It is easy to think of Chinese medicine as a clear step by step process of diagnosis and treatment, but it does not always go that way in clinic. It can take time for a diagnosis to clarify, and then there is the level of skill we bring to treatment. It’s a process that reveals itself as we go. And while it is easy to look back and see the solid stepping stones that lead to a successful treatment; that clarity can be quite elusive while in the middle of the process.

In this episode we discuss the experience of learning from our patients and clinical encounters. How diagnosis is not a series of boxes to check, but rather a process that emerges and clarifies as we engage with our patients and how they respond to our treatments.

Listen in to this conversation with long time practitioner Sharon Weizenbaum as we explore the art of diagnosis and how the way we bring ourselves to the clinical encounter is an essential element of the treatment process.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • What drew Sharon to Chinese medicine
  • How to keep it together so you can learn from failure
  • What to do with the information you gather
  • Diagnosis arises in time as things come together
  • Understanding and classic physiology
  • There are a lot of pieces missing in TCM
  • Don’t know is a beginning
  • Being yourself in clinic practice—inquisitive, curious and learning
  • Advice to new practitioners


When you feel overwhelmed by the complexity of a patient, simplify.  This means, ask simple questions to yourself such as “What is my basic sense of this person and what is going on with them?  Do I need to nourish them, get things moving, help them relax or a combination of these things? What element can I touch that will be helpful?” and finally, “Can I think of something I can do that will help?” Do that. Notice that, often, the complexity comes out of something simple. 

Sharon Weizenbaum, L.Ac

I can hardly believe that it’s been 38 years since I heard about Chinese medicine and caught the bug.  Little did I know that I would never recover from my intense involvement in this endlessly interesting medicine.  The path of Chinese medicine, for me, has been sleuth-like and consequently circuitous.  Though I didn’t know it at the time, graduating for acupuncture school left me with crude tools for healing.  There were gaps in my ability to see into a patient’s pathology clearly and to effectively help.  What am I not seeing?  How do I see more clearly so I can be more effective?  I had a fundamental assumption that the fault was not in the heart of Chinese medicine itself.  It was in my access to the heart of it and in my ability to really GET it. 

So began a journey into the Chinese language, extraordinary teachers and the classics of Chinese medicine, always with the questions as my guides: What am I not seeing?  How do I see more clearly so I can be more effective?  I was lucky to be able to study with two super smart Chinese medical ob-gyn doctors in mainland China, Dr. Qiu Xiao-mei and Dr. Cheng Yu-Feng. 

Then, The discovery of  the depth of the Shang Han Za Bing Lun and its relationship to the Nei Jing and Tang Ye Jing, was a landslide event in my journey, permanently implementing a process that, to this day, clears my clinical vision. Through my own reading and studying, and through the help of teachers like Dr. Huang Huang, Fu Yan-Ling, Feng Shi-Lun, Arnaud Versluys, Edward Neal and soon-to-be Yu Guo-Jun, the path unfolds. 

Throughout, I have not been a follower or disciple of a particular tradition.  I like to be attuned to what makes sense to me.  I like to learn and be aware of what resonates, clarifies, opens up knowledge and what feels limited, contrived, heady or unhelpful.  I encourage this process in my students because ultimately, all of us have to make this medicine our own, learn, receive and enact it in a way that speaks deeply to us and gives us those “oh I SEE” moments with our best teachers, our patients. 


Classic Prescriptions, Classically Prepared

Links and Resources

Visit the website for Sharon's Clinic
White Pine Institute has learning resources for graduates and practitioners
The Blog of White Pine has lots of short clinically relevant articles
Information about the upcoming class with Dr. Yu

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