Acupuncture for Emotional Health in At-Risk Teens

Well-Being

Thompson Falls, MT, January 7, 2004 – Spring Creek Academy is a specialty boarding school for teenagers who are struggling in their home, school, or community. Most of the about 450 students are there because of problems with drugs, alcohol, negative peers, low self-esteem, poor academics and low motivation. Beside the academic program, students are participating in a variety of growth and development programs, and recently, progressive directors Cameron and Chaffin Pullan enlisted the help of Oriental Medicine.

From September to December 2003, Miami based OM Programs, founded and operated by Acupuncture Physicians Carmela and Felix Wolf conducted a four month controlled trial program to research the effects of Oriental Medicine on the emotional development of a group of Spring Creek students. The program consisted of a total of twenty acupuncture treatments, Qigong therapy, acupressure instruction, aromatherapy, and daily herbal therapy.

The treatment protocols targeted anxiety, irritability, substance abuse, and general emotional imbalances. Stress and anger management training was also provided. The students participated in daily sessions for one week every month. Every session started with approximately 30 minutes of Five Element Qigong and was followed by acupuncture, utilizing combined auricular and classical body point protocols. During acupuncture, meditation grade Japanese aloes wood incense was burned to enhance relaxation. An herbal formula, Bupleurum Dragonbone, was given twice daily for the whole four months in a conservative dosage. Progress was monitored through questionnaire feedback by faculty, participating students, and a control group.

The questionnaire asked participating students and the students in the control group if they felt stressed, tired, frustrated, unmotivated, irritated, unhappy, confused, misunderstood, unfocussed, anxious, angry, depressed, worried, or uninterested. Students could answer with never, rarely, sometimes, often, very often, or always, to each of the questions.

The same questionnaire was given to the family representative of each of the students. The family representative is the faculty member with the most regular and comprehensive contact to the individual student. The question here was if the respective student generally feels stressed, tired, etc. and the possible answers were identical to the student questionnaire: never, rarely, etc.

Each answer was given a numerical value: 0 for “never”, 1 for “rarely”, 2 for “sometimes”, 3 for “often”, 4 for “very often”, and 5 for “always”. There were 14 questions total, so the highest possible number per questionnaire was 14 x 5 = 70. A numerical value between 10 and 30 would be considered desirable.

The questionnaires were administered at the beginning (09/03) and end of the program (12/03) to 34 continuously participating students and 30 students in the control group. No explanations or rationale for the questionnaire was given to either group.

Results:

Beginning of program (09/03):
Control group had an average numerical value of 34.85 (36.1 self assessed and 33.6 by faculty)
Treatment group had an average numerical value of 38.7 (39.4 self-assessed and 38.0 by faculty)

End of program (12/03):
Control group had an average numerical value of 39.58 (40.86 self assessed and 38.3 by faculty)
Treatment group had an average numerical value of 25.0 (24.3 self-assessed and 25.7 by faculty)

ANALYSIS:

As expected, both groups had a fairly high initial value, documenting emotional distress. The treatment group felt even worse reflecting the fact that particularly troubled students were selected for the program, either by their parents or by faculty.

The emotional distress worsened in the control group from September to December by 4.73 points or 13.6% which may be due to the approaching winter, holiday season away from family, etc.

The treatment group, however, improved by a very impressive 13.7 points or 35.4% from September to December. It is important to note that even the faculty assessment of the treatment group improved by 32.4% (student’s self assessment improved 38.2%)

CONCLUSION:

A 13.6% worsening of emotional distress in the control group versus a 35.4% improvement in the treatment group adding up to a total difference of 49% speaks for itself.

The researchers took great care, not to influence or otherwise contaminate the evaluations by students and staff and feel therefore that the results are solid and replicable.

STUDENT TESTIMONIALS

During the 3rd round of treatments in November students were asked to give some feedback on the program. A few sample answers are below.

Matt G.:
“This has actually been one of the most amazing things I’ve been through. It has really stabilized my state of being and brought me to a strange sense of inner peace and joy. I feel cured in many aspects, both, mentally and physically.”

Patrick R.:
“The acupuncture program here has helped me with my anger issues and how I react to things. It has also helped me to become more centered with myself and it improved my lower back pain.”

Matt M.:
“The acupuncture program has been a very good thing for me. I feel less stress and I feel calm and focused. This program has given me a positive thing to go home and get involved in. My craving for drugs has decreased and the focus in my life has increased. I look forward to the acupuncture every night.”

Christopher V.:
“This acupuncture therapy has been amazing! Over the last couple of months my anger problem and my mental obsessions over drugs and alcohol have decreased. I have been sleeping much better and I have been a lot calmer and less jumpy. I am very grateful for having been enrolled in it. Thanks a lot Felix and Carmela!!!”

Last modified: September 8, 2009   Posted in: Well-Being