Interview by Alternative Medicine The Voice of Health, 
A Multimedia Publishing Company November 2002

Question 1: 
Tell us how you developed alternative medicine into your practice.

As a youngster growing up in a family of western-trained doctors in Taiwan, I believed that the high-tech American medicine was the most ideal, while acupuncture was “third world medicine”; something to be left behind. I started my career in medicine with the idea that “west was best”.

My initial medical training in pathology had taught me the most fundamental knowledge of the human body and the disease process. Looking through a microscope as a pathologist kept me out of touch with living people. I wanted to educate my patients, not only medicate them. Although family medicine training did put me more in touch with patients, it also triggered a new concern which has lead me down to my current path.

During my residency in family medicine, I was told to treat each out-patient “one problem, one visit” so that I would be able to see 30-40 patients per day. I realized that many people with chronic health problems were not getting better and that surgical procedures and pharmaceutical treatments were not always the definitive answer. Many people developed drug hypersensitivity or refractory to medication that they have been taking for a long time. I was watching my chronically-ill patients struggle helplessly with ineffective medications I had been taught to use.

I always felt that there must be some other way to deal with this group of people rather than merely following my teacher’s instruction to tell them to “live with it” or give them Prozac. During that period of time, I was invited to a lecture about acupuncture and oriental medicine at our local medical school, the Medical College of Ohio, and I was intrigued by the concept of life-force energy (chi) and holistic medicine, presented by J.N. Wu, OMD, who came from Washington DC. A light lit up in my head and I realized that this technique would be the answer for my chronically-ill patients. I went back to school and studied this amazing technique at UCLA Extension in California and Beijing, China.

The first time I was in UCLA Extension Acupuncture class for physicians, I was inspired by the room filled with 200+ American allopathic physicians with a variety of specialties.

From there on many other energetic disciplines became available to me, including: five element acupuncture, traditional Chinese healing techniques such as: tai-chi, medical qi-gong, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), natural-allergy-elimination-technique using acupuncture and applied kinesiology, computer bio-energetic stress testing, auricular medicine, Rei-ki, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Fong-Shui for balancing my surroundings, music therapy, aromatherapy, color-sound-tuning fork vibrational therapy.

The entire training process in TCM emphasizes the personal healthful lifestyle of the practitioner themselves which is quite a contrast to the demanding residency training program, in which American physicians are subjected to sleepless exhausting on-call hours. These exhausted doctors are then expected to deal with the patient’s life and death situations without adequate rest.

An important part of the healing is that the practitioner has to have a healthy perspective. Each doctor must be open to the flow of healthy energy in mind, body and spirit. That was the reason why we were instructed to practice medical qi-gong in the very beginning of the TCM lecture. The concept of mind-body came from the classical teaching: “If the body is sick, the mind worries and spirit grieves. If the mind is sick, the body and spirit will suffer from its confusion. If the spirit is sick, there will be no will to care for body and mind.”

In order to provide the highest quality of comprehensive care for each and every patient, I am committed to continuing advanced studies in the evolving field of medical science.

I had come full circle, back to my roots, as well as the future of collaborative medicine. My educational experience has been a world-class nature with excellent teachers from every area of the globe, including USA, Europe and Asia. I realize acupuncture went from being an original Chinese-oriented modality to a world-wide accepted healing technique. It was the turning point of my medical practice and my life. For me, this was the living embodiment of “yin-yang” transformation; the perfect balance.

For more information about acupuncture,
please visit www.medicalacupuncture.org

 

Question 2: 
What is your educational background?

My 20 years of medical practice came from the following educational and credentialing process:

Nov. 21, 2002 I passed the board certification exam of The American Board of Holistic Medicine (ABHM), sponsored by the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), the oldest professional association of physicians who practice alternative medicine (founded in 1978). The AHMA represents some of the most respected practitioners in their fields. For more information please link to: www.holisticmedicine.org

 

Question 3: 
Tell us about the therapies you employ and how your patients benefit from them. Help us get to know what your practice specializes in, and how this specialty helps people. Describe the services that you offer.

