Many know the feeling of sitting in a doctors office waiting for what seems like hours to speak with a man or women in a white lab coat for only a few minutes. Most times these long waits result in receiving a piece of paper with a prescription on it or the name of a specialist who could help them instead. For many, the frustration that ensues seems to almost outweigh the knowledge of their diagnosis and the piece of paper with its scribbled answer.
Below are the practices of five alternative medical practitioners who stray outside this stereotype and their advice to living a healthier lifestyle. In the Seacoast Area, including the campus of University of New Hampshire, there ranges a wide variety of these practitioners and their ideas on medicine and health that one may never here of from their usual doctor. These practitioners and their work are placed into the category of Alternative Medicine, which is broadly defined as anything that does not fall into the realm of conventional western medicine. For many that means spending hours with their patients to try to help them achieve optimum health.
Beth Ann Shmit’s practice is located in the back of an old yellow house on Portsmouth Ave in Greenland. Her office smells of incense and flowers and three comfy chairs are set facing each other to the right of the reception desk. These chairs are where patients spend their first visit—up to two hours—going over past mental and physical health, diet, work and home life, and eventually the health problems or disharmonies they are experiencing.
Acupuncture has been traced back to the year 1023 in China. Using this ancient philosophy, Beth inserts needles into different places in the body to help remove stagnation or blocked energy, which in acupuncture is known as the “Chi”. This blockage of energy, or chi, results in disease, stress, or pain in the body. She also uses a technique called cupping, which is done by placing cups on different parts of the body and using heat, pulling the skin up underneath. This process also results in a more free flowing movement of the Chi and relaxation. As patient’s problems start to resolve they don’t need to come back as much, yet many continue because they find it to be so worthwhile. Beth explained that just taking better care of one self could prevent many medical issues in the future.
“Breathe! A lot of people don’t get good deep breaths. In our society we tend to overdue it, if we are tired we don’t rest, we drink coffee. The body is intelligent; learn to pay more attention to it,” said Shmit.
According to Ann Sousa, her goal and specialty is in, “bringing harmonic balance to all levels of ones being, utilizing the spirits of Fire, Water, Mineral, and Earth.” Her back-round in mental health work in undeniably solid—she has a degree in mental health and science, worked as a grieving counselor for 25 years, traveled with Peruvian shaman, is a Reiki and Shamballa (a Tibetan spiritual teaching) master, currently practices with Malidoma Some—a west African Shaman, and is a midwife.
Ann spends up to three hours in the first meeting with a patient and will do long distance healing if necessary. People from all around the United States have contacted Ann, who works out of Dover, to ask for help with stress, anxiety, disease, sickness, and depression. She uses Shamanic healing and “root cause analysis” (working on the cause of the problem, not the effects) to help bring people into a place of peace and continuous health. Using Divinations, she contacts her subject’s bloodline ancestors to heal pain and suffering that took place in past generations.
“People ask, well why do I want to go back into my blood line ancestry? Well, because what’s happening in this westerner way of living is that we carry out a lot of patterns and behaviors that we cant quite shed, its like gum on our shoes, we cant figure out why we cant quite shed them and it’s because they go back and back and back,” said Sousa.
Recently she met with the CEO of the Portsmouth Regional Hospital for Planning and Development to bring integrative health medicine into the hospital. In the past she has been the Shaman in the O.R. for a sigmoid colon removal and a partial mastectomy.
For Ann, everyday we can work on making ourselves healthy and whole.
“Get yourself out in nature and around the flow of water. I have treated people with dehydrated brains; people that are constantly working their brains on overdrive and you need to slow that down. Embrace the process you are in now. That’s where the gold is. It’s the journey,” said Sousa.
In Dr. Phil Collin’s last year of school at Boston University he was able to do an independent study and by chance, he chose to do his on Hypnosis and it’s effects on helping people to quit smoking. From there, Dr. Collins has kept with his interest and currently offers hypnosis for people out of health services.
“Hypnosis is not sleep. I think of it as enhanced relaxation,” said Collins.
While people are in the trance Dr. Collins speaks calmly and clearly to the patient about breaking the habit that controls their life. This can be quitting smoking, over eating, having panic attacks, or other various detrimental habits people have problems with.
Although Collins believes that hypnosis can work for people he stressed that it is just one way of trying.
“Whatever works, great. Everyone is different and hypnosis is just one part of the treatment,” said Collins.
Yet, it many circumstances doctors don’t have enough time to spend with each individual patient to really go over what will work best for them.
“Alternative healers spend a lot of time with [their patients], It’s almost like seeing a therapist. With Western Medicine you’re lucky if you get 15 minutes,” said Collins.
When it comes to preemptive care, Collins explained the most basic step is practicing simple breathing techniques.
“A lot of people allow anxiety to snowball, and it gets bad,” said Collins. “Were looking for ways to go, go, go and we need to just step back and slow down.”
The Wellness Counselor and Mediation Teacher
Peter Welch’s office is located on the upper floor of health services in the health and wellness education center. Appointments are easily made and he will speak with a person as many times as necessary to relieve whatever problem they are facing. When asked what exactly he does he explained,
“I offer a loving spirit, someone who treats people with respect and who appreciates the inherent wisdom in each person.”
On top of that, Peter teaches meditation which helps to quiet chatter, teaches compassion for oneself and others, helps a person to be present in the moment, and empowers ones self. Meditation revolves around quieting the mind through breathing techniques and this process has some really interesting physiological effects on the body.
“It induces a relaxation response in the body that releases positive hormones called endorphins that make us feel happy and content,” said Welch. “Instead of a pill doing all that work for you, you’re having your brain do the work.”
Yet, Welch pointed out that not everyone has the opportunity to seek out alternative care.
“Pills are more accessible. Insurance will pay for a visit to a doctor to get medicine, but not for a massage. It becomes a financial decision,” said Welch.
For Welch, one step in taking better care of our health and ourselves is using less technology. “We have become slaves to it now and that overexposure is not good for us. It also cuts us from human interaction,” said Welch. “We need to be touched. We are touched deprived culture.”
The Didgeridoo Sound Therapist
Joseph Carringer life revolves around a long wooden hollowed out piece of wood—his Didgeridoo. He calls himself a sound therapist and his work helps to resolve muscle aches, strain, and tension and also to help alleviate stress and anxiety. His patients range from those struggling with PTSD, to cancer, to adult acne.
The Didgeridoo’s vibrations work in the same way that a traditional ultrasound does by warming the muscles from the inside out. At the same time the vibrations help to stop stagnation of the same universal energy, or life force, that acupuncturists work with. Carringer also helps people to connect their mind and body through meditation. The vibrations of the Didgeridoo resonate with our natural Delta and Theta brain waves to calm and settle the mind.
Joseph does many sessions with patients out of his office in Portsmouth and spends time talking with each about the therapy and the problems they are facing. His actual vibration therapy can run up to an hour.
Like many of the other healers mention, Joseph also thought it was important for people to slow down, breath, and give sometime to your body and mind. He tries to instill that message in his patients.
“My job is to teach people that it’s ok to say no to the media, no to feeling like they have to work 24/7, no to going to the mall, and yes to doing something for themselves—that something being nothing,” said Carringer. “When you look at all the wonderful things western advancements have brought to people, the question still arises of what does the average person do for themselves?”
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) the number of adults in the U.S. that use Alternative Medicine is growing. From 2002 to 2007 the percentage grew from 36.0% to 38.3% with the highest amount in use by people of American Indian ethnicity at 50.3%.
With such a high variety of different medical practices to choose from in the local area, it seems the number of participants will only continue to grow in the coming years.