VA Portland Health Care System
Whole Health is VA’s cutting-edge approach to care that supports your health and well-being. Whole Health centers around what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. This means your health team will get to know you as a person, before working with you to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals.
What is Whole Health?
Whole Health Veteran Classes
Introduction to Whole Health
The Introduction to Whole Health is the first of two learning opportunities. During the class, Veterans learn more about the Whole Health approach to care, the concepts behind Whole Health living, and complete Personal Health Inventory.
You can download and complete the Personal Health Inventory before you even step into the classroom.
Taking Charge of My Life and Health
Participants in the Introduction to Whole Health session are encouraged to join the second of two learning opportunities — a 6-week Taking Charge of My Life and Health peer-led group course. This multi-week session provides an opportunity for more self-exploration, self-care, and goal creation around what really matters to the Veteran. Through these Whole Health offerings, Veterans explore their new missions, delve into each aspect of the Whole Health circle, and begin to create an overarching personal health plan.
To sign up:Portland VA Medical Center; call 503-220-8262, ext. 56106, 50536, or 52144.
Vancouver VA campus; call 503-220-8262, ext. 34750, 34736, or 34410.
Whole Health Coaching
Whole Health Coaches work with Veterans one-on-one and in group settings to empower the Veteran to develop and achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Coaches support Veterans in mobilizing internal strengths and external resources, and in developing self-management strategies for making sustainable, healthy lifestyle, behavior changes. As partners and facilitators, coaches support Veterans in achieving health goals and behavioral goals, while working with the Veteran’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT). Coaches assist Veterans to use their insight, personal strengths and resources, goal setting, action steps and accountability toward whole health changes.
Whole Health Coaching Process
Stage 1: Veteran and coach explore Mission Aspirations Purpose (MAP). They create vision, and explore values and value conflicts.
Stage 2: Veteran and coach reflect, assess and focus on what really matters in Veterans life. They will conduct PHI, define the Veteran’s Health Focus, and assess Veteran’s readiness.
Stage 3: Veteran and coach make plan for action as part of a Personal Health Plan (PHP). They set goals and actions, explore barriers to achieving goals, and determine training, support, and accountability.
Stage 4: Veteran and coach execute plan. Veteran takes action to achieve goals. Veteran learns lessons and works with coach to assess actions and re-plan.
The Veteran and Coach sign an agreement before starting the process lining out the steps both will take to ensure the Veteran has the best chance of accomplishing the Veteran's whole health goals.
Read coaching agreement.
Well Being Programs & Resources
Components of Proactive Health and Well-Being
The Components of Proactive Health and Well-Being picture will help you think about your whole health. All of the areas in the circle are important. They are all connected. Improving one area can benefit other areas in your life and influence your overall physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. The human body and mind have tremendous healing abilities and we can strengthen these healing abilities.
The inner circle represents you, your values and what really matters to you. Being in a state of mindful awareness helps you see what matters to you. The next circle is your self-care. These are the circumstances and choices you make in your everyday life. The next ring represents professional care you receive. Professional care may include tests, medications, supplements, surgeries, examinations, treatments, and counseling. This also includes complementary approaches such as acupuncture and mind-body therapies. The outer ring represents the people and groups to whom you are connected.
The innermost circle represents each of us as unique individuals. We start at the middle saying, “I am the expert on my life, values, goals, and priorities. Only I can know WHY I want my health. Only I can know what really matters to ME. And this knowledge needs to be what drives my health and my healthcare. I am the most important person when it comes to making choices that influence my health and well-being. I am the leader of my team, and my medical team professionals are some of the invited players.”
Examples of the types of services Veterans can access and use to support this area include (but are not limited to):
- What REALLY matters to you in your life?
- What do you want your health for?
- What is your vision of your best possible health?
Mindfulness is being fully aware, or paying attention. Sometimes, we go through our daily lives on autopilot. We are not fully aware of the present. We often dwell on the past and plan events in the future. We do not spend much time really paying attention and noticing what is happening right now; without judging or trying to fix it. Your body and mind send you signals constantly. If your attention is elsewhere, you don’t notice. Then, the signals that began as whispers become loud warnings. For example, when you miss the whispers of an early discomfort or a sad feeling, you miss the opportunity to make a change before it grows into real pain or depression. Being mindful, or aware, allows you to make conscious proactive choices about every aspect of your health. Mindfulness connects you to each component of your well-being, and to your whole self.
The Eight Areas of Self-Care
Self-care is often the most important factor in living a healthy life, which in turn allows you to live your life fully, in the ways that matter to you. Self-care includes all the choices you make on a daily basis that affect your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In fact, how you take care of yourself will have a greater impact on your health and well-being than the medical care you receive. Evidence shows that each of these eight areas of self-care contributes a great deal to your overall health and well-being. They can also affect your chances for developing diseases as well as the seriousness of that disease. Consider your values, lifestyle, habits, and motivations in each area. Taking stock of where you are now and where you want to be in each of these areas is the first step in living a healthier life.
Prevention and treatment of illness or disease and traditional and complementary medicine are part of professional care. Preventive care includes things like immunizations and cancer screening. Common treatments include checkups, medicines, supplements, physical therapy, surgery, and counseling. Complementary medicine includes approaches like acupuncture and mind-body therapies. It is important to stay current with your personal care plan for health and well-being.
The outer ring represents your community. For some, their community is close by and for others it is far way. Your community is more than the places where you live, work, and worship. It includes all the people and groups you connect with; who rely on you and upon whom you rely.
Which areas would you like to focus on first as you develop your personal health plan?
Prepare to have a conversation with your health care team by reviewing your Personal Health Inventory.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is by definition, “Purposefully paying attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally, with openness and acceptance.” Essentially, mindfulness meditation is a way to train our brain to be more present and to learn how to work with thoughts, emotions, and sensations that may be getting in your way to doing things that matter to you (i.e., values). One way of understanding this is that our mind is either in the past beating ourselves up (should’ve, would’ve, could’ve) or in the future (making lists, planning, “Am I safe?,” “What if this happens?”).
(Links will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.)
- Learn more about the basics of Mindfulness from the following videos produced by VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
- What is Mindfulness?
- Why Mindfulness for VA?
- Four Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness
- Beginning a Mindfulness Practice
- Mindfulness and Compassion
- The Mindfulness Coach (This app is available only on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.) Mindfulness Coach 2.0 was developed to help Veterans, service members, and others learn how to practice mindfulness. The app provides a gradual, self-guided training program designed to help you understand and adopt a simple mindfulness practice. Click the link for more information and to download this VA app.
The following exercises will give you a variety of different options to supplement the above mindfulness and meditation exercises. These exercises are provided courtesy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention* at the University of Washington.
Brief Sitting Meditation (female Voice)
Brief Sitting Meditation (male Voice)
Longer Sitting Meditation
VA Whole Health National Page https://www.va.gov/wholehealth/
- Portland VA Medical Center
- 503-220-8262 Ext. 56106
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