I established the CHI Medical Center in 1994 to integrate allopathic, alternative and preventive medical modalities, as well as lifestyle management and health education counseling. The CHI Medical Center is housed in a 120 year old Victorian home, which is symbolic of traditional philosophies, while incorporating the technology and contemporary protocols for optimum health. Renovation included state-of-the-art medical and technical equipment, full-spectrum lighting, Fong-Shui design to enhance the flow of life-force energy, healing sound with harp music to promote relaxation, healing and wellness, therapeutic chromatics in the choice of soothing and refreshing colors.

I follow a philosophy that patients are ultimately responsible for their own health, and the patient and the doctor are “partners” in health care management. I work closely with each patient, allowing quality time to serve individual needs.

All new patients are required to fill out a comprehensive health questionnaire. This gives each person a chance to review her / his medical history as well as emotional history. To understand oneself is the beginning of the Chi Medical Center’s health program and the therapeutic process, as well as developing our patient/physician partnership.

The majority of patients who come to my office have already tried most of the possible western diagnostic tools and pharmaceuticals as well as surgical treatments without satisfactory results. During the initial visit, after a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s medical history, I investigate the cause of the illness, including any situation that may affect the emotional balance. Most of my patients, male or female, having experienced psycho-emotional trauma but not realizing it, therefore they are not dealing with it. The pain is then an expression of a deep-seated trauma which takes the experience to a level of physical disorder, such as fibromyalgia, insomnia, depression, chronic headaches, back pain, TMJ, hormonal imbalance, etc. I work with the patient to expose the underlying psycho-emotional trauma at the root of the physical disability. If we treat the deep-seated emotional trauma most of these physical pain will subside.

During the initial visit, we also discuss the theories, philosophies and techniques of energy medicine – meridian system and the medical acupuncture treatment protocol. Additional information may be given, if needed, on medical acupressure techniques for emotional release, life-style modification techniques including dietary recommendations and home study materials, which include various books and tapes. One of my goals is to educate the patient to be independently healthy, rather than medicate them forever.

In my experience patients who are self-motivated are determined to be healthy, and take charge of their healing. They respond best to the treatment if they follow the above recommendation.

Treatments are not toxic and minimally invasive. They require the patient to be a part of the healing. The following is a list of CHI medical services:

  1. Holistic Family Medicine, including comprehensive women’s, men’s and children’s health care.
  2. Medical acupuncture: Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as a support or adjunct therapy to other medical treatment forms in many disorders.
  3. Natural allergy elimination technique which combines acupressure and applied kinesiology techniques; with or without acupuncture treatment.
  4. Mind / Body Medicine, incorporates stress reduction and harmonizing techniques including traditional Chinese healing techniques such as medical qi-gong.
  5. Nutritional therapy.

With the above techniques, CHI medical center treats the following illness:

  • Allergy and immune disorders: multiple chemical, food, environmental hypersensitivity, chronic fatigue, viral infections, candidiasis, parasites, heavy metal toxicity, ADD / ADHD/ Autism associate with allergies.
  • Acute and chronic pain management: sports injuries, head-aches, facial tics, trigeminal neuralgia, neck and shoulder pain, various forms of tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.
  • Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyper-acidity, ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, liver- gall balder disorders.
  • Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, colds and flu, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent respiratory tract infections.
  • Neurological disorders: post-stroke paralysis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, vertigo / dizziness, MS (multiple sclerosis).
  • Reproductive disorders: infertility, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), menstrual cramps, irregular menses, post-menopausal syndrome, sexual dysfunction, prostate disorders.
  • Cardio-vascular disorders: arrhythmia, hypertension.
  • Urinary disorders: cystitis, kidney stones.
  • Mental – emotional disorders: depression, anxiety, substance abuse, emotional trauma, emotional stress, eating disorders.
  • Systemic problems: obesity – weight management.
  • Endocrine disorders: thyroid and adrenal disorders, diabetes and hypoglycemia.

 

Question 4: 
Please share with us a successful case history of one of your patients.

