Te Whare Tapa Whā

The Māori philosophy toward health is based on a holistic health and wellness model called Te Whare Tapa Whā. Developed by Dr Mason Durie in 1982, it can be applied to any health issue, whether it involves physical or psychological well-being.

Māori health is underpinned by four dimensions representing the basic beliefs of life – te taha hinengaro (psychological health); te taha wairua (spiritual health); te taha tinana (physical health); and te taha whānau (family health). These four dimensions are represented by the four walls of a house. Each wall is necessary to the strength and symmetry of the building.

Te taha hinengaro

This refers to psychological health, with a focus on emotions. It is understood that the mind and body are inseparable, and that communication through emotions is important and more meaningful than the exchange of words. For example, someone who is unhappy in their career or work may manifest this in physical illness.

Te taha wairua

This refers to spiritual awareness. It is recognised as the essential requirement for health and well-being. It is believed that without spiritual awareness an individual can be lacking in well-being and therefore more prone to ill health. Wairua explores relationships with the environment, people and heritage. Spiritual awareness is key to making effective career decisions.

Te taha tinana

This refers to physical health and growth and development as it relates to the body. This focuses on physical well-being and bodily care. Tinana suffers when a person is under emotional stress, or is unwell. Pain in different parts of your body is tinana communicating what is going on consciously or unconsciously. For example, someone who is stressed or unhappy in their career or work may be more likely to become physically ill.

Te taha whānau

This is the most fundamental unit of Māori society. Whānau are clusters of individuals descended from a fairly recent ancestor. Whānau may include up to three or four generations, and its importance will vary from one individual to the next. The beliefs, expectations or opinions of the whānau can have a major impact on the career choices that an individual makes.

The wharenui (meeting house)

This is the symbol used to illustrate these dimensions of well-being. Just as each corner of the house must be strong and balanced to hold its structure, each dimension of well-being must be balanced  for health to exist. This philosophy may be used to approach all areas of wellness in life, career management included.

To increase the likelihood of making successful transitions, career education and guidance needs to build on clients’ knowledge of themselves and their potential for development. Developing self-awareness is key to creating balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including career development.


  • Edgecombe, K, and Bennett, M, ‘Career Education and Guidance in New Zealand Schools’, Wellington: Learning Media, 2003.
  • Morice, M, ‘Te Whare Tapa Whā – A Presentation at the MindBody Conference November 2006’, accessed December 2008, (www.mindbody.org.nz).
  • Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa/Māori Medical Practitioners Association of Aotearoa, (www.teora.maori.nz).

Updated 8 Oct 2020