Patients heal faster when practitioners work closely

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After 11 years of higher education and starting my practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I still had relatively little understanding about emotional and physical health being intertwined.

One of the first memories of a possible connection was witnessing several patients crying when their psoas muscles were released. These were not tears of pain, but rather tears of relief. These patients cried as a result of releasing sadness/stress/tension/trauma that had been stored in that deep back and hip muscle.

After 13 years in practice, not only do I hold a deep respect for the mind/body/spirit connections, I rely on them to help promote health and well-being. I believe emotional components of all symptom pictures require addressing if one aspires to facilitate full health.

Furthermore,  as the mind affects the body, so does the body directly affect the mind. Even a broken bone has an emotional aspect to it. As my work has evolved, I am more convinced of the necessity of multiple modalities to create a synergy of healing.

Indeed, my work feels more revolutionary than ever by helping folks to understand that sustained health extends far beyond what is offered by our current “cookie cutter” perspective of health care.

Recently, my colleague, psychologist Dr. Paula King, and I spoke at a national symposium of mental and emotional health regarding our work combining TCM and psychology. It was an honor to be invited to speak because we are pioneers working in a fully integrated manner within a complementary care practice, and perhaps of greater importance, we are pioneers in articulating what it takes to create and maintain an integrative medicine clinic.

We have seen patients get better faster when we work together. We analyzed the synergy of our work and asked patients about their personal experiences of combining acupuncture and TCM with psychology. Through that process, we have identified key elements to our success with patients (for the purposes of this column, the “healing team” is defined as the patient and the patient’s team of health care practitioners working to achieve goals as set forth by the patient):

1. Achieving ultimate healing requires absolute commitment by the entire healing team. The pure intention of that team drives successful outcomes.

2. It is helpful for the healing team to mutually and willingly explore a possible correlation between emotional/behavioral health and the presenting health of the patient.

3. It is important for the healing team to have confidence in each other and each practitioner’s respective modality of care. 

4. Collaboration between practitioners speeds the healing process because of these factors:

■ Patients reveal different aspects of their health to different practitioners, allowing for more efficient communication, thereby allowing each practitioner to utilize modalities efficiently.

■ Patients do not have to rehash their entire health story to each practitioner.

■ Two practitioner minds are better than one, and a dozen minds focused on the goals of patients are exponentially better than two.

■ Patients feel cared for, which shifts the energy from despair and suffering to hope. That promotes healing.

■ Practitioners feel supported by one another and the pressure to “do it all” is relieved.

5. Integration of various modalities, including but not limited to counseling, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutrition, chiropractic, functional medicine, massage, homeopathy, naturopathy, and Western medicine pharmacology/diagnostic tools engages patients’ potential in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. 

6. Developing strong relationships between patients and practitioners, as well as practitioners having a strong working relationship, is valuable. 

It is up to practitioners to educate their patients, helping them recognize the interplay of their mind, body, and spirit.

Are you experiencing an ailment? Seek care that integrates treatments to address all of who you are.

Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at hhacumed.com, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.


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