Masterclass Advanced Chinese Medicine with Volker Scheid
Developing Clinical Mastery Through Meta-Practice
Beyond Styles of Practice
Over the last fifty years, our understanding of what Chinese medicine is and how it should be studied and practiced has fundamentally changed. If we once thought it was a single system of medicine, we now know that Chinese medicine is a family of many different styles of practice. In acupuncture, for instance, there are the Tung style, the Tan style, the various styles of Japanese meridian therapy, Worsley five element acupuncture, stems and branches acupuncture, Korean hand acupuncture, TCM acupuncture, and various types of scalp acupuncture to name just a few. In herbal medicine popular styles include various types of jingfang or ‘classical formula’ practice, TCM (which really is a type of shifang or ‘modern formula’ practice), Korean constitutional therapy and many more. So, what should we do? Study all of them? Some of them? Which ones? And why those and not others?
This problematic is, of course, not new but has vexed practitioners of Chinese medicine for centuries. They have proposed three basic solutions:
Stick with one style
Synthesise different styles into a single new style
Develop a meta-practice that allows you to work effectively with different styles
All of these solutions have advantages and disadvantages. Sticking with one style solves the problem of choice but will ultimately limit you. Synthesis in the end simply creates another style. Developing a meta-practice is a difficult undertaking even if it is ultimately probably more rewarding.
What is Meta-Practice
Meta-practice is a technology for working effectively with different styles of practice. It assumes that the human mind is wonderfully flexible and able to think in and translate between different styles of practice and ways of doing things just as it does when one is able to speak a variety of different languages. Compared to working with a single style or with a synthesis of styles, both of which are closed systems, meta-practice is open both to the present and the future. This has two major advantages.
First, you become more flexible in tailoring treatment to your patients, because what drives the treatment process is no longer the style into which you have to fit your patients but the needs of patients themselves. If you always seek to link a patient’s problem to their constitution because that is what your style of practice demands, it his highly unlikely that you will be able to effectively treat epidemic disorders. If the only formulas you use have been written down in the Han dynasty, it is unlikely you are very good at treating phlegm or damp-warmth.
Second, meta-practice allows you to systematically extend your clinical skills without ever being limited by what you have already learned. Of course, to a certain extend this is what we all do anyway. But doing it consciously and self-reflectively does make this process more productive.
The Elements of Meta-Practice
Chinese medicine meta-practice revolves around three core elements: conceptions (li 理) about the body in health and disease; methods and strategies (fa 法) of diagnosis and treatment; and an ability to constellate knowledge and methods in a clinically effective manner (yi 意). Put all of this together and it flows (tong 通) in both you and the patient. This course is designed to help you develop such knowledge, tools and skills by providing you with:
a deeper understanding of Chinese medicine anatomy, physiology and pathology
a deeper understanding of key concepts in Chinese medicine and their change over time
diagnostic and therapeutic methods that build from the simple to the complex to which you will be able to add further elements as your skills as a practitioner develop
skills for putting it all together
To this end, Volker will draw on his extensive knowledge of Chinese medical history and literature and almost forty years of clinical practice.
The course consists of twelve two-day modules taught over three years. In these twelve modules we will explore the functioning of the body in health and disease through four distinctive perspectives: qi transformation and the vital substances that underpin in; the channels and networks that ensure free flow; the bodily topography that determines how pathogens move through the body; and the function of the organs that ensures harmony between the bodily microcosm and the macrocosm beyond.
Modules 1 to 8 (Vital Substances) are centred on the physiology of the three treasures (san bao): qi, essence/blood and spirits. We will look at core pathologies for each of these vital substances and define the treatment strategies required to deal with them. For example, once we understand that wind is a pathology of specific qi in its relation to the blood and constructive (ying), as well as the various pathways through which this pathology is produced, we can formulate treatment strategies that take account of the precise nature of how the relationship between qi, blood and constructive (ying) has been disordered. We can furthermore clearly differentiate these pathologies from apparently similar ones that, however, involve different substances such as flushing up of yang qi or types of rebelliousness that do not involve the blood and constructive (ying).
Once the principles of these treatment strategies are clearly understood, we will then examine how they can be realised in clinical practice through the usage of a small number of key medicinals and synergistic pairings (duiyao). These medicinals and synergistic pairings will become the building blocks for the composition of more complex formulas. We will examine famous formulas as examples of such composition but not spend hours and hours learning them by heart.
Module 9 shifts perspective by focusing on the channels and networks that ensure free flow (tong) throughout the body. We will discuss how interruptions and blockage of this free flow leads to pathologies and how we can diagnose precisely where and how these obstructions occur. We will learn about strategies and key medicinals for unblocking different types of obstruction such as phlegm, blood, wind or cold in the various conduits and networks.
Modules 10 and 11 examine the topography of the body. This will help us to understand how external and internal pathogens move through the body and what are the best ways to expel them. Integrating this topography with the processes of qi transformation we are now familiar with allows us to rehearse what we have learned in Modules 1-8. On completion of these modules we will understand better how to judge the progression of both disease and treatment and how to intervene in these processes like a general on the battlefield.
Module 12 deepens our understanding of the functions and pathologies of the organs (zangfu). We will examine how they provide harmony and balance within the bodily system and between the bodily microcosm and the world beyond. In doing so, the module will bring together once more all of the different perspectives on bodily function in health and disease. It serves as a mode of revision of what we have learned throughout the course and shows how this might be extended through independent study in the future.
Throughout the course you will learn how to look at the same concept or problem from different perspectives and to translate between different styles of practice (TCM patterns, six domain confirmations, warmth disorder perspectives, etc.). This will help you to become more flexible and resourceful in your understanding of clinical problems. Clinical cases drawn from both the literature and Volker's own practice will ensure that all modules are consistently tied to actual clinical practice. Upon completion of the course you will thus be in possession of a range of tools whose usage you can refine over time and sharpen to the precise ends your own practice demands.
Furthermore, as your knowledge of Chinese medicine deepens you will gain a richer and richer vocabulary and find it easier and easier to switch perspectives. Teaching and learning in later modules will therefore be quite different from that in earlier ones. For this reason, the course can only be booked as a whole (by this we mean that you can only follow the second year if you have participated the first year).
To facilitate participants' progress through the course as a group there will be homework and short tests after each module. These tests will help me to monitor the progress of individual participants, while providing participants with an incentive to review and internalise the course content.
Registration for this Masterclass is possible per year or for the full three years at once. When you register per year you will pay € 1.500,- per year. If you want to register for the full three years at once you will receive a discount and you will pay € 4.200,- instead of € 4.500,-. You can leave the following 'comment' (translation in Dutch: 'opmerking') when you register: registration for year 1, 2 and 3.
Prof. Volker Scheid PhD, FRCHM, FBAcChas a unique status in the field of Chinese medicine as an accomplished practitioner with almost forty years of clinical experience but also as one of the foremost academic scholars in the field of East Asian medicines. He has lectured internationally and is the main author of Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies (2nd edition) and Handbook of Chinese Herbal Medicine. He has published two influential monographs on the history of Chinese medicine in late imperial and contemporary China as well as over twenty papers in peer-reviewed journals on topics ranging from depression and menopause to changes in Chinese medical understandings of the body. He was the first western historian to have his work translated into Chinese and the first professor of East Asian medicines in the West at the University of Westminster, London.