Case 1. 
    Pediatric patient: a three-year-old patient presented with the following symptoms: allergy reactions including generalized systemic itchy eczema, dry skin, asthma, irritable bowels, failure of thriving and anti-social and negative behavioral tendency. After the first treatment mother remarked that the patient exhibited the best disposition the first time, such as smiling and happy unlike her usual “cranky” attitude. Patient was able to share toys with other children. After 5 treatments, the patient’s itchy skin subsided and the skin became smooth as a sign of healing. When she was cleared from food and environmental allergens with acupressure energy re-programming technique, she was able to resume normal diet without symptoms.
    My general observation is that pediatric patients respond to the treatment with not only improvement of the undesirable physical symptoms but also psycho-emotional-behavior improvements.

Case 2. 
    Adult patient: 22 years old Caucasian female college student presented with multiple food, chemical, environmental and medication hypersensitivity. Her symptoms included: neck and back pain, myalgia, allergic conjunctivitis with blurry vision, dizziness, contact dermatitis, pruritis, allergic rhinitis/ sinusitis/ bronchitis, asthma, laryngo-pharyngeal edema, thoraco-neuralgia (chest pain), sinus headache, severe fatigue resulted from inability to eat most foods due to food allergies which created epigastric and abdominal pains as well as irritable bowel syndromes. Patient also exhibited gross loss of weight presenting 86 pound from the appropriate weight of 120 pound.
    She was a frequent emergency room visitor. In one semester she visited the E.R 6 times and was not responding well to conventional medical modalities, including prescribed medications for asthma such as Maxair, Albuterol, Proventil, Serevent, and cortisone inhalers, GI medications such as Propulsid and H2 blockers, and dermatological medications such as Hydroxyzine HCl, cortisone cream and antifungal cream. Her relief of these medications was slight to none and she experienced moderate to severe side effects.
    During the course of treatments at the CHI Medical Center her allergy symptoms subsided and she was able to eat most of the food she desired without any adverse symptoms. Her energy and weight returned to normal. She is now able to perform 3-hours dance performance without shortness of breath. Currently she is pain free and lives in a healthy and productive life.

 

Question 5: 
Would you like to share anything else?

In my experience as a medical doctor, a medical acupuncturist and a mother, I have noticed that the following have extreme effects on human system:

  1. Dietary excess of sugars and other chemical stimulants
  2. Deficiency of proper nutrients and rest
  3. Lack of exercise
  4. Omission of creative activities and meditation
  5. Lack of loving – kindness to oneself and others

I have found the following to be the most effective for healing at any age:

  1. Provide the body with exceptional high quality nutrients and unprocessed whole food, pure water and clean air
  2. Provide an element of creative thinking with visualization and expression as well as relaxation and meditation, mind-body connection techniques on a daily basis

Interview by The Harp Therapy Journal 
Vol 6, No.2, Summer 2001

Harpist Elizabeth Chen Christenson, MD specializes in holistic family medicine and medical acupuncture. She is board certified in holistic medicine, medical acupuncture and anatomic and clinical pathology. Her holistic treatment approach incorporates the best of eastern and western medicine. With her diversified cultural background and command of three continental language (English, Chinese and Italian), she is active in multicultural community services. She frequently appears as a guest lecturer for professional and community conferences, radio station and TV. In addition to her other roles as wife and mother, this energetic physician teaches Tai Chi Chuan and is an accomplished musician.

 

When, how and why did you begin playing the harp?

I was born in Taiwan into a medical and musical family. My father was an ophthalmologist, violinist and as a hobby he also organized a western orchestra that practiced in my house on a regular basis. Like my mother and all my siblings, I started out with piano in my younger years. When I was in junior high school, I took voice lessons and later learned to play the classical guitar. Harp at that time was unheard of in Taiwan.

While I was working and finishing my graduate studies I continued to take private classical guitar lessons in New York with Mr. Julio Prol. After I played my pieces during my teacher’s student recital in a Spanish restaurant. Dr. Connie Oliver, my boss from Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Institute who had come to the concert, said “You looked so nice up there on stage, have you ever thought of playing the harp?” It was like a light lit up in my head, and I thought “What a great idea! But I have never seen a live harp before, only from picture or movies.”

