Chinese Medicine and Psychology

Chinese medicine, seated in Taoist philosophy, has been around since sometime before the Yellow Emperor famously had it codified and written down in the 3rd millenium BCE. Psychology as a scientific discipline is only about 120 years old, Western medicine  (out of ancient Greece) about 2500; the philosophies of that same era addressed cognition and mental concerns, but it wasn’t until Descartes proposed a duality of body and mind in the 17th century that a separate discipline for the latter could be considered.

Chinese philosophers never conceived of the mind and body as separate, so the medical system addressed both together in terms of patterns of disharmony or imbalance. Western medicine followed a similar path prior to the 17th century, though it is approximately 2000 years younger than that which originated in China. So both Chinese and early Western medicines considered and treated symptoms of emotion, or disposition, or ‘humours’ — the Chinese version being developed considerably earlier.

[A side note: TCM, “traditional” Chinese medicine, is a late 20th century nomenclature and influenced by Western medicine; classical Chinese medicine, the version practiced until the early 20th century before being outlawed for a period of 30 years, is what I’m referring to in this post.]

There’s some question in scholarly circles as to whether Western psychology and treatment methods can be imposed on Eastern cultures. Chinese scholars of psychology have recently developed a hybrid version, Chinese Taoist Cognitive Psychology, which integrates Taoist principles and practices. This is an exciting and promising new development — and correlates with my own work rather well.

Classical Chinese medicine identifies imbalances of emotion which correspond to physiological imbalances in specific patterns of disharmony. This is typically referred to as the Five Phase or Five Element diagnostic filter, and can be integrated with Western psychotherapeutic approaches.  In my practice, I utilise methods of diagnosis from Chinese medicine to discern these patterns, and include treatment recommendations from that perspective as appropriate.  It is my ongoing quest, my life’s work, to bring together the best of both East and West for a therapeutic approach that can benefit anyone — crossing cultural boundaries while remaining respectful of the distinctions.

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