Thursday, October 14, 2010

How should we interpret patients’ reactions to treatment?

In her comment on my New Thoughts on Aggressive Energy blog (28 May 2010), Janet mentioned a negative reaction to an AE drain, and asked the interesting question as to whether acupuncture could cause “a sudden downturn in a patient’s underlying condition”. As usual, other people’s thoughts set me thinking, and here are some new thoughts of mine.

Any kind of treatment, from conventional medicine to psychotherapy to acupuncture, tries to change something, and, if effective, will change something for the better. But the processes of change in themselves can be disturbing, and often are, as body and soul have to adapt to a new condition, to a state of greater balance, which they are unused to, or have actually never experienced before. A return to balance is not achieved in some seamless transition from imbalance to balance, but usually through fits and starts, some of them challenging. We and our bodies are creatures of habit, and have grown used to the familiarity of imbalance over the years (and the onset of an imbalance can often be measured in years, not days or months). We may therefore find the changes necessary for balance to be restored as surprisingly difficult to deal with. Ultimately, however, they should be rewarding if we stick with it.

I cannot comment on any particular treatment, but in general terms I have found that what somebody may describe as a negative reaction to treatment may in the long run turn out to be a difficult first step on the path towards health. As practitioners, we have to have the patience to accept that all lasting change takes time. As patients, we have to have the patience to give our practitioner the time to help us. Most patients we see have been in and out of doctor’s surgeries for years before they come to us. Why, then, do we think we must be able to help them in a matter of weeks, as some of us in our over-eagerness do? I have found that patients are not in a hurry if we are not. A slow, steady, tortoise-like approach is what we should be aiming at, rather than one which hustles us into thinking that it only requires a few needles to overturn years of imbalance. This represents a hare-like approach, and we know who ultimately won the race!

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