My future husband, Edward Christenson, who was a premed student in my college, heard the conversation and the next day, immediately found me a harp teacher through the phone book and rented a troubadour harp. He brought it in a checker taxi with about six inches of column sticking out of the window and carried it up my six floor walk-up apartment on East 73rd Street in New York. I was incredibly excited when I saw how the harp transformed that New York apartment to a heavenly environment. I admired its beautiful shape and sound. The first time I touched the harp strings (three decades ago), I felt the vibration of the harp strings energize my body, mind and spirit. It felt like a reunion with a good old friend that I had missed for a long time.

My first harp teacher Ms. Dilmagany, introduced me to a harp workshop organized by a famous harpist Ms. Mildred Dilling. I was so impressed by this incredibly energetic harpist in her eighties that I changed teachers and began harp studies with her.

Later, while I attended one of the prestigious medical school in Italy, the University of Siena, where the town hosted the world’s renowned Chigiana Musical Conservatory, we found an American harpist Anna Renzoni in Siena. I immediately resumed my harp lessons with her while I was attending medical school, and practiced harp in Chigiana conservatory whenever I had the time. Years later, after specializing in family medicine, I resumed harp lessons with my son’s harp teacher Ms. Nancy Lendrim.

 

Why do you consider the harp to be an instrument of healing?

The harp has been an instrument attributed to angelic personalities with a celestial quality throughout history. There is abundant literature relating to music and healing. When we speak about “healing”, there is a process of de-stressing the human body and the human mind as well as elevating and inspiring the human spirit. From the physics of sound we know that harmonics are a natural phenomenon of vibration. This is explained very well in Kay Gardner’s book and audio tapes Music as Medicine. The book noted, “when a musical sound is ‘struck’, it naturally produces overtones or harmonics in predictable intervals. Each harmonic note vibrates in synchronization with the root note. These intervals in the harmonic series are pure because, again, their vibrations are in sync with each other.” This ‘in-sync-ness”, the natural quality of sound, which is resonant with our body’s cellular vibration, can clear the blockages in the energy channel and release tensions. When one harp string is plucked, the neighboring strings vibrate simultaneously and the harmonics with healing effects multiply like a domino effect. The unique structure of the harp has an advantage to create the glissando or arpeggio, thus setting up a complex harmonics effect which can alter our cellular function and energy channels in greater depth than other instruments would do. This vibrational effect can act on all levels of our body, including physical, mental, emotion, and spiritual levels. When the overtones and harmonics are created by the plucked harp strings, they resonate with our brain wave patterns, and allow access to long hidden or dormant emotional memories. When these suppressed memories are re-awakened, they can be re-examined, re-processed, re-programmed, and be corrected or discarded. In psycho-somatic illness, when the emotional problems are cleared, physical symptoms like chronic pain, insomnia, headache, etc. will decrease. Like wise, if the pain is corrected, depression may be resolved. Another advantage of the harp is that the long decay of the vibration from the plucked strings gives the brain enough time to synchronize with the vibrational tonal frequencies. This enables the brain to activate more neuronal pathways, producing more pyscho-neuro-endocrine effects and ultimately affect the entire body’s cellular structure and function.

Also, the vibration of harp strings resonating from out of a sound board, placed in front of my body, when I play glissando or arpeggio on the harp, is a unique experience which I have never felt with piano or guitar. The harp’s sound board sits in front of the mid-line meridian. It is the most nourishing meridian of the body and it affects all of the yin meridians. Harp vibration can open up an obstruction of this channel, which connects to all the chakra centers.

The interesting fact is, the modem concert pedal harp is the only musical instrument that can be set for a pentatonic scale instantly by changing the pedals. This makes the harp the most convenient instrument to create five elemental musical effects with the various sets of pentatonic scales. The harmonic glissandos and arpeggio add to its therapeutic sound effects.

 

Is the harp considered to be a healing instrument in China?

There are statues of musicians from China from early times, seen in museum or art books, and they seem to be holding harps with multiple vertical strings and no front column like the modern western harp. However, these harps are essentially more a lyre style harp than a concert harp which is used in the West. Even though I grew up in a musical family, I never saw a “real” harp while I was in Taiwan.

