you. A living example is a Taiwanese acupuncturist doctor who is very well known in Florence: he has days full of customers. And you never see it on social networks. Because he spends his time treating patients, studying, improving himself and his spare time, he just lives.

Be wary of those who over-advertise themselves: of course a therapist should be known around; one thing is to tell the world that you exist, another is the delirium of omnipotence of a loser who fails to emerge in a job and therefore tries to invent another: that of the influencer. Remember: take everything with a grain of salt, judge only by the work and not by the words: if, during a treatment, you feel listened to, understood and above all if the treatment has had effects, then it can be the therapist for you. Usually those who invest their energies trying to emerge in that vulgar manner that is proper to the influencer, which are the maximum expression of superficiality and of the ephemeral, hardly have a heart free from ego, who has made the void inside to leave the space to the truth, to the essence, elements necessary to make holism.