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(4 pages total)

Page 4 - Applying TCM Principles to Western Psychotherapy

All of these examples are compilations of students and patients, simplified to illustrate the points. One does not need to be a trained psychologist or counselor to apply them to qi practice. While these may appear a departure from more traditional approaches to qigong and taiji practice, I believe they are based on sound traditional Chinese principles with the ideas presented in simplified English language. Viewing the examples as excessive yin balanced with yang or vise versa places them in a clearly traditional context. Thinking of anger or combativeness as a deficiency of shen or fear and anxiety as needing more jing makes these psychologically based principles more accessible to practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Again, this oversimplifies complex TCM principles, but it does make the concepts available both practitioners and instructors who would find them useful in practice.

The skillful practice of TCM, qigong and taiji requires an enormous amount of technical preparation and practice. Once this level of proficiency is achieved intuition plays a large part in training, diagnosis and treatment. At this level, the skilled instructor or practitioner can begin to "see" psychological or emotional expressions as qi flow or block. In TCM practice we can focus qi on internal organs and teach the patient to do the same. If we can recognize that there is a corresponding psychological or emotional block, we can assist the patient in labeling this and discharging what is unhealthy or adding what is necessary. Working with what Western medicine calls angina pectoris a practitioner may find a deficiency in heart yang. While addressing this in the traditional fashion the practitioner can also treat the emotional upset also associated with this condition and verbally encourage the patient to release, for example, the fear that is creating the anxiety and decreasing yang. It is possible to confuse the fear based aggressive energy that can appear as yang with the calm based assertive qi, which is true yang. A suggestion like "On the next exhale you can breathe out concerns about work or financial insecurity, and with the next inhale breathe in calming strengthening qi, replacing fear and anxiety and allowing them to drain out through your hands and feet". The skilled practitioner can learn to associate feelings associated with disharmony in the Zangfu system and can guide the patient in recognizing and treating these psychological/emotional ailments by also balancing emotional qi.

Combining Eastern and Western medicine also must combine the languages and concepts that express them. The Chinese concepts of the various forms of qi that influence the body and mind can provide a quantum leap in a Westerner's ability to understand the healing process. It also seems true that applying this concept to the energetic influence of emotions and treating them as integral to the qi process can improve our understanding of qi.

Those of us who believe in and practice complementary medicine are familiar with the constant task of educating practitioners of Western medicine to the benefits of TCM. In his recent article in Qi Journal Master Tianyou Hao encouraged us to "enjoy (a) more open, confident and effective" relationship between Western and Eastern medicine. Along with our task of educating Western medicine to TCM, we need to remain open to the inclusion of Western concepts in the practice of TCM.


Joseph E. Scanlon LPC/S, LMT, Fellow, American Academy of Pain Management. A Qigong instructor and TCM practitioner, Joseph Scanlon is owner and director of Counseling Center of Georgetown, a counseling, wellness and pain management clinic in South Carolina. Website www.healingprocess.org

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