Chinese medicine offers one proven path to emotional balance and harmony for many people who struggle with anxiety or depression. Many people who receive treatment from a licensed acupuncturist experience significant benefits, and don’t need to take psychiatric drugs.
To be clear, acupuncture, Qi Gong practice and Chinese herbs are not an alternative to therapy, but rather, they can provide an excellent complement that supports the healing work done in therapy. When a person comes into my office presenting a complex and persistent pattern of behaving in a way that undermines their progress and deepens feelings of low self-esteem, a course of therapy is usually needed to help the person learn more effective strategies to deal with their lives. Acupuncture can be one of those strategies. I do believe that treatment with Chinese medicine is frequently an effective alternative to psychotropic medications, especially for people whose complaints and symptoms are not too severe.
Please don't think I'm saying that psychotropic medications never have a useful role; there are serious situations where an experienced psychiatrist can prescribe a powerful drug or combination of drugs that will provide rapid relief that no other known approach will provide. Acute psychotic episodes where a person feels extremely suicidal may be controlled more easily with drugs than with acupuncture and herbs.
I'm not the first person to claim that anti-depressants are over-prescribed in our society. Robert Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs, Magic Bullets and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America should be required reading for every person who prescribes medications and who refers people struggling with emotional problems to psychiatrists.
People who complain to their western medicine doctor of feeling low (often with good reason, after the death of a loved one or the break-up of a committed love relationship) may be prescribed a drug because that's something the doctor can do in a brief visit, and the patient is expecting some tangible "help." A prescription may be interpreted as "help." And, it's possible that the drug may cause a different problem (loss of libido is common), while not addressing the person's actual condition, which might just be needing somebody to listen to and witness their pain and grief.
People who have found pharmaceutical relief from long-standing emotional problems might balk at any suggestion that they give up what is finally helping them lead more satisfying lives. Given that large numbers of people find these drugs less effective over time or never get satisfying relief of their depression or anxiety, it’s important to offer alternative approaches that have been useful for large numbers of people for centuries before pharmaceuticals were invented. When it proves difficult to stop taking drugs, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help make the process of cutting back and eventually quitting medications less difficult.