Embodied Healing through Five-Element Acupuncture: An Interview with Melissa Farran

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Melissa Farran Acupuncture

Embodied Healing through Five-Element Acupuncture: An Interview with Melissa Farran

Introduction by Molly Boeder Harris

There are as many ways to approach healing from the trauma of sexual violence as there are survivors, and an important element of empowerment after trauma comes through making choices about healing practices that feel intuitive and meaningful to the unique survivor. The Breathe Network incorporates a wide range of modalities to meet survivors where they are at during any given stage of their healing journey. Some approaches, such as yoga or psychotherapy, may require a certain kind of physical or psychological effort, whereas other techniques, such as acupuncture or energy healing, can be received in a more passive and receptive manner. We wanted to take a moment to connect with one of our practitioners, Melissa Farran, and learn more about her healing arts modality Five-Element Acupunture and the ways in which this practice is accessible and powerful for healing sexual violence. Melissa has a private practice based in the Chicagoland area and utilizes the techniques of Five-Element acupuncture to address healing the mind, body and spirit after the trauma of sexual violence, among other issues, physical, emotional or energetic, that her clients are navigating. We were excited to chat with Melissa and learn more about this system, as well as her commitment to her own self-care practice, and hope you will learn more too!


The Breathe Network: Can you describe for us the philosophy of Five-Element Acupuncture, and perhaps how it is both similar and also differs from Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Melissa Farran: Five-Element Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing based on natural law. Each Element is associated with a season and there is a natural flow from Winter to Spring to Summer to late Summer to Fall and back to Winter. We are a part of nature and have this flow of the seasons within us as well. If one of the elements or seasons is out of balance, the entire system will start to suffer. Five-Element looks to identify the root cause of imbalance and focuses treatment there. Once the root cause is treated, the symptoms will typically be free to leave and overall balance and harmony can be restored. While symptoms are important, they are only red flags, letting us know there is a deeper imbalance. Only treating symptoms may provide temporary relief but treating the deeper/root cause, will provide lasting changes, an improvement in overall health and a sense of well-being.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five-Element use essentially the same points but the way we diagnose and choose to use the points is different. The needle technique is usually different too. With Five-Element, the practitioner stays in the room and the needles are usually not left in. Fewer needles are typically used and often Moxa (a healing herb) is heated on the points as well. Five-Element treats the body, mind, and spirit and often it is the spirit of a person that is suffering and needs the most attention.

TBN: Why were you drawn to study this form of acupuncture?            

MF: I was drawn to Five-Element because I trust nature and have always found comfort and healing there. I like the focus on the spirit in addition to the mind and body. I like that each point has a “spirit” or “story” and that treatment planning is a true art form. It is a perfect balance of