Most Western alternative therapists will start an initial consultation by taking a detailed case history. Homeopaths and many naturopaths, for example, will rely on little else, believing that the answers to the problem will be revealed by close questioning regarding a client's entire lifestyle, past and present.
Some therapists practice a therapy they say will diagnose as well as treat a problem both radionics and reflexology are said to do this - but others use a range of further tests if questioning alone is not considered enough.
Diagnostic tests in Western alternative medicine fall roughly into one of two broad categories: the physical and the psychic.
Physical Diagnostic Methods Common diagnostic methods that concentrate on testing a person's physical state include
Psychic Methods And "Energy" Devices In Diagnosis Popular psychic methods of diagnosing include dowsing, radionics, and "aura" reading, while among those claiming to measure levels of "subtle energy" in the body are Kirlian photography, MORA and VEGA devices, and polycontrast interface photography (PIP).
Certain people have the gift of dowsing, which is comparable to water dowsing. Dowsing for water, oil, and minerals using rods or twigs has long been accepted as a valid way of finding something normally hidden from view.
Dowsing for medical purposes began in the West in the 1920s when the French Abbe Mermet began using a pendulum hung on a thread to locate and diagnose illness. His theory was that all substances, including the human body, emit radiations that can be identified. He called this form of medical dowsing radiesthesia (meaning "sensitivity to radiations").
Today many natural therapists use dowsing to aid assessment. Held over the body's "energy centers" or chakras, the pendulum's swing is said to indicate strengths and weaknesses in the energy system. It may also be used to give yes/no answers (by swinging clockwise or anticlockwise) to specific questions about the person's health status and requirements.
Accurate dowsing requires good training and extreme honesty. A dowser with strong opinions about diet, for instance, can unconsciously influence the pendulum in their hand to respond to their own beliefs rather than the patient's condition and thus invalidate the assessment.
Radionics uses instruments to measure different aspects of a person's energy state from a "witness" - a hair clipping or drop of blood - often at a distance, accompanied by a questionnaire completed by the client. This covers the energy system, nutrition, mental/emotional problems, chemical and environmental poisoning, lifestyle, and so on as a basis for radionic treatment. Practitioners do not claim to produce a medical diagnosis, preferring the word "analysis" instead.
The aura is said to be an energy field or magnetic field surrounding a person's body, which certain sensitive people can discern by clairvoyance, touch, or an inner "knowing." Most healers "scan" the energy field with their hands, sensing areas of heat, cold, pain, tingling, and so on that indicate problems. A few claim they can actually see and interpret the colors of the aura and can pick up the effects of past traumas and potential future problems. Some diagnose at a distance, using a photograph or simply the person's name as a link. Accuracy varies, but healers have been known to find problems missed by conventional medical diagnosis.
Developed by a Russian engineer, Kirlian photographs are said to show the energy radiations emitted by living things, including plants and animals. A healthy person emits strong radiations, while weak radiations are said to show imbalances requiring treatment. Usually the subject's hands are photographed. The resulting print shows flares of energy, areas of blockage, and so on that the trained practitioner interprets.
Vega and Mora Devices
VECA and MORA are two of the best-known examples of a large number of "high-tech" devices, many originating in Germany, that claim to be able to make a diagnosis based on various "energy" principles, particularly those of acupuncture.
Polycontrast Interface Photography (pip)
A diagnostic aid developed over seven years by Harry Oldfield, a pioneer of the clinical use of Kirlian photography and electrocrystal therapy, PIP consists of a video camera attached to a specially programmed computer. The way in which the computer then interprets this light in the colors that appear on the screen is all down to computer mathematics. According to Oldfield, it shows a person's subtle energy field in full, moving color. Particular colors and patterns indicate states of health or illness. Oldfield believes these can also reveal latent weaknesses before physical symptoms manifest, so that appropriate preventive action can be recommended, or a medical checkup sought.
Special Note There is little independent scientific evidence to support many of the methods described in this section. They should be used in conjunction with a full conventional medical diagnosis.
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