The analogues instrument, the Chinese zither (Gu-Zhen), has multiple long metallic strings strung horizontally on the sound board played on a table with metallic nails, produces a glissando effect similar to the western harp. (I call it “The Chinese harp.”) It is historical and still very popular in China, used for meditation and healing. Buddhists felt playing the zither could help with enlightenment. I have heard several meditative musical cassettes played by Chinese musicians on the zither-like instrument with the water-falls-like glissando sounds, which is very relaxing and soothing. The zither achieved mythical status within the Confucian literature. During that time, music was considered one of several topics that should be studied in order to become a successful mandarin scholar. Confucius condemned music from one of the other early Chinese state, saying, “– No wonder they are so badly governed and in such chaos, because their music is so disordered and terrible”. Music has been used throughout Chinese history to influence people’s psycho-emotional state.

 

How do the effects of harp music relate to Acupuncture Theory?

Music by virtue of rhythm and composition, develops a pathway of sound energy that vibrates in the spectrum of audio frequencies. According to acupuncture theory, the human body has pathways of life-force energy, the Chinese call Chi, which vibrates in meridians everywhere in the body. In physics theories, we know the vibrational frequencies can affect each other. By the same token, sound energy produced from the harp or all music can affect our life-force energy. It has been proven that certain tonal qualities of music can create either a very nervous, irritating reaction or a calming and soothing reaction.

The concept of The Five Elements Theory in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine was derived from thousand years of observation of the relationship between human being and nature. Each element has a corresponding organ, musical note, emotion, color, flavor, season, voice, climate, body parts, sense organ, time of date, etc… For example, the Wood element corresponds to liver and gall-bladder, anger, green color, sour taste, spring, E note (In Chinese classics this note is called Jue note or Jiao, depending on whether it is pronounced according to the classical way or modem phonics). Fire element corresponds to heart and small intestine, joy, red, bitter taste, summer, G note (Chinese Zi note). Earth element corresponds to spleen and stomach, worry, yellow, sweet, late summer, C note (Gong note). Metal element corresponds to lung and large intestine, grief, white color, spicy, fall season, D note (Shang note). Water element corresponds to kidney and urinary bladder, fear, black color, salty, winter, A note (Yu note).

When I was in China learning acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, a master gave me one of the oldest Chinese classics documenting the use of five elemental musical notes in regulating health, The Yellow Emperor Scriptures which dated back several thousands years. Based on this theory, the person can be diagnosed as deficient or in excess of a certain element. Some examples of the application of this type of music can be as follows. If the person’s suppressed anger and /or insomnia was due to an obstruction of the liver meridian, leading to imbalance of liver energy, we can play the wood music to enhance the clearance of the meridians. If a person suffers from depression, the fire music may be helpful. Chronic constipation may benefit from metal music. Water music may regulate the energy of kidney and urinary bladder meridians.

In French musician/acupuncturist Fabian Maman’s book. The Body as a Harp – Sound and Acupuncture, he describes how to apply tuning forks of different frequencies on the five element points, i.e. the five Shu points of each of the twelve meridians. The system is also based on a musical system linked with the fundamental note of each meridian. He thinks the vibrational energy from the tuning fork with a specific frequency can be more powerful to unblock the obstruction in the meridian than acupuncture needles. Vibroacoustic harp therapy, like tuning forks, can stimulate and balance all of the meridians.

 

Could you say the motions used in playing a harp are similar to Tai Chi? What kind of energetic effects could be expected from those exercise?

Tai Chi is a type of Qi-Gong exercise using posture, movement, breathing, meditation, visualization and conscious intent to cleanse or purify and replenish the life-force energy known as Qi (Chi). It also removes the obstruction in the meridians by enhancing the circulation of the life-force energy in the body through these movements, thus promoting the body’s natural self-healing process. The movements of Tai Chi are very flowing and connected – requiring the practitioner’s total mental awareness and concentration. This is similar to the movements of harp-playing in terms of extending and flexing both upper extremities with the flow of music as well as a total concentration on the fingering actions and the interpretation of the music. Both performance of Tai Chi and harp music induce physio-psycho-strength, balance and enhance states of relaxation and inner peace.

