By Cailin O'Hara, MAcOM, LAc, Dipl OM
Last week I introduced the 3 basic rules: how acupuncture treats anxiety. These rules can be applied to virtually any condition or symptoms treated with acupuncture. Today I will focus on the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the treatment of mental and emotional health (anxiety in particular) with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Answers to your most commonly asked questions...
How often do I need to come in for treatments?
The answer to this will vary based on the acupuncturist you see. When I work with mental and emotional health in my clinic, I generally treat patients once per week for about four weeks. After that timeframe, we re-evaluate based on our progress. Keep in mind that I create a treatment plan for each patient (see the next question), and I often include a number of recommendations for at-home care. Acupuncture treatments are powerful, but what you do in your own time for yourself outside of the clinic will make a huge difference.
Do you make a treatment plan?
Yes! Absolutely. In my clinic, I create a treatment plan after my first session with a patient. It outlines the focuses of our treatments (both primary and secondary) and our short and long-term goals. It specifies the recommended number of treatments and how they should be spaced out (i.e. one treatment every 5-7 days for the next 4 weeks). The plan also notes if care from other providers is necessary (i.e. a counselor). Self-care and dietary recommendations are added to the treatment plan and at the end of each treatment. Think of it as health and lifestyle coaching every step of the way.
How soon can I expect to feel better?
Many people report improvements after the first treatment. Remember, we aren't just treating your anxiety- we are treating you as a whole. So, you should expect things to improve on all fronts: digestion. sleep, energy, mood. It's important that you track how you're feeling each day so we know how things are changing. Receiving acupuncture regularly in the beginning is important to get the best results.
Will my symptoms come back if I stop acupuncture?
So, you're getting acupuncture treatments, and you're feeling great. Your moods have evened out, your sleep is more consistent, your panic attacks have gone quiet... are you cured? Do you have to keep getting acupuncture?
The short answer: no, you don't have to keep receiving treatments if you feel better. Most people want to keep it up because they love the way it makes them feel, but all of your anxieties don't come flooding back in if you miss a treatment. The aim of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to heal the imbalances that are causing your symptoms. As you learn what these are for you and receive treatments, you evolve and heal. And as this happens, your symptoms will change and fade.
Do I have to believe it will work?
Nope. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have very little to do with your belief systems. When you experience acupuncture, you realize it has nothing to do with whether you believe in it or not! The sensations and experiences of acupuncture can be profound, invigorating and even life-changing... pain lessens, the mind goes quiet, the body relaxes. Try it for yourself to see how it feels. And go to more than one acupuncturist in your life. We're all different, and you may find you like one style of treatment more than another.
Still have a questions about treating anxiety with acupuncture? Contact us!
Cailin O'Hara, MAcOM, LAc, Dipl OM, is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified Chinese herbalist based in Phoenix, Arizona.