The practice of practice

The Challenge of Ethics in a Healing Relationship • Laura Christensen • Qi167

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Ethics is never a simple black and white calculation, but rather the inquiry into proper relationship in a world filled with variability. It’s about considering the relationship with self, other, and society. And it’s a way to check ourselves for blind spots and to consider how our actions affect others, as well as ourselves.

In this conversation with Laura Christensen we explore common ethical issues that all acupuncturists are likely to run up against. And you might be surprised to hear about how when considering ethical modes of practice we not only need to consider our patients, but our selves as well. Not operating our businesses in a sustainable way can also be seen as an ethical issue, as we put a burden on our patients when we are overburdened.

Listen into this conversation on some surprising ways you might want to reconsider some of your ethical stances, and why there are situations where crossing ethical boundaries might be of benefit to the patient.

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In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • The opportunity to witness ethics mistakes
  • Appropriate boundary crossing can help to establish rapport
  • Learning and practicing
  • Without proper boundaries we cannot be in service to our patients
  • Keeping the patient’s interest in mind
  • Practicing in a way that we don’t harm ourselves
  • Anger at patients might be a sign we’ve transgressed on the therapeutic relationship
  • Recognizing that we have more power in the relationship, and our responsibility in managing that properly
  • Being attentive to where you derive your sense of self value
  • There is a difference between “paying to do acupuncture” inside your practice and outside of it
  • Some issues to consider with offering discounts
  • Power imbalance in the therapeutic relationship
  • Issues of authority and taking responsibly for the inherent authority of our position as a medical expert

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Ethics is not about answers– it opens up bigger and more painful challenges.
Really Thinking is not the same as getting answers. And it’s not a google search. ​

Laura Christensen, L.Ac

I never planned to be an acupuncturist. My participation in this medicine evolved from curiosity about how to use safe and natural methods of healing to help people. Various events, people's comments, my own curiosity, and inner wisdom have brought me to where I am now, running a general practice clinic with an emphasis on orthopedics and pain, in Iowa City, IA. I also own a multi-practitioner holistic clinic attached, where I can refer folks for other helpful therapies. I was the first professionally trained acupuncturist to establish a successful practice in Iowa, beginning here in 1992 before there was licensing. I call myself the old lady acupuncturist of Iowa.

Back in '95 a patient told me that I was working “like a blind acupuncturist in Japan.” I was amazed, and curious to learn more. That lead me to study Japanese acupuncture in some depth and end up in a lineage of blind acupuncturists, using palpation as my main tool. I'll say that being trained as a cellist was very helpful in developing those skills as well. I'm now revisiting the Master Tung acupuncture, and beginning training with Dan Bensky and Chip Chase in their Engaging Vitality course where we integrate cranio-sacral principles with acupuncture, and I'm pretty much lost. Which keeps me inquiring, experimenting, trying to understand this incredible medicine that we are so blessed to practice. I love the fact that I work in a medicine where I can come to work and face a new challenge every day and keep learning. I'm afraid of thinking I've got it figured out. I know that leads to bad outcomes for our patients. We must continue to question ourselves, stay curious about the medicine, and be honest about our mistakes and shortcomings.

Enthusiasm is wonderful, but now that I am an older practitioner I find more comfort in curiosity and not knowing. This makes some other practitioners uncomfortable, but I know that each health journey is unique. A big challenge is actually patient education and managing their expectations for treatment. I work hard to help patients become owners of their health journey and help them stay focused on what they can do for themselves with my assistance. As a profession we still have a huge amount of education to do, to help our patients and future patients understand what to expect from our medicine and how to gain the most from what we do.


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Links and Resources

This has been part one of a two-part on-demand podcast course.
For details and to purchase this course which will get you 2 NCCAOM PDA's for ethics, visit this page.


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Classical Medicine in the Modern World