Monday, October 4, 2010

Observations on the state of our profession and how I practice

A colleague of mine questioned the relationship that we should maintain with our patients, and suggested that as acupuncturists, we should limit our practice to "safe" areas such as pain management. This issue, I believe, cuts to the root of how, and what we practice, and, in essence, what we are: For if, we are skilled technicians, whose job is to ameliorate symptoms, much as chiropractors, physical therapists, speech pathologists or even, yes, psychologists or social workers, then absolutely, we must make sure to maintain a strictly professional relationship with our "clients" who we, the therapists are serving.

But if, on the other hand, we are physicians treating the whole person, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, then, I believe our goal should be to help our patients find equilibrium and balance, and most importantly enable them to learn how to heal themselves. This, I believe,
can't be done if we compartmentalize the treatment, and it will also require a patience and wisdom enabling the patient to trace back those components which contribute to their present illness. This is the process of determining and resolving the pathogenesis of the illness, at the pace that the patient is
able to. Now this can be complicated, and may necessitate developing a deeper relationship with your patient. Again the key and the focus must be to always remember to take responsibility: The patient, in order to heal, becomes VERY vulnerable. That vulnerability MUST be honored and respected. We must NEVER violate that trust and openness, by betraying it personally, or to others, even family members, and certainly not anyone else. We also must remember that our goal must be to enable our patient to become strong and self-sufficient, and NOT dependent on us (though, paradoxically, during this process, as we educate them to become independent, they may become very dependent upon us! So we must never lose focus as to our goal!!!) Remember that the traumas, physical and emotional, that they have endured have disabled them, and to heal them is to free them. Remember the wonderful Shirley Temple movie, Heidi? Yes, when our patients are healed, free and balanced, we can indeed become friends with them, much like comrades who have survived a war, but each step along the way, in the process, including the appropriate boundaries, needs to be honored, while guiding and fighting what can be unrelenting enemy.

Now, again, it depends how one runs his practice and how he treats his patients. I see each patient for 2, sometimes 3 hours. I integrate craniosacral therapy into my every treatment. As such, I usually treat 3 to a maximum of 5 patients per day. I also am available for my patients to call me, 24/6 and I don't charge for phone consultations with existing patients. I know that this model is very different than is typical, as most successful practitioners will treat many more patients per day, charging less per patient than I do (I charge $100 per hour plus herbs and minerals when necessary). But even though, in all likelihood, they make much more money than I do, this model works for me, and I would never consider changing how I treat or relate to my patients.

One other note that I will mention: It can be a bumpy, unpredictable, at times, traumatic path which we take, as old, sometimes forgotten traumas are brought to the surface. Some people can't handle it. It can also be a long path, and some may not be able to afford it, financially. But for those willing to take the journey, the reward can be enormous.

The question that I leave my fellow practitioners and physicians with is this: What is the purpose, the raison d'etre of your practice. In Hebrew, the word for love, ahava, comes from the root, hav, meaning to give. If what you are doing is unselfishly giving to your patient, then only good will result.

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