OCOM's conversation with Cincinnati native, Stephen Saeks, MAcOM 2003, PhD, LAc, touched on the “miracle liquid” that stirred his curiosity in herbal remedies, his integration of psychotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine, and his experience with The Experience.
Tell us about your educational background.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in 1975. At Xavier University, in ‘84, I received my MA in psychology, followed by a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Hawaii in 1988. I followed that with a two-year, post-doctoral fellowship in clinical psychology/neuropsychology at the Menninger Clinic. I graduated from OCOM in 2003 as a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Where are you currently practicing?
I operate 2 Roads Crossing Healthcare, PC in Beaverton, Oregon. I’m specializing in issues related to mental and emotional functioning, as well as sports medicine, physical and emotional trauma, and women’s health. Because of my training and licenses in both clinical psychology and traditional Chinese medicine, I’m able to bring a unique and integrated set of skills to my work. I provide traditional Western clinical psychological services such as individual, couples, and group psychotherapy, TCM services such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and bodywork, and an integration of the two where I can provide modified acupuncture treatments (ear, scalp, and head points) into a psychotherapy process.
What do you enjoy most about treating patients?
First, getting to know and understand each person I treat; their singular qualities and the unique way each one experiences the particular situation that led them to seek treatment. Also, being able to respond to each person in a unique way that reflects both their individual strengths and their needs. Most importantly, working with a medicine that allows me to empower my patients to become increasingly skilled at and comfortable with taking responsibility for their own care.
What do you think it takes to be a successful acupuncturist?
It takes an integration of our Body, Mind and Spirit. The skilled acupuncturist needs a healthy body to endure the physical rigors of our work; whether it is the demands of providing body work or the more subtle efforts of our bodies to metabolize and work with our patients’ energy as it is released during treatments. It takes a strong desire to help others and the mental commitment to learn the information necessary to become a skilled acupuncturist. We need a state of mind in which we are able to be open and receptive to our patients; to listen, understand and treat with a complete focus on the patient. And it takes a caring spirit, one that is nurtured by service to our patients. While not focusing on ourselves, we can nonetheless grow from each person we help.
What experiences influenced you to choose this career?
I was first exposed to TCM when my Tai Chi instructor treated a bone bruise I’d received from sparring with him. He offered a nondescript brown liquid from an equally nondescript brown bottle. The results were amazing, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. (I had grown up in a family filled with western Medical practitioners.) When he refused to tell me what was in the medicine (owing to the promise he’d made to his own teacher, who’d given him the formula), I was determined to find it again. For years after, I searched to find this “miracle liquid.” My interest continued while I pursued my training in clinical psychology. In Honolulu, I befriended an herbal master who allowed me to spend time in his shop. He’d often share information about herbal medicine with me, but still no recipe. When I was doing my postdoctoral fellowship, I encountered many patients who had previously sought TCM treatments. This led me to expand my view of TCM from that of a medicine for treating physical trauma to one that also addressed emotional issues. At that point, I began to look into how I might integrate my interest in TCM with my clinical psychology training. Moving to Portland, I enrolled at OCOM to get formal training in TCM. While I never found the mysterious formula I’d been searching for, I was able to develop my own treatments for traumatic injuries from the knowledge and skills I obtained at the college.
Your fondest memory of OCOM?
Sunday study group meetings in the hot tub (especially point location review in the Winter)…we never got cold. And, of course, the Hawaiian potlucks (and music) we held during my Herbal Dispensary rotation.
Where do you see TCM 10 years from now?
I believe that it was Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD, who said that there is no “alternative medicine.” Rather, there are medicines that are helpful to a given individual at a given time, and there are those that aren’t. I think healthcare is moving — or at least trying to move — in this direction. As we do, I think that TCM will be more widely accepted; not just as an adjunct, but as a viable medicine in its own right.
What’s one piece of information most people probably don’t know about you?
Along with the other members of his band, The Experience, I was once thrown out of a hotel room by Jimi Hendrix.