Clinical Qi Gong Enhances Psychotherapy- Considering the Benefits of Energetic Mind/Body Therapy

Psychologists who have a comfort level with mind/body methods are using more somatic therapies, energy therapies, and meditative techniques while working with patients. While some psychologists employ these methods for more difficult cases, other psychotherapists are interested in these alternative approaches for patients who may be receptive to their benefits. The integration of psychotherapy with mind/body methods enhances patients’ personal growth, as well as alleviating psychological suffering. Clinical Qi Gong is emerging as an effective mind/body energy based practice that helps patients in making profound personal adjustments to life stressors. Clinical Qi Gong, also known as medical Qi Gong, is distinct from Qi Gong involving movements. There is growing empirical evidence showing the effectiveness of both types of Qi Gong.

The healing principles of clinical or medical Qi Gong form the foundational practice of acupuncture. These two healing methods, acupuncture and Qi Gong, address energy flow within the body to alleviate problems both physical and emotional. The methods differ in that acupuncture uses needles for opening, redirecting, and balancing energy, whereas Qi Gong uses meditation or self-massage to better regulate emotional and other imbalances.  While clinical Qi Gong is relatively new to many psychotherapists, Qi Gong practices are being used regularly in well regarded complementary and integrative medical departments in hospitals and other clinical settings for a wide variety of patient populations. The psychotherapist does not physically touch patients, while helping patients by creating unique therapeutic interventions for individualized therapeutic effects.

Qi Gong developed as a self-regulating, health care practice over 5,000 years ago in China. There are written references to Qi Gong in ancient Chinese texts as early as 210 BCE. Qi (pronounced chee) is considered to be an essential vital life force that energizes the mind and body. Gong refers to disciplined work done with integrity and perseverance. In Qi Gong a person is assessed, treated, and reassessed in order to improve energy flow throughout the body. Using an energetic awareness in the therapists’ palms, excess energy is removed and depleted areas are given energy. It is important for our disciple to reiterate that with all clinical Qi Gong methods there is no physical contact with the patient. The Qi Gong practitioner is trained to sense and correct energy flow through heightened awareness in the palms and consciousness.

In Chinese culture balancing energies of yin and yang is a central organizing principle. This holds true for medical Qi Gong practice where the more expansive yang energies are put in balance with the inwardly focused, receptive yin energies. Creating meditations for patients involves sensitivity to emotional experiences plus an awareness of energy imbalances. Basic meditations for self-regulation focus on acupoints that naturally gather, store, refine, circulate, and balance energy or Qi throughout the body. To support and increase self-regulation, higher level meditations may be learned and mastered.  Mastery of these techniques involves working with the “3 treasures” body, mind & breath. The class we teach to therapists includes over 35 clinical Qi Gong methods.

As part of the training, clinical Qi Gong therapists are taught methods and acupoints to regulate emotions including anger, worry, fear, stress and sadness. Specific meditations are selected for individuals addressing   particular emotional  issues. These Qi Gong methods may be included in therapy sessions, as well as taught to patients as part of a self-care practice. These methods are most effectively included as therapeutic enhancement after assessing the person’s energy flow. It also helps to encourage patients to develop a regular Qi Gong “heart/mind” meditative practice. With these tools patients develop greater internal awareness and improved ability to self-regulate.

As in all good psychotherapy, each person is viewed as an individual, and the treatment dyad informs a uniquely personalized approach. Some of my patients who suffer from anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorders, and psychosomatic illnesses have experienced degrees of relief from debilitating emotions and pain through the inclusion of clinical  Qi Gong. In therapy, these patients also work through long standing, self-defeating, psychological patterns. Several patients in my practice have greatly reduced their reliance on psychopharmaceutical medications in a relatively short period of time. The selected Qi Gong methods for each patient are based on particular emotional problems, their energy assessment, as well as the person’s ability to work with energy awareness and energy based meditations. Empathic attunement with the patient on an energetic level guides the use of Qi Gong just as emotional attunement guides psychotherapeutic interventions.

Clinical Qi Gong and psychodynamic psychotherapies  share an awareness that there are nonverbal (energetic) exchanges between individuals that are profoundly influential. The nature of these exchanges differs in that psychotherapists are more aware of affective and cognitive exchanges, as with projective and introjective identification. Whereas clinical Qi Gong therapy gravitates towards somatic sensations and essential energy exchanges to influence health and healing. As humans beings we have multiple of ways of communicating and engaging together with a good portion of these interactions being initially unconscious. As psychologists and psychotherapists perhaps it’s worth considering that within our human nature, including our abilities as empathic healers, we are able to communicate and have influences on many levels regarding our mind/body experiences.  In these ways we may create important and meaningful ways to integrate psychotherapeutic principles with somatic/energy therapies.


Harlene Goldschmidt, PhD

Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ
Masters Psychology at New York University
Post Doctoral certificate in 6 year program at Institute for Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy of New Jersey (currently Center of Psychotherapy & Psychoanlysis of NJ)

Certified Instructor in Qi Gong (Chinese Healing Arts Center, Danbury Conn.)
Director of Wellness, New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble
Clinical Qi Gong Associates, Managing Member
Private Practice Warren & Livingston, NJ
Faculty member at the Center for Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis  of New Jersey
National Register Credentialed since 1995

Dr. Goldschmidt is available for consultation for psychotherapist wanting to integrate clinical Qi Gong into their practice.  Qi Healer Certification Program is offered throughout the year at various locations in the country.