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Author: Felix Heimer
Title: Would Confucius Have Helped?

In terms of a life time and you join a profession while you are still quite green, your consequent sense of inadequacy obliges you to assume a lot of unnatural stances. With the passage of time however, you grow in knowledge, hence in status and hence also in self approbation. And then what? The machinery goes into reverse gear and before you know it you are back to where you started.

It has no right!!!

Panic stricken, you find yourself looking for Saving Factors - what a to-do! One such factor is provided by the blossoming - should that perhaps read 'explosion', of Alternative Therapies. Objectively speaking, these new ideas leave me feeling seriously non-plussed - but subjectively, I rejoice that they are with us: through their presence I consider myself legitimised to go thinking about Health and, perhaps, to practise some of these thoughts.

It seems that with a little bit of juggling almost anybody can set up as an acupuncturist in the same way that they can become Grand Masters of Reiki, or practitioners of kinesiology, or Chinese herbs or Aromatherapy, etc, etc. And the reaction of our doctor friends? They seem to smile benevolently at the situation and I get the impression that it is not an act. One can see why - after all, a trouble shared is a trouble halved.

Noteworthy too, in that nowadays there appears to be less talk about the terminology behind the new therapies - does one detect a growth in medical awareness that a healthy portion of their own 'scientific' explanations suffer from intellectual indigestion?

Which leads me to another question: in the development of a practitioner, just how important is the grasp of the philosophy underlying the therapy?

Personally I contend it is important for the young practitioner to have such a grasp, but that it should not play a central role for the patient. For him(or her) Horse Sense is what is required: horse shit for the vegetable patch and horse sense for the consulting room - I could think of a few worse slogans! For example when an acupuncturist tackles an arthritic joint, let him by all means be imbued with the reasons as to why his needles are going to do the trick; but in his approach to the patient let the emphasis be on comforting suggestions designed to promote trust in the operator. Strong trust makes for a strong relationship and at the end of the day when the sum total of both theoretical and practical considerations have been fully exploited it is the operator/ patient relationship which will determine the 'punch' behind those considerations.

And a final thought - it should be remembered that students of alternative therapies are to the business of Medicine what African athletes are to Athletics.

Upon the commencement of his training, the medical student is asked to don the mantle of medical tradition, which I suspect is a fairly heavy one, while the student of one of the 'new' therapies can enter the ring relatively unburdened by such tradition. Surely that must be to his/her advantage.

To help is all - and to keep our feet on the ground.

Confucius's advice might have been why not go back to older labels. A 100 years ago the caring business did well describing itself as Herbalists or Bone Setters ...?