I know that hovering over all five element acupuncturists is the picture of JR Worsley interacting with a patient for a few minutes, and then turning to us with an immediate diagnosis of one element. This picture can delude us into thinking that every diagnosis we make should be equally as fast. But, as JR told us as students, it had taken him more than 40 years’ hard work to get to the stage he had reached. We would all be able to do the same, he said, once we had the same number of years’ practice behind us. So those of us with far fewer years’ experience will have to accept that tracking an element down to its source in a patient takes more than just a few minutes, and very often many more than just a few treatments.
What I tell students is that no patient minds how long this takes provided they feel our compassion for them. A practitioner who has attended many of our seminars, has just sent me the following lovely quote: “People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care.” As long as we show we care, a patient will trust us to know what we are doing and allow us the time to work out gradually which element we should address with our treatment. We must never allow ourselves to be hurried by our patients into feeling that things should be moving more quickly than they are. One of the things we were told as students was that it takes about a month of treatment for every year of illness. That does not mean continuous weekly treatments, but it is a helpful rule of thumb, and allows us to tailor our expectations to a more realistic level.
Once my patients have started treatment, I have noticed that very few of them, if any, seem to spend much time talking about their symptoms, but instead want to talk about their life in general. In fact they often forget altogether why they originally came to see me, evidence that patients do indeed want “care”, and not necessarily a “cure”, although with care often comes cure, since usually the two are closely related.