Nowhere is the fear of getting things wrong more evident than when five element acupuncturists are faced with diagnosing a patient's element. All of us seem to be worried that not "getting it right" straightaway may somehow be regarded as a failure. I have written more about this in my two latest blogs (80 and 81). Here I want to continue this discussion with more insights as to why treatment on any element can never be harmful to a patient, provided we remember the basic rules of good five element practice.
Firstly, always keep things as simple as possible. The simpler is always the better because five element treatment is based on giving simple instructions to the element we have chosen as a patient's dominant element. We then give that element time to show us clearly whether its response is one of relief at being so firmly addressed, or leaves the patient almost unchanged.
Another important rule is that we should never take energy away from a depleted element in order to pass it on to an element which already has more energy. Nor should we confuse the elements by needling points on different elements during the same treatment. The only exception to this rule is when we are correcting certain energy blocks, such as a Husband/Wife imbalance.
Practitioners are often reluctant to offer their patients these simplest of treatments, in the false belief that they will be impressed by the number of needles used. For example, it has always been difficult for me to convince students that one of the most profound five element treatments you can ever give a patient is simply needling the source points of one element and leave it at that - four points, two for each official on either side of the body. JR Worsley used to tease us by saying that a good acupuncturist would take only 3 minutes to do a treatment: one minute to greet the patient and take the pulses, one minute to needle the very few points needed and one minute to say goodbye.
And then there is the question of how much time during each appointment we should take up by talking with our patients, and this is because there is some confusion as to whether five element acupuncture should be considered to be a talking therapy or not. We certainly need to get to know our patients by questioning them and giving them the opportunity to talk about their problems. We must, however, always remember that it is the patient's elements which will ultimately help solve these problems, rather than spending too much time talking them through with the patient.
As an additional note here, I learnt early on from my own treatment the importance of keeping to simple treatments. I was being treated by a practitioner at JR Worsley's Leamington college, and JR would often come in to give my practitioner the benefit of his experience. So I had a great deal of evidence of how simple the treatments he suggested each time were. Often the same treatments were given at intervals, such as the AEPS or Windows, but always the basis for each treatment were the command points. I don't remember an occasion when he recommended any points beyond this classical repertoire. The sheer simplicity and, I like to think, purity of the proposed treatments have stayed with me and have formed the foundation for all the many years of my own practice and teaching.