When I started my acupuncture practice in 1999, I remember being very surprised by how many of my patients were taking medications for mental imbalances. And today, I’d estimate at least half of the 20 to 25 patients I see daily are on some sort of medication for anxiety, depression or emotional imbalances.
During my first year of college I was away from home for the first time in my life and very home sick. I went to a university counselor looking for some advice; he suggested I try the antidepressant Prozac until I got adjusted to my new situation. “It could help take some difficulty out of the situation for a while,” I recall this mental-health professional advising me.
Even at age 19, this did not sound right to me. I didn’t have a chemical imbalance in my brain that required medication. I was in an overwhelming situation that I needed help adjusting to.
I often wonder whether my patients who take these prescribed medications really have chemical imbalances. So many of my patients have had difficult, truly heartbreaking situations arise, such as the death of a loved one. Sometimes a well-meaning physician will prescribe Zoloft, Prozac or Wellbutrin to help these individuals get through a difficult time.
I know my own thinking skews toward the holistic and natural, but I think in many of these situations – and certainly not in every case – there are healthier alternatives.
In acupuncture and Chinese medicine we look for imbalances in all areas of a patient’s life, i.e. digestion, urination, sleep, energy level, pain, ear, eye or nose problems, and more, including emotional imbalances. Patterns of imbalance tell an acupuncturist which systems need to be worked on to regain balance.
Imbalances in the body generally benefit from many approaches. I often tell people their health is like a pie: There are many pieces to make it whole.
Counseling has helped me see events in a new light, and patients have shared similarly about their successes with seeing a therapist. My counselor recommended having regular therapeutic massage, because human touch is helpful in healing not only our muscles and skeletal system but also our emotional systems.
Leslie Burgess, ND, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor at Calm Spirit, uses neurofeedback, natural supplements and sometimes herbs to treat patients who have anxiety or depression. This treatment works particularly well when a patient’s brain gets on an unhealthy track – thinking in a cyclically and unproductive way. Neurofeedback, or what some call brain mapping, helps retrain our brains to limit the negative or hurtful thoughts.
During neurofeedback a patient wears a cap that contains many sensors that are activated when the patient watches a video or listens to music. A sophisticated computer system measures the individual’s delta, alpha and beta brain waves for signs that an area is “out of whack.” Using a specific program during several treatments, a patient is able to “train the brain” to return to a more balanced and healthy track.
At Calm Spirit Acupuncture and Massage we use different approaches to help our patients find balance. I tell patients often that they need to listen to their bodies to determine the approach that works best for them.
Alexia Bennetts (Lexie) is a licensed acupuncturist at Calm Spirit Acupuncture, 11890 W. 64th Ave., Arvada, 80004; (303) 467-5337; CalmSpiritAcupuncture.com.