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  • Life Coaches
  • Psychiatrists
  • Sober Coaches
  • Therapists
  • acupuncturists
  • speech language pathologists

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its Use for Mental Health

By Tyler Lapkin, LAc

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its Use for Mental Health By Tyler Lapkin, LAc Traditional Chinese medicine is a medical system that has been used for thousands of years to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. It is based on the belief that qi (the body's vital energy) flows along meridians (channels) in the body and keeps a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health in balance. TCM aims to restore and maintain the body’s balance and harmony between the natural opposing forces of yin and yang. TCM includes acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, meditation, physical exercise, and massage.

At a deeper level, Chinese Medicine can assess and treat a person on all levels, leaving no part of the patient behind. Because Chinese Medicine is holistic and relational, a skilled practitioner will be able to assess and address the root imbalances in any level of a patient’s experience. This includes not only the gross physical level, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This is done through a lengthy diagnostic intake and physical diagnostics, which include pulse taking and observation of the tongue.

The practice of acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles in specific areas of the body for therapeutic purposes. In the west, acupuncture is most well-known for its effects of pain relief as it has proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Still, viewed from a broader and deeper level, each acupuncture point is metaphoric of a perspective of human experience and when needled, can serve as a way to open and broaden a patient’s own ability to perceive and relate to the content of their personal experience.

Herbs can serve the same purpose. Each herb has its own function and ability to restore harmony relative to where a patient is out of balance or lacking in perspective. Herbal formulas move energy and blood where it is stagnated, heat what is cold, cool what is on fire, moisten what is dry, and resolve what is damp. All of the physical manifestations are often symbolic of deeper mental, emotional or spiritual imbalances. For example, if a patient comes in with depression, loose stools, fatigue, a thick white tongue coating and swollen tongue body, we can diagnose this patient with dampness due to poor eating habits. Upon interviewing the patient, we discover that they are taking care of a sick parent or disabled child. Further, they are emotionally and physically exhausted while not taking care of their own needs and are secretly resentful of being put in such a situation. We can interpret that this patient is having a difficult time digesting their own life experience and the resultant stress is causing digestive weakness. As a consequence, the actual food they are eating is not nourishing them, but instead becoming a burden in the form of dampness in their digestive tract.

We can prescribe this patient an herbal formula and foods that will help them to dry damp, and warm and strengthen the digestive system. At the same time, we can choose acupuncture points on the stomach and large intestine channels to both move energy through the physical organs, and also to metaphorically and energetically promote integrity, self- worth, and healthy reciprocity. We can do all of this with herbs and acupuncture while at the same time reinforcing the intentions of the treatment through the reframing of their experience with the appropriate language. Anyone who is struggling with the demands of being a human being in the 21 st century can benefit from Chinese Medicine. Our symptoms often manifest from areas of our life that are being overlooked, repressed, or suppressed, and the difficulty of making meaning from our life experiences. A skillful Chinese Medicine practitioner can help to compassionately and artfully open a patient to what is getting in the way of the healing procress and to living life to its fullest potential.