Giovanni Maciocia Published by Churchill Livingstone, 2009 Hardback, 688 pages. Price: £59.99
(Reviewed by Neil Quinton, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 4)
The Psyche in Chinese Medicine is the sixth book by Giovanni Maciocia to be published by Churchill Livingstone. This volume is concerned with the treatment of mental/emotional problems with Chinese medicine and presents the author's reflections on over 35 years of study and clinical practice of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. An interesting foreword by Peter Deadman is followed by the book's introductory chapters in which the author expounds his dialectical standpoint with a well presented argument against the standardisation of Chinese medical terminology which stands in sharp contrast to that put forward elsewhere by Nigel Wiseman. There is also a refreshing discussion on the impact of 2,000 years of Confucianism on Chinese medicine. Maciocia's thoroughness here is to be commended, as is his bold cross-cultural discussion of concepts of 'mind', East and West. Although Confucian ideas of moderation in all things, including one's emotional life, and duty to one's family, are not exactly central themes of our time, by suggesting that when it comes to Confucianism we "take what applies to us and discard what does not," he advocates a Procrustean approach which, it might be suggested, should be adopted with caution.
Chapters one to nine present clearly the basic theory that will inform the main body of the text. Here Maciocia offers a way of thinking that makes a distinction between shen meaning mind and shen meaning spirit – which certainly offers food for thought. Hun, po, yi, zhi, and shen, are discussed in great detail in their individual chapters and provide central themes for treatment ideas in later chapters. Maciocia makes an accurate and encouraging statement in saying that Chinese medicine does not delve into the psyche; however, his teachings on how to treat mental/emotional problems would clearly necessitate a degree of psychologically oriented questioning. As I, like many other acupuncturists, have had no training in psychology, and am not well versed in Jungian ideas (as Maciocia is), how confident can I feel in applying knowledge gained from this book in a clinical setting? Just as we do, psychologists patrol their professional boundaries with vigour, looking out for potential invaders and impostors. Given this lack of formal training in the subject, can we really say that it is within the scope of our practice to delve into a patient’s psyche? I would actually question whether this is really necessary in order to deliver effective treatment with Chinese medicine.
Whole chapters are dedicated to the conditions mostly seen in private practice, namely depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar illness, night terrors, and both ADD (Attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The Western psychiatric information presented in the book, although insightful and mostly grounded in DSM-IV (Major Depressive Episode), would maybe carry more weight were it to have been written by someone with a background in psychiatry, and, at the same time, might also stimulate the interdisciplinary activity so much needed by our profession at this time. Having said this, these Western disease categories are explained and intertwined with the author’s Chinese medicine interpretation of the condition with possible TCM patterns and with suggested herbal and acupuncture prescriptions for each. Clear explanations and case histories are given throughout these chapters, which, for me, are the book’s real strength. Other chapters are given over to pattern discrimination and acupuncture points that have a specific mental emotional effect.
The book is, as all of Maciocia’s books are, thorough and consistent in discussing the many possible ways of interpreting the signs and symptoms with which our patients could present. At times I felt the book introduced so many possibilities that it was easy to become lost in all of the information. I also wonder if the book need be quite so large – to my mind there are too many diagrams that do not always make his explanations clearer, and unnecessary drawings which just add clutter, as does the part reprinting of already published research material where maybe a reference would suffice.
Handsomely bound and weighty, clearly presented and packed with a wealth of thought provoking information, The Psyche in Chinese Medicine will make an attractive read for anyone interested in the subject as well as a good clinical reference point for those difficult to decipher signs and symptoms. Neil Quinton Neil Quinton studied acupuncture at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine and Chinese herbal medicine at the London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Since 2002 he has worked in partnership with mental health services in Walsall, delivering acupuncture services for people with severe and enduring mental health problems.