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Fall, 2007

The Healing Intent in Medicine


The Encounter

Somebody knocks on the door. A very tall man in a very long, white coat walks in. He looks at you with a smile, extends his hand to you and says, “Hello, Mrs. Rogers, I am Dr. Reissig, it is very nice to meet you.” Then he pauses and sits down with you. You notice the kindness in his eyes, his hands were warm, and soon you feel warm and comfortable inside. Your heart rate slows down, your breathing becomes deeper, and you let out a little sigh of relief.
Neither one of you has yet exchanged a single word about your illness or your concerns. Yet, at some deep level, you already feel you are half way on the road to recovery. It really would not matter if you had come to seek treatment for arthritis, allergies, headaches, or cancer. Your transformation, as a response to this doctor’s presence, would have been the same in each instance.
He asks you what brought you there, how he can help you. He sounds at ease and reassuring. You tell him your story: recent grief over the loss of your dear pet, pain in your stomach, nagging headaches, restless nights, muscle cramps, a demanding job, an indifferent spouse.
He listens. He does not look at your chart, he does not write, and he does not become distracted. He just sits with you and listens attentively and empathetically. Then he says, “I can help you”, and you feel a jolt inside you that confirms it. You have both entered what I call the Therapeutic Loop, which I consider of utmost importance for healing to occur.


How a physician’s healing intent can bring out the patient’s inner healing power

We all have the capacity to heal ourselves, but few of us are even aware of this Inner Healing Power we own. We rely on doctors, procedures, and medications to restore our health, and often none of these accomplish the desired outcome. The subtleties of the physician’s Healing Intent and that of the patient’s own Healing Power have not been examined nor studied to any extent. And if, some day, we do pay more attention to these two wonderful forces within us, we may realize that the driving force behind every successful treatment modality resides in them. We will eventually understand that the physician’s Healing Intent ignites the patient’s Inner Healing Power with a formidable force, and that together they craft a masterpiece tool for healing. Such a therapeutic tool may become one of the strongest and most effective healing modalities in the near future.
It is my theory that many of the improper therapeutic selections, adverse effects of treatments, and poor outcomes are, in great part, due to the lack of Healing Intent and the absence of a Therapeutic Loop between physicians and patients.


A Story from my Own Practice

J.S., a delightful 55 year old woman, came to see me a few weeks ago, dragging herself into my office, barely walking with a rigid ankle brace and a cane. Tearful she told me her story. Four months earlier she had undergone a left hip replacement. She had come out of the OR with a new hip and...a foot drop. A nerve had either been cut or injured during surgery, and her left foot was now hanging down, having lost its functional capacity for walking. Her unsympathetic surgeon implicitly blamed her for the mishap, by complaining that she was too heavy, and that her weight (actually under 200 lbs) had made the surgical procedure too difficult.
I listened to her story. “I can help you”, I said. “If the nerve has not been cut, we can bring it back to life.” She smiled. At that very moment her inner confidence to heal had been ignited. She was to attend a very important wedding a few weeks later, “I want to walk at the wedding, wear shoes like everybody else, rather than just barely move around with a brace and a cane.” “You will”, I said, “I would say that there is a 98% chance that you’ll walk at that wedding.”
I was completely sure that she would recover; my Healing Intent was at a 100% boiling point, but I always lower my 100% by 2 points, since I practice in a lawyer-populated society. I knew we had both entered the Therapeutic Loop within the first 15 minutes of that visit, so all I had left to do, was to turn on my educated intuition, and choose the best treatment for her. I had plenty of choices from the different modalities I had studied in the last 35 years. I started with Chinese acupuncture, using the French energetic model, followed by Su Jok (Hand Foot) Korean acupuncture, Moxibustion, and seed Acupressure techniques. Besides the pain in her new hip joint and the foot drop, she also had significant ankle swelling. Within two visits she began to feel better, lost 7 lbs by the third visit and another 6 lbs by the fourth visit, which was mostly due to eliminating all the swelling in her lower extremity.
After 5 treatments over 3 weeks, she walked into the office in her new shoes, beaming, her brace and her cane gone. “I can walk!” and, “The neurologist had only given me a 2% chance for recovery!”
She will, indeed, as she had wished, attend the wedding, dressed and walking like everybody else.


The Healing Intent as the Driving Force behind All Treatments

Michael T Greenwood, a Canadian physician who also practices acupuncture, wrote a beautiful article, Acupuncture and Intention: Needling without Needles back in 1999. (In the journal Medical Acupuncture, vol. 11, No. 1, 1999)
Here is what he had to say:

“...We can learn the point’s location and with a modicum of training, almost anyone can insert a needle into a correct location, But is that all there is to it? Are correct diagnoses and treatment formulas the foundation of acupuncture? Or is there something transpiring behind the ritual of acupuncture that accounts for many of the effects?
“...But what if intention is the whole key to the success of an acupuncture treatment? And what if the needle insertion is simply an expression of that intent?”

Dr Greenwood’s reference to the healing intent behind those acupuncture needles can be applied to any therapeutic modality across all medical specialties.
So here is a new perspective for patients, as they choose their physicians. That list of qualifications that we all have in mind when choosing a doctor should now include their ability to put into action their Healing Intent. It is something that you will clearly feel when in the presence of a physician, be it an internist, a surgeon, an oncologist or an alternative medicine doctor. It is a sense of oneness with your doctor, and one of being together inside that Therapeutic Loop. It will no longer suffice to find an expert for the treatment of your illness, but you must also find what drives that expert to do a stellar job for you: his Healing Intent.

As we sit together,
patient and doctor,
all healing starts,
long before
a single word is spoken


I wish you all the very best holidays, filled with love and joy, and may all your physicians who treat you, be inundated with their Healing Intent for you!



Christina Stemmler, M.D.

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