One of the movements of playing the harp similar to Tai Chi movements deserves a note of explanation. If one were to remove the harp and observe the circular motion of both arms’ movements while playing a glissando, it would be similar to the Tai Chi practitioner using the cyclic movements of the upper extremities in order to channel the life-force energy, Qi, into the front mid-line meridian known as Ren Mai (The Conception Vessel). Based on Ellis et al. Fundamentals of Chinese Acupuncture: The conception vessel is the sea of the yin channels. The three yin channels of the foot all join the conception vessel, allowing their bilateral courses to communicate. In this way, the conception vessel has a regulating effect on the yin channels; for which reason it is said that it regulates all the yin channels of the body. If this channel is stimulated, for example by Tai Chi movement, it regulates all the other yin channels of the entire body. Yin channels nourish Yang channels and keep body in ultimate balance. One of the important functions of the conception vessel is regulating menstruation and nurturing the fetus. It is said, “the conception vessel governs the fetus.” Harp playing is particular interest to both man and woman in that it emphasizes the conception vessel which governs not only the birth of the fetus but also the yin energy which nourishes yang and leads to the ultimate yin-yang balance. In this regard, I would encourage males to experience the energetic effect of harp playing. It would be interesting to do an experiment in penitentiaries or jails, teaching harp playing to calm more violent tendencies.

A major difference between harp playing and Tai Chi movement is the stationary position of the lower extremities of the harpist due to the necessity of the posture for the support of the harp.

 

Do you use the harp in your medical practice? What kind of medical benefits, if any, have you noted when individuals are exposed to harp music?

I played music involving harp consistently in my office because harp music is predominantly soothing, non-threatening and non-invasive. It gives the feeling of safety and reassurance. People with all types of self centering pathological symptoms, such as pain, anxiety, depression and ADD, etc. tend to divorce themselves from their own existing personal experience. Harp music draws these people into the flow of sound and allows them to gracefully surrender without having to feel the need to control every situation. My patients report that the harp music helps them to calm their apprehension of the first acupuncture experience. Most of my patients enjoy the calming and relaxing effect of the harp music, which has helped them to be more focused on meditation while they are having an acupuncture treatment. This achieves a more successful “time-out” effect to their stressful lifestyle. They frequently asked me where to purchase music of this style.

The harp music also energizes my body, mind and spirit while I am working with these patients. It allows me to be more focused and relaxed at the same time, which reduces the stress of my demanding job. Over all, it has great therapeutic effects to not only my patients but to me also as a doctor. As a medical practitioner, it is necessary for me to balance knowledge with wisdom. Harp music gives me an easy and enjoyable access to my inner resources of intelligence and intuition.

In the future, I intend to play patient customized harp music with feed-back -alteration music based on the patient’s response. This will be accomplished when I have acquired advanced skill of blending the five elements concept with harp improvisational technique.

 

What is your prediction for the future of harp therapy?

I believe that harp therapy is at the cutting edge of art therapy, creative expression therapy, non-invasive therapy and music therapy that touches the human spirit.

Many drastic changes in medicine have occurred in the past five years. There is increasing understanding about how the body and the brain work synergistically. Since President Nixon came back from China in the 70’s, more research on energetic medicine related to acupuncture effect has been conducted. These scientific studies have brought the west a better understanding of mind-body connection and the effect on the health. There are studies showing positive results with music therapy in helping children with ADD and increased immune function, etc…. The harp music is finding its way also into the hospice experience. My prediction for the future harp therapy is an encouraging and enlightening prognosis. I envision that this process of harp playing and harp listening will allowing an individual to learn from a practitioner and then introduce this knowledge into their home life, work life and community.

National Institute of Health has organized an Office of Alternative Medicine with periodical publications on Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NTH (CAM), up-dating the current on-going research of various alternative modalities. It is exciting to see the central government embracing these concepts demanded by the American people. As harp music therapy increases in popularity perhaps the NTH will conduct specific studies to validate the health and healing properties of this therapeutic modality.

The energy, enthusiasm and talents that I witnessed at several International Harp Therapy Conferences, indicate that harp therapy is on its way to being well exposed and expressed in this new millennium. I believe it will take its rightful place among all music and art therapies that will touch on the human spirit and the inner conscious values of healing. I admire the prediction of Christina Tourin, as she proposed that we will have a harp player for every hospital and hospice by 2020