A Question of Style
In a course on Ericksonian hypnotherapy, I was struck by the concept of reframing. What was clear to me as I heard these concepts was that I practiced reframing, which I refer to as imaging in the following discussion, every time I treated a client. In each case, the client’s conditions, complaints, and disturbances were reformulated in energetic terms which, when shared with the client, served as powerful new means of perceiving the bodymind imbalances that often led to a bodily felt sense (Gendlin) of the energetic nature of the imbalance. Such a sense was like an energetic sensory awareness that the client seemed to already possess on some level. Over time, I came to conceive of my work not as treatment of complaints and disturbances, but rather as a prod to enable my clients to recollect and remember the bodymind functions they had temporarily lost touch with. I no longer saw the needles as healing tools per se, but rather viewed the imaging of complaints in energetic terms as the precondition for the effectiveness of the needles once they were inserted. I began to trace the pathways carefully on the client, to help him feel the areas of conflict and to visualize how they would flow when restored to more normal functioning. Often I would ask, after inserting the needles, whether I had left a point or area untouched that needed to be touched. To my initial surprise, the client would often immediately point to a specific point or energetic zone that made perfect sense, and at times served, when needled, to move the transformation process much further or faster.
The conclusion, for me, after ten years of treating people with acupuncture therapy, was evident. I personally was not a healer, but an educator in the strict sense, guiding my clients, I hoped, to a new understanding of their bodymind energetics. The bodymind integrated perspective of acupuncture energetics and the wonderfully detailed and complex acupuncture understanding of the body energetic were my biases--my point of departure. When I shared these insights with my clients and entered into an imaging of their complaints or situations in acupuncture bodymind-energetic terms, they were helped to gain contact with a hidden, or perhaps even lost, self-awareness of the integrative, healing capacities of the bodymind’s will to be well.
From Chapter 8
Many American acupuncture therapists do not palpate the body in any significant way. A quick check of a few Mu and Shu points on the initial visit is often the extent of the palpation, thus delaying the possibility for a somatic energetic awareness on the patient’s part until the needles are inserted. What this does, often against the therapist’s intent, is to shift the locus of control away from the client to the practitioner. Since the client has no chance of reacting to the evaluation process somatically, no chance of sensing and feeling what the acupuncture therapist is explaining, the context of the treatment can rarely be other than the orthodox doctor–patient relationship, in which the doctor knows what is wrong and how to fix it and the client is a passive recipient of treatment. While some practitioners do not relate to their clients at all, and still treat effectively (granted, insertion of needles provokes great changes, even with neophytes) we are speaking here not just of alleviation of symptoms, but of an educational process in which the client learns how to regain and maintain health, preferably using acupuncture only by choice rather than depending on it.
Palpation as described in Chapter 7 brings the client, and his bodymind awareness, into the center of the process, starting the healing process with the interview rather than with the insertion of needles. What is said by any health practitioner during the intake can prod the placebo capacity, as some are now coming to term it (the capacity for self-healing with minimal outside intervention), or can hinder it severely! While Asian practitioners do not teach about or make use of the placebo capacity and bodymind awareness in most instances, we in the West must, it seems to me, if we are to place acupuncture in the forefront of new models of health rather than relegate it to a possibly outdated pathological, medical/medicalizing model. It takes time to palpate in the way I describe, but this time is all part of the healing process and part of the treatment, and sets the stage for a powerful change once the needles are inserted. This palpation/evaluation/imaging process often provokes changes in and of itself, with no needling. It also cuts down tremendously on the number of treatments a person needs. Except for trauma or acute pain, which may require several treatments in close succession, I tend to treat someone two or three times at first, with a week between each session. Then, after the second or third treatment, I give the next treatment two or sometimes even three weeks later, another treatment a month later, a seasonal followup session a few months later, and three or four treatments a year if the client is using acupuncture for health maintenance as well as for a specific set of complaints. This is easily only one half the number of treatments I used to perform, with better results overall than when I treated more frequently. I believe this is because I have learned how to capitalize on the treatment process by placing the client’s capacities, not my treatment, at the center. I believe that once prodded, the bodymind can go on to heal itself with very little outside interference. So I interfere and intervene as little as possible. I have found that the most significant changes often occur after a break of two or three weeks when the client is not being treated.