Holistic Healing: Treating the Roots of Imbalance with Acupuncture

by Sophia Hartell, Acupuncturist

At Mountainside, we believe in helping our clients heal mind, body, spirit. To that end, we combine traditional therapies with evidence-based, holistic treatments. In this new “Holistic Healing” column, we will highlight the many effective alternative modalities we use to care for our clients.

People often ask me what got me interested in acupuncture. The truth is my journey into the study and practice of this powerful ancient medicine began because of my own search for healing. I was a client at an alcohol and drug treatment center for women and their babies, and one of the services offered was acupuncture.

After completing the program, I was lucky enough to qualify for a vocational training program. Little did I know at that time that I would later graduate with a Master’s Degree in the Science of Oriental Medicine.  My dream was to help alcoholics and addicts with acupuncture. After 16 years of working in pain management and private practice, my dream came true. Three years ago, I became a full-time employee at Mountainside Treatment Center.

Acupuncture continues to intrigue me. The practice of acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body. There is a system of meridians that Qi (energy) flows through, pooling up at specific points.  Each meridian corresponds to an internal organ and helps us maintain health throughout our body, mind, and spirit.

Oriental medicine views the body holistically which works well in treating alcoholism and addiction – clear examples of diseases affecting body, mind, and spirit. At Mountainside, we offer acupuncture in a group setting, using a protocol developed for Detox and all stages of recovery. We also have the opportunity to work with clients individually, so that we can address specific needs. During individual sessions, we work towards treating the root cause of the imbalance that is manifesting their specific symptoms.

In group acupuncture, we utilize what is now known as the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol. This is a group of five points on the ear.  Western science describes the use of these acupuncture points as influencing hormones and the nervous system. In the science of acupuncture, we describe the ear as being a map of the body and enabling one to treat the whole body just by using points on the ear.

Dr. Wen Hsiang Lai, MD, a Hong Kong neurosurgeon, discovered in 1972 that electrical stimulation to the lung point on the ear could alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal from opiates. Two years later, Dr. Michael Smith introduced Wen’s concept to the U.S., and later developed a 5-point protocol for treating heroin addiction without the use of Methadone.  In 1985, Dr. Michael Smith founded NADA.

Now, the NADA protocol is practiced in 150 countries, 200 languages, and in 800 treatment centers across the U.S. and Europe. It is an effective treatment used at all stages of recovery. This treatment is also known to be helpful in treating trauma and issues with mental illness. The results are often immediate. Clients feel better and begin building belief that life can be different.

From Detox throughout a client’s stay in the Residential program at Mountainside, acupuncture is here to support the transformation to health and vitality. During individual sessions, clients may focus on a variety of complaints.  But instead of asking what kind of symptoms this person has, we ask what kind of a person has these symptoms. There is a famous saying in Chinese medicine: “One disease, many treatments; many diseases, one treatment”.

Two people may appear to have the same symptoms but have different causative factors, and so they are treated with entirely different sets of acupuncture points. Acupuncture can treat the root of the imbalance by removing blocks in the flow of qi through the meridians so that nature will restore its natural balance, allowing us to claim our birthright of being happy, healthy, joyous and free.