The Benefits of Acupuncture for Mental Health
Acupuncture is an energetic system of healing that originated in China several thousand years ago. A Chinese healing perspective understands that the body and mind are always interconnected and teaches us that humans are a reflection of the elements and the laws of the natural world. Acupuncture is beneficial for healing and harmonizing the body and mind. It is a holistic way of viewing a person in order to address the root cause of imbalance. While one cannot be separated from the other, following is a brief overview of how the Chinese healing tradition views and supports mental and emotional health.
Blood and qi (pronounced “chee”) are substances within the body that are vital to a thriving, joyful existence. Most people are familiar with blood in terms of getting their blood drawn and finding out what levels of vitamins and minerals or other components are present. From a Chinese healing perspective, however, blood houses and anchors the spirit, mind and emotions of a person, and qi is the vital force of energy that flows through us and through everything. Just as the mind and body are interconnected, so are blood and qi. So when one is deficient or excess, it affects the other. You could think of the tires on your car as an example. When one loses a bit of air (or a lot of air!), it affects the others. They start to wear unevenly and affect the overall balance and driving experience of the vehicle. Even though there are three others that were fine to begin with, they all have equal importance to the functioning of the whole and one functioning at lesser capacity will affect the others. This is the same for the body-mind and for blood and qi.
When blood and qi are deficient, excess or stagnant, a person may feel listless physically, mentally and emotionally. They may feel foggy-headed, depressed, anxious, angry, chaotic, unable to focus and have a clear direction. As mentioned earlier, the Chinese healing tradition views humans as a reflection of the elements and the laws of nature (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal). Too much heat in the body, for example, can cause the feelings of chaos or delirium. Excess heat wants to vent itself out of the body, and one of the ways it does that is by rising. Rising heat affects the mind. Think about when someone has a very high fever. Some of us have either experienced that or know someone who has, and often they experience some form of delirium. Heat can also be in excess, however, to a much lesser degree and still affect the mind with feelings of frustration, outbursts of anger and other mood swings. Imbalances of cold, dampness and dryness in the body will also create disharmonies of the mind.
Most people typically have a combination of the above going on. Thought and emotional patterns, type of work and daily activities, home environment, traumas, loss, nutrition, environmental toxins, degree of physical movement and other variables all affect blood and qi and the balance of the elements in each person.
From a Western medical perspective, acupuncture can benefit mental health by improving the functioning of the brain, neurotransmitters, blood flow, calming the nervous system and balancing hormones.
A practitioner of Acupuncture will look to see what imbalance would best be addressed and chooses acupuncture points along specific energetic pathways (meridians) on the body that will help to facilitate a better flow for the mind and body.
Acupuncture builds on itself, and treatment is a partnership. A practitioner will help the client recognize thought and emotional patterns as well as lifestyle variables that are contributing to the imbalance of the elements, blood and qi and offer transformational practices and lifestyle suggestions that the individual can implement into his or her daily life. These practices and suggestions not only extend the benefit of treatment, they empower the individual to be their own greatest healer. The number of sessions necessary for people to notice improvement varies for each individual. People often come more regularly in the first couple months and less frequently thereafter if a good level of progress has been made. It is important to keep an open conversation between practitioner and client about what is working and what is not so that treatments can be adjusted or other modalities recommended.
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Jeanne Crane is a Licensed Acupuncturist in the State of Maryland and received her education in the healing arts from the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) in Laurel, Maryland. She is also a certified Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist through the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Towson University and previously worked in the Adult Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview assisting her clients to return to the workforce.
Jeanne often recommends easily implemented practices to help clients optimize the benefits of their treatments and encourages their exploration of other modalities that, combined together, may help them feel their best.
She likes to create an environment and treatment where her clients feel relaxed enough to reconnect with who they are and what they truly want for their lives – knowing that the connection between the mind and body makes all things possible.