The Beautiful Side of Grief is a weekly podcast for people who want to hear interviews from people who have moved through heart-wrenching loss or those who are supporting this process. It is diverse and heart-warming, though most of all, it is positive and filled with go-to’s that you can use yourself.

I had a great time talking about my journey from a traditional Western medical viewpoint to treating patients through Transformational Acupuncture. Listen to the full podcast here or read the video transcription below.


I apologize in advance for any potential inaccuracies in the transcriptions. Please be aware that this has been generated using AI.

Introduction (excerpt of Dr. Alex): To learn to look at the body as taught in medical school, this is the body. This is your site with all the various internal organs, and you do blood tests, and this is what’s happening in the blood and so forth. But when I started learning acupuncture, I thought, well, there’s a whole new way of looking at the body here. And then, understanding the chakras, I think, Wow, this is even a third way of looking at the body, but it’s the same body that’s in front of you. It’s just initially; I was like putting on one hat and taking it off and putting it on another hat. And eventually just say, okay, this is actually the one person whose method best explains what’s going on here. It leads to a natural integration.

Helen Morris: So okay, my beautiful listeners. Thanks for joining us today, and please excuse my husky voice. It’s one of those seasonal colds that I have as the season changes. We’re just going to bear with it through this episode. And also, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to Dr. Alex to the Beautiful Side Of Grief. Now, what do you prefer to be known – by doctor?

Dr. Alex: Doctor Alex – most of my patients can…

Helen: Dr. Alex works for me, and I would like to let our guests know that you are known for wearing very colourful shirts.

Dr. Alex: That’s true.

Helen: And to let them also know that you haven’t disappointed today, you’ve got a beautiful red background shirt or a maroon black-brown shirt with pineapples on.

Dr. Alex: Pineapples.

Helen: Yes!

Dr. Alex: It’s interesting. There is a story about that if you’re interested…

Helen: Yeah, sure, go ahead and share that for us.

Dr. Alex: Because I’ve been to a place in Fiji – I’m near Sydney, in Australia. And I’ve been to a place in Fiji, and when I’m there, although I’m relaxing on holiday, I still end up going to the villages and doing acupuncture on the villages.

Each village has a community hall, and I’ll turn up, and the next thing I know, there are about 20 or 30 people queuing up for acupuncture. And the thing is, I really enjoy doing that. It feels like I’m giving back, and it’s not a burden at all. And one day, I said to my then-wife, my present wife, how do I – how can I keep this good feeling of being playful and being on holiday while I’m working? And there was my wife, who suggested wearing the polo shirts — the Fijian shirts at work. So I bought a few, and then I started taking them to work. I was quite apprehensive at first, but not only that, I feel good and relaxed and able to work — because I work with a lot of patients with depression and anxiety, it takes their minds off their own thing when they see those bright shirts I’m wearing becomes people have a smile on their face, and it becomes a subject of conversation which my clothing never was in the past.

Helen: That’s a great story. I love them.

Dr. Alex: And not only that, but now a lot of my patients, when they come in to see me — they’re wearing their bright shirts as well.

Helen: Aww, isn’t that a nice flow-on effect that you’ve got happening there?

Dr. Alex: Yes, yeah.

Helen: And like you say, as soon as you look at those shirts, you just instantly feel uplifted, which is what you’re all about. So we’re going to get into that.

Dr. Alex: Yes, exactly.

Helen: But just before we do, tell us something that you do in your spare time that most people wouldn’t know about.

Dr. Alex: Practice the piano, play the piano. And you can probably hear in the background there; my wife has just come home with two miniature Schnauzers, so that keeps us occupied.

Helen: That’s great. And I understand that you’ve also watched something like 860 on-air episodes of Doctor Who.

Dr. Alex: Ohh, Doctor Who, yeah.

Helen: Oh my goodness.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, I started watching that when I was seven. That’s when the doctor Who first came out, so yeah, that was a long time ago.

Helen: All right. Dr. Alex, you’ve been busy with over 300,000 patient consults. Of those, 35,000 have been acupuncture consults.

Dr. Alex: Yeah

Helen: So I think it’s fair to say that you’re going to be very much speaking from experience today.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and that’s always been my approach is what I learn on the job, so to speak, and in a practical way, and even though I train doctors to become GPs, I focus on teaching them what I’ve learned over the years apart from what you get out of a textbook, the real practical things in life.

Helen: And people really value that too, because like I kind of myself, I don’t want to be given a lie, and when I know that somebody is speaking from their heart and from the experience, that’s so much more powerful. Can you just share with us about your — you trained as an MD doctor, and how did you transition or find your way into acupuncture and then to setting up your Transformational Acupuncture?

Dr. Alex: It was quite a journey, really. I trained in the usual way as a regular GP, and I came out of Sydney University and thought I knew everything.

Helen: As we do

Dr. Alex: Yeah, as we do, as a young person. And yeah, I became quite successful in general practice and then after I’ve been a GP for about 12 years or so, I developed Crohn’s disease.

Helen: Oh, you and me both.

Dr. Alex: Oh, there you go. Yeah, as you would know, it can be a very painful condition. And it came as quite a shock to me. I’ve been working really hard. I was seeing like 200-250 people a week as patients, working. I hadn’t had a holiday for quite a while, and I just thought I was exhausted from work, but I had a blood test, and it showed I was quite anemic, plus the abdominal pain that I shoved to the back of my mind. But the pain got so bad that it forced me to see another doctor, and yeah, within a week, I had to have surgery and had two feet of intestine cut out.

Helen: Wow.

Dr. Alex: That was back in ‘92. And I said to the surgeon I lost 20 kilos in the process. And after the operation, I said to the surgeon, “Is there any particular diet I should follow?” And he said, “No, you’re cured; eat whatever you like.” I did. But within six weeks of the surgery, I started getting symptoms again. That was quite a shock to the system.

But yeah, I had a friend who is a doctor trained in Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. And so, I went to see him, and he put me on a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sugar-free.

Helen: Everything-free.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, diet, and that was pretty boring and hard to stick to. The thing was, I improved quite dramatically — my symptoms. And so that started me on the journey of looking at what alternatives were and that there was nothing in traditional medicine that sort of had answers except I was warned with further surgery and at one stage had to go into steroids for three months.

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: The prednisone. And so I kept pushing, looking for more answers, and ended up seeing as she added a therapist and iridologist and all sorts of people I never thought I would see, especially as a doctor, but when you’re pushed into that position and surgeons offering just to…

Helen: Chop a bit more?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, chop out a bit more; it’s like anything’s got to be better than that.

Helen: I agree.

Dr. Alex: And though it’s nice to have theories about why things work, to me, it didn’t matter what the theory was if it actually made an improvement in my health — that’s really like to work counted. That was what was important, not whether there was any proof or explanation of what was working and what wasn’t. And yeah, I ended up learning about — attracted to the Chinese philosophy of medicine, which looks at how the body functions rather than looking at pathology. So yeah, that was a real eye-opener to see a whole new world that entered the Chinese had developed the system 2000 years ago.

Helen: And that was very much a system looking at all the different organs within our body and how they’re influenced by the mind and things, and it’s all those, isn’t it? And so, what is the difference? And I relate to your story so well because that’s how I got over my own Crohn’s as well. Was it going the holistic way and going through all those remedies? So I had a chuckle when you were saying that. And I had reached a point where they didn’t even want to operate because it was so severe, and then here I am today without that at all. So I’m very grateful. Can you share with us what Transformational Acupuncture is? Because you actually are the founder of that.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, it’s based on glomming on the shoulders of giants before me, but yeah, I’ve developed a system whereby this form of acupuncture, which was designed to raise people’s levels of consciousness — that I started finding that patients with various kind of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and even normal human stuff like bereavement that people improved quite dramatically. And it was more or less by serendipity. I’ve come across this because I’ve been treating people for a while with this system for physical problems – like a lot of people come to for acupuncture for aches and pains and so forth. And not only were the physical symptoms improving, but they were telling me that they were getting on really well at home with family, that the work wasn’t worrying anymore, that they could go to work and still had the same problems to deal with but it wasn’t stressing them out, or making them feel anxious.

Helen: And, yeah, sorry.

Dr. Alex: And it was particularly when I had one patient who had quite widespread osteoarthritis, and it has gotten so bad that she required to be on opioids, which were quite heavy painkillers, that I started doing this form of acupuncture on her, and after what within were two or three weeks, she was able to get off the painkillers. But I kept treating her weekly for a while, and after a couple of months, she said, “Can I stop my antidepressants?” She had been on antidepressants for 16 years, and she didn’t feel depressed anymore.

Helen: Wow, an achievement.

Dr. Alex: And I thought it was probably our prep; she didn’t need to be on antidepressants. Sometimes, people take these pills and stay on them without ever reviewing the situation. But when I looked through the notes, another doctor in practice had tried getting her off any depressants the year before, and within six weeks, her symptoms returned, so the doctor put her back on them. And this time, I took her off the antidepressants, and the depression didn’t come back. And that was in 2011, and it still hasn’t come back. She still comes to the practice [and] hasn’t been depressed since.

Helen: What a fabulous…

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and I think it was around Christmas time, and it really hit home to her and me the impact when she said she had some Christmas carols has come to the door and started singing Christmas carols when she opened the door and she burst into tears. But it was tears of just joy and happiness. And she said she hadn’t experienced that feeling for years and years. And it’s like it seems to be a common side effect of antidepressants that they can stop the depressed side of the failing, but they also seem to blunt things like joy and happiness and just things like laughing. And yeah, so my wife, who’s also a doctor, said, like, you got to assess this and see what’s going on.

So I had half a dozen patients with depression that I followed over the next year, treating just with acupuncture, and yeah, and they all improved quite dramatically. So I ended up writing a book on this called Stick It To Depression: Get Your Life Back Naturally. Yeah, I thought I gotta get the message out. I’m not young anymore, and I think the last thing I’d want to do is die with this knowledge. Yeah. I’ve started training other acupuncturists in this method now, and we’ve been — we started training acupuncturists around the world with the wonders of the internet.

Helen: Yeah, I know, isn’t it wonderful? And this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s sharing knowledge, what we’ve got – had the privilege to be received in our lives and to be able to pass that on to others so that…

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: They can carry it on and improve it if necessary or tweak it a bit, but yeah.

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: But let’s talk because when I looked at your website, I was blown away by the stats for Australians for depression.

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: 3 million Australians aged between 16 and 85 with depression. 5 million Australians within the same age group commit suicide, and that equates to 3000 a year. That’s classified as the number one cause of death. Now, those are just terrifying stats.

Dr. Alex: Yes, and with the COVID situation, it’s only made matters worse, and not just in Australia, of course, but certainly throughout the Western world. These figures have jumped up and haven’t reduced since the COVID subsided.

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: There was the College of GPs in Australia did a survey of doctors, and they found out that GPs now 80% of their consultations involve mental health issues, which is quite astounding.

Helen: What’s it compared to, say, 10-20 years ago?

Dr. Alex: When I started, which was 40 years ago, literally…

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, literally be treating people with depression-like once or twice or perhaps three times in a week out of a couple of 100 patients, and now it’s, as I say, 80%. And a lot of GPs are basically getting burned out by it.

Helen: Yeah, so what do you think is behind that? What do you think is causing this anxiety and depression and…

Dr. Alex: I think awareness is a big issue. So people are more aware of these subjects and talk about things. In the past, they were soldiered on. I think that’s part of it, but also part of it is certainly the COVID lockdown and the news media. It always seems to thrive on bad news and scaring people half to death, and I think now we’ve got social media, and we’ve got our phones that we carry around with us being constantly bombarded with news, and most of it’s pretty negative stuff.

Helen: Yeah, we’re living in a 24/7 lifestyle which has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages.

Dr. Alex: Yes.

Helen: I remember as a child, everything was closed on the weekends, so weekends for family time were downtime, and some people simply do not have that anymore, especially with the rising cost of living.

Dr. Alex: That’s right. Yeah.

Helen: So yeah, in the work that you’re doing, and I know that when we talk about grief, I’ve heard that some people experience — experiencing profound grief – if they have depression, they just think it’s a natural part of their grief. But can you just clarify that because, in fact, it’s quite different, isn’t it?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, we go through stages like the initial shock and anger, again turn to guilt and depression or resignation type feeling and ultimately coming to terms with it all. But some people do get stuck in the face of depression. But important relationships are important for a reason. And when you lose someone close, my first wife died at the age of 51 with breast cancer – it was after nine years from the first episode. So, it was really a weary struggle.

Helen: And it’s all about emotions connected to emotions, isn’t it?

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: Because regardless of what you’re talking about, whether it’s anxiety, depression, grief and whatever form that takes because, I don’t feel you have to lose someone to be grieving.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely.

Helen: And the basis of that is emotions, and if we’re not, like a lot of us, actually taught to suppress our emotions, you know?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely.

Helen: Just keep that stuff up.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and I think my personal feeling about a lot of antidepressants is that they basically dampen down emotion. It doesn’t actually clear the natural process of bringing the emotion out and releasing it. Yeah, and I think doctors are to blame to a degree. When I was going through medical school, I had what’s called the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was then in its third edition, and under it, it said that bereavement could last a period of two years. That was a normal process for people to go through, and it could take up to two years for people to go through that. And therefore, doctors couldn’t make a diagnosis of depression any less than that period of two years. And that had been sort of a rule for a long time.

But then, after I graduated and became a GP, the DSM 4 came out. And they changed that period of grief to two months instead of two years. And the latest DSM, DSM 5, which came out about 10 years ago, changed that period to two weeks.

Helen: Oh my goodness.

Dr. Alex: So if you’ve got depression and you got, you’re going through a grieving because you’ve lost someone close to you, and you’ve got a doctor, and if you give a hint that you’re depressed, you could end up on antidepressants, which isn’t really — I don’t think [is] gonna fix or give — it’s not a long term solution to the problem.

Helen: No, and there’s often so many side effects that go with antidepressants as well that you know of…

Dr. Alex: Interestingly, a lot of the side effects surround your mental state, of course. They can make you feel more anxious; they can actually even make you feel more depressed. They can cause addictive properties so that if you forget to take one, you actually feel a rebound anxiety. So often people, if they forget a tablet, or they try to stop it, they think they’re getting worse. So they go back on it straight away. I say that’s not a good state. And it’s not a substitute for sitting down with someone who’s compassionate and understanding and both prepared to listen to what you have to say.

Helen: And there’s a lot of pressure on GPs, I imagine, because –

Dr. Alex: Absolutely.

Helen: You’re expected to do a consult in a very short space of time. So you don’t get the luxury of having those little conversations because sometimes I know it’s only when you just get into the end of the consult that somebody will then just start opening up and mention something, and you go, “Oh, okay.”

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely.

Helen: And you draw a lot of pressure there, and I just see that side of it as well. But let’s go back to the holistic aspect of it…

Dr. Alex: Yes.

Helen: Because you also talk about our chakras and balancing our chakras. Let’s have a chat about that. And why that’s so important?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, it’s interesting because the chakras are the concept of energy centres, sort of 7 of them from the base of the spine to the top of the head developed by the Hindus in the Indian subcontinent. And over a period of 2000-3000 years. And that’s the sort of timeframe we’re trying to develop the system of acupuncture in that same timeframe. And yet, there’s been no crossover between those two cultures in this regard over the years.

And it wasn’t until 1997 that an acupuncturist pointed out that certain acupuncture points correlated with chakras and discovered that if you needed certain points, you’re going to have an influence over the chakras. And from a Western medical viewpoint, the chakras relate to the endocrine organs, and also nerve plexuses, [and] nerve centres. So you can, via acupuncture, have an influence over those endocrine organs and nerve centres. So it can have an enormous effect.

Helen: That’s pretty powerful. We can, like — anybody can trap anything anywhere in the body. It just depends on what that person is like. So, for me, my stress is my abdomen, my sort of complex area that’s me, that’s where I go to. Yeah, in other people, it can be in the throat. They have a lot of throat issues, or they have a lot of issues with their reproductive organs. So that’s really interesting, so when we have them balanced we’re doing is allowing the flow of energy around the body, isn’t it?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and as a part of the process, I actually created a questionnaire that asks questions right into each of the chakras. And the questions are in the form of physical symptoms as well as aspects of the mind as well as aspects of the spirit. So try to get a comprehensive picture — a holistic picture, if you like of what’s happening to the person, and then I apply the appropriate treatments depending on which chakras come up as important for that person.

Helen: So, how have your patients responded to this approach? Because that’s quite different from traditional advice of…

Dr. Alex: Yeah, I live in a town called Coffs Harbour, which has about 80,000 people, but the town is small enough for word to get around, and there is a great need for this, and I attract people to come specifically for this kind of help. People find it a more satisfactory approach.

Helen: Yeah. And there seems to be more of a trend away from just going to the doctor and having them sort us out. There’s more of a shift, and it’s a slow shift, but it’s a shift nonetheless of people actually taking responsibility for their bodies. And, of course, that’s your own healing. You’re very much into that, aren’t you?

Dr. Alex: Absolutely, yes. It all started becoming dissatisfied with medicine around the time of the Crohn’s disease, and you realise, okay, too often doctors, especially in the limitations of a 10-15 minute consultation, that you’re limited to basically patching up the person with whatever symptom they’re presenting with, and seeing them on their way. And it’s especially with an understanding of the Chinese concept of how the body works – we realise people are presenting with us similar issues or the same problem keeps cropping up in a different way or manifesting in a different way, but it’s the same underlying issues. For example, a simple, straightforward issue is often asthma, which, even in the West, we know can correlate with or be coincident with hay fever and allergy problems, as well as eczema — problems of the skin. And in Chinese medicine, the lungs control the sinuses and control the skin. And so seems a natural explanation there of the two.

Helen: And, combining both the Indian and the Chinese together, that just gives you a really good picture of how you can help people.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely.

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: That gives you the ideas; we’re learning to look at the body as taught in medical school. This is the body. This is how you see it with all the various internal organs, and yeah, you do blood tests, and this is what’s happening in the blood and so forth. But when I started learning acupuncture, I thought, “Oh, wow, there’s a whole new way of looking at the body here.” And then understanding of the chakras, I think, well, this is even a third way of looking at the body, but it’s the same body that’s in front of you. It’s just initially; I was like putting on one hat and taking it off and putting on another hat and eventually just saying, okay, this is actually the one person whose method best explains what’s going on here. It leads to a natural integration.

Helen: Something else that I became very aware of, like having chronic illnesses very early in my life in my 20s. I was suffering from chronic fatigue as well as Crohn’s. And what I learned was that a basis of that was a lot of trauma that I’d gone through my childhood. I was highly stressed — a perfectionist, and my way of coping was I operated on autopilot in survival mode and then what I understood was that the way I think and the way I act determines a lot about how what happens within my body. And so that’s why it’s so vital for us to be having that whole approach to people. Isn’t it?

Dr. Alex: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Helen: Yeah. So, the Transformational Acupuncture that you do, what are you doing differently from normal acupuncture?

Dr. Alex: As I say it’s, most of the points are identical to what acupuncturists will regularly use. It’s the combinations of the needle points that are used and the relevance to the particular chakra that you’re working on, as opposed to the Chinese concepts, are different. There is some overlap for example, the heart chakra relates to love and compassion, and that is so in the Chinese as well as the as well as the Hindu system. And interestingly, even it’s only a matter of recent years that depression has been recognised as an independent risk factor for heart disease.

Helen: Oh yeah.

Dr. Alex: That heart attacks people with even mild depression are twice as likely to have a heart attack. All other things being equal than someone who’s not depressed.

Helen: Wow.

Dr. Alex: And someone with severe depression is five times more likely. And that was known there was a notice put out by the National Heart Foundation in Australia 10-12 years ago that brought this to the attention of doctors. But interestingly, a number of studies with antidepressants showed that the antidepressants could help depression, but it didn’t make any difference to people having subsequent heart attacks. I think personally because it’s not really working at a deep enough level. It’s working out of suppressing rather than people feeling real joy and happiness again.

Helen: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And the ultimate aim of us being here is to have joy and happiness. So, let’s talk about people who have a phobia of needles because you must hear that a lot.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, that’s true. It’s true. It has been easier for me personally because I’m a doctor, and the patient says, “Oh, I trust you.”

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: Whereas they wouldn’t if I say, “Go down to see the acupuncturist down the road.” But most times, I say just let me put one needle in, and there’s a point on the head that’s very powerful for helping to reduce emotional states and help people think clearer. As I just – just one needle and I’ll pull out a child-size one which is half an inch – tiny. Just put that one in and tell me if there’s a problem. And you know, as soon as I do it, like, “Oh, is that all?”

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: “Is that all there is to it?”

Helen: Because it’s a super fine, beautifully delicate needle, and often you’re not even aware that they’re going in.

Dr. Alex: Yes, yeah, because some of them are not much thicker than human hair – all the fine ones.

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: And that the other thing is, interestingly, the end of the needle is round. It’s not sharp like when you have a blood test or an injection, which has a bevelled edge that is sharp and cuts the skin and can cut nerves and blood vessels, whereas the acupuncture needles are rounded on the end. So when you put the needle in, it tends to push nerves and blood vessels to one side or the other, which is why 99 times out of 100, when you take the needle out, there’s no sign of blood or anything. No mark.

Helen: Wow. That’s good for all those people there who have a phobia of needles to hear and listen to.

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: One of your missions, and I love this about you, is that you’re just such a giving person, and you’ve been awarded multiple times over with what you’ve been doing in your life. But one of the things I love is you passing this information on to others. You’re doing a lot with training new doctors coming in, and what’s your response to your approach?

Dr. Alex: Generally good. I always offer treatment of acupuncture for any of the doctors as well. And most of them do take up the offer and I’m quite pleasantly surprised and amazed by the powerful impact that can have. I had one medical student actually who was she normally lived in Western Australia, which is like 3000 kilometres away. And I assessed her as being the blocked root chakra, as it’s called. The root chakra [has] to do with security, safety, and feeling grounded. And I had a chat to her about that. And she said that her boyfriend was in Western Australia and she’d been studying Medical School on the East Coast and that she had a lot of concerns about what was going on with that relationship.

And anyway, I gave treatments specifically based on helping the root chakra, which is the tree of life path, and afterward, she was obviously quite spaced out about it. I said to go for a walk, and our clinic happens to be just a couple of 100 meters from the beach, which is very nice.

Helen: Oh yeah.

Dr. Alex: So she went there for a couple of hours and she came back, and she said she was amazed. She said I’ve never known what it’s like to feel grounded until now. She said I’ve always heard people talk about feeling grounded, but I just thought it was like words. She said I didn’t realise it was a feeling, and she said when she got there, she took off her shoes and was walking on the grass and on the sand. And she said she was experiencing the sensations of the grass and sand as she had never felt it before. And just couldn’t help but walk around and look at her feet and go this is really strange. Yeah, that was really a real eye-opener, for I’m sure it affects her thinking about acupuncture for the rest of her life.

Helen: That’s a beautiful testimony, and you’re also training; you mentioned — right at the beginning — also training people over in different countries as well.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, so just in the last few months, I thought I’d been training people in workshops in Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane. But I just think this is — there are 290 million people in the world with depression, believe it or not.

Helen: 290 million?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, that’s the estimate by the World Health Organization, and I thought I’ve really got to try and get that message out there. So, I’ve started teaching other acupuncturists from around the world, and if any of your listeners know of any acupuncturists who could be interested, please go to my website and get in contact with me.

Helen: Absolutely. Well definitely. Regardless of whether people can access the Transformational Acupuncture that you do, they’re still going to benefit from the traditional acupuncture?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely. I just get quicker results; I think it is the most powerful way as – I’ve had some people – I’ve literally had one patient, I gave him seven treatments in seven days because I was only — but this is somebody in Canada, and I was only there for a short time. So, if you prepare to come each day, I’m prepared to treat you literally within seven days, and this is a guy who has been on antidepressants for 18 years. 18 years, and he said he had tried all the different ones, and at the start of the — before the first treatment, I assessed him as being moderately depressed and severely anxious. And in seven days, these numbers have come down, so he was no longer depressed or anxious. That was quite mind blowing for him to experience that in seven days. Usually, I treat people weekly and within eight weeks, a large proportion of patients basically feeling normal for the first time in a long time.

Helen: I know, and that’s a beautiful feeling. I didn’t get to experience that until after I had lost my own beautiful daughter, and I went through energy healing, and that had the same sort of effect.

Dr. Alex: Yeah.

Helen: And for that, I remember that being at a beach and just experiencing that. The beautiful feeling of being calm, feeling at peace, feeling strong and feeling very centered. And honestly it blew me away because never before had I felt like that. And that’s what you’re talking about. – I think you’ve achieved here. Did that with my own group, that’s why I was very attracted to the work you’re doing because I know — Is it anything like your work doesn’t work?

Dr. Alex: In terms of mental health, probably like the manic depressive psychosis or bipolar as it’s now called. It seems to — people can get some sort of temporary relief. But I think by nature, people who are bipolar, once they start to feel better, they don’t come back. And then when they come back, they’re really desperate again. So if someone could bring them in regularly, maybe they would improve quicker, but most people will get some varying degree of improvement from moderate to quite amazingly good.

Helen: And let’s talk about stress because this is a big driver for a lot of our diseases.

Dr. Alex: Yes,

Helen: That we have, and this is something that anybody could benefit from because we’re living in a crazy world.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, when anybody comes in nowadays, it doesn’t really matter what they have wrong with them. I do what’s called the posterior chi flow pattern, which is needling points down the back, which from a Western medical viewpoint, these points lie just above the ganglia for the sympathetic nerves for the various internal organs, and the idea is that it tends to switch off that sympathetic drive for people in the West – we’re on the switch the on the go all the time.

Helen: Yeah, I mean, fight or flight, and we’re constantly in a state of it, aren’t we? And we don’t even realise we’re living our lives on adrenaline and there’s nothing on reserve.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and it’s often people’s really first experience of acupuncture is just feeling like they’ve come down several levels. Because they say keyed up, and I just can’t believe the difference in how they feel between the before and after. And there are real practical issues because if a part of the fight or flight is to prepare you for action in case you’re about to be attacked or beaten up, oxygen and blood are diverted from the digestive organs, for example, and reproductive organs and devoted to the muscles so your muscles can work and work hard and fast. And it raises your blood pressure to pump the blood around quicker. And it increases the blood supply to the brain. So you’re really super alert and observing everything that’s going on. And it tends to shut down the blood supply to the kidneys, for example, in case you get an injury and bleed. Your body wants to conserve as much water as possible. The last thing it wants is to produce more urine. And so that’s good in an acute emergency situation.

But in a chronic situation, that leads to hypertension, and it leads to strokes hea, heart attacks and so on. Within three seconds of a fright, your blood can clot quicker, believe it or not. Three seconds that’s all it takes, which is great if you’re about to get cut or slashed or something. But if you’re not and you’re just stuck in traffic — which happens to a lot of people, they increased clotting factors increase your risk of a stroke and acupuncture crown reversal led by, just as I say, switching off the sympathetic nerves and often even before the end of the treatment patients are pressing the buzzer because they’ve got to run to the toilet because their bladders full because the kidneys are actually starting to flush — flush all that excess fluid out of the system. It can get a response that quickly.

Helen: Gosh, that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Yeah. So, we definitely do not want to be living in that heightened state of fight or flight. You’ve got your best-selling book Stick It To Depression. We’re going to talk about that in a moment. But I just remembered that you did research yourself on a group of 70 patients that you … share with us the stats around that because that’s pretty impressive as well.

Dr. Alex: Well, yeah, first of all, nobody had a side effect or complained of any problem, and these were people that actually had 16 treatments over 16 weeks.

Helen: Wow.

Dr. Alex: It wasn’t like just the one on. And the other thing is, I can’t remember the exact number, but it was 80 or 85% of patients felt like that the acupuncture was helping them.

Helen: Yeah, that’s pretty impressive. Where do you get those results anywhere else?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And certainly not from taking pills. Where most people who are on antidepressants have had to go through 2, 3, 4 or sometimes even more antidepressants to find one that does [or] a half-decent job for them.

Helen: Yeah, I understand that. So your book Stick It To Depression. You also wrote one as a tool for doctors.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, called Stick It To Depression Another Tool In Your Doctors Bag, but just tell them, doctors, why don’t you send your patients for acupuncture and talk about the issues about the difficulties with drug therapy and so forth?

Helen: And how receptive have doctors been to the ….

Dr. Alex: Yeah, really good, actually.

Helen: Because, like you say, they’re dealing with that as a large part of their practice. So, some more tools are in their toolkit.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely. And so part of my mission, as well as training acupuncturists in this method, is to help them get in contact with doctors in the area so that the doctors know, okay, I can send patients to this acupuncturist, and we’ll help get results. It doesn’t replace, often it doesn’t replace antidepressants, and sometimes it will over time, but the thing is, it can have an additive effect with the antidepressants and acupuncture, so they’re not mutually exclusive. And also counselling. Obviously, there’s a place for counselling, which is a big – a very important part. A lot of people just get tired of talking over the story, especially if they have to go to a new counsellor, and then they start back at the beginning. And one of the things a lot of patients comment on with acupuncture is they don’t have to talk about their story. They can just lie there and experience the changes. And it’s more of a letting go of emotions than anything.

Helen: I bet for a lot of people that it’s the first time they’ve actually stopped and allowed themselves to be absolutely still.

Dr. Alex: Absolutely, I guess I bet 80% of my patients are women, and the women are more than men who I see themselves as serving others and not giving themselves the same treatment that they would help give to others.

Helen: Yeah.

Dr. Alex: So often when they come in, and they say this like this, it’s a special time for themselves to actually help heal themselves.

Helen: I don’t know about Australia, but certainly in New Zealand, we’re in a bit of a health crisis, where it’s very difficult for us to get an appointment with our GP, very often waiting a couple of weeks even if we’re going to ED now because there’s overflow if can’t get an appointment with your GP whether you go or it’s not going to cost – you’re going to ED and places like that. So they’ve been overwhelmed. And it’s incredibly expensive to go to urgent care. A lot of people are feeling that they’re in a bit of a crisis because they can’t get the care they need. What would your advice be to people who feel in that situation? who feel stuck and…

Dr. Alex: Yeah, that’s a good word stuck — it’s a very relevant word to depression. People are physically often very immobile and find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, but literally getting out of bed, setting the alarm, getting out of bed and going for a walk as little as doing that can make an enormous difference to the way people feel. It just seems so trivial. And you think, “There’s no point doing it,” but people do it, and there can be an effort to get out of bed and do it once they’re up and out. I’ve never heard anybody regret having gone for a walk. It’s such an easy thing to do, and obviously, if you’ve got someone you can just confide in and talk through issues, that’s obviously an enormous help.

Helen: Yeah, there’s a lot to do with just simply walking isn’t there to healing because it’s the power of the sun or the trees looking at night, going around and – anything like that has a beautiful benefit on the whole, doesn’t it?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, I was got to say, and especially to a time not to be watching this smartphone…

Helen: Yes!

Dr. Alex: … listening to the morning news. It’s better to actually spend some time being grateful for what you do have in life, and as you say, looking at things in nature and expressing gratitude for it — does have a powerful influence.

Helen: And people are just like… look, I was one of those people. Yeah, I have gratitude – yeah, good. But then, when they actually started practising, that changed my life, and every single day, I would write down five things that I was grateful for. And now I just do that routinely throughout my day. Just my day is about being grateful for what I have here and now — we’re so often wanting something, the new car or the house or the boyfriend or whatever. We’re not actually stopping to enjoy the here and now. Yeah.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, and that sort of thing doesn’t really cost anything.

Helen: Yeah, all right. Look, I could carry on talking to you because this is such a beautiful conversation, and I feel we’re on such a similar wavelength for so much on this. I’d like to finish off with a couple of questions and then just open it up to you again. What is the best thing that has happened to you so far today?

Dr. Alex: Today, just my wife is grateful for me – for something I don’t know. I just do something fairly – what I consider trivial, like making her a cup of tea. And it’s like a face lights up, and I’m so thankful for it. So, it gives me a buzz.

Helen: And it makes you want to do it again. And you’re going to do it again because it makes you happy?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, absolutely.

Helen: So my next question is, what are you most grateful for?

Dr. Alex: Most grateful for…in life generally?

Helen: You choose.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, I’m in a space now where, a year ago, I sold my practice. I’m still there just one day a week or fingering the price, so to speak. But yeah, I’m just grateful that I have the time and have the technology that I can talk to people like you. I’ve been talking to acupuncturists around the world, and yeah, I just really — I don’t know, it just makes my day to think, okay, it’s made another content somebody else in the world that becomes aware of these things.

Helen: Yeah. And this has….. on your smartphone.

Dr. Alex: Yeah, that’s right, and people, my friends who know me, just say I’m a lot happier nowadays than when I had the stress and burden of running a practice and so on.

Helen: That’s beautiful.

Dr. Alex: So…

Helen: And certainly more…

Dr. Alex: And wearing these shirts

Helen: Absolutely! How many of those shirts have you got now?

Dr. Alex: I’ve got over 60. I’m a bit addicted to that.

Helen: It’s a good thing to be addicted to. I wouldn’t discourage that at all. So, when you have moments in your day that turn to custard, what is your go-to? How do you prefer that of those moments?

Dr. Alex: Prayer, prayer to God. It tends to put things into perspective for me.

Helen: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Yeah. All right. So we’re going to have all the links to your book Stick It To Depression and all the other ways that people can link up with you and reach you. Dr. Alex, this really has been a wonderful hour that I’ve spent with you. Is there anything you’d like to share as final thoughts or thought?

Dr. Alex: Yeah, hope. I think that’s a thing that’s not really talked about much in the modern world. It’s all about what science can do or technology, but just having that hope that you can turn your situation around and move on and, as I say, little steps like just getting up and going for a walk, these sorts of things and perhaps even stop and surprise yourself and stop and chat to somebody on your walk and it can start changing your outlook and doesn’t matter if you’ve been on antidepressants like that for eight or nine years, there’s still hope of change.

Helen: Great advice there. Dr. Alex, I would like to thank you so very much for spending this time with me and for the fabulous work you do, your beautiful soul and I love that you’re dedicated this time to spending your life to spreading the word and giving hope to so many other people through other GPs and other acupuncturists. So you know, thank you for doing that.

Dr. Alex: It’s a pleasure. Thanks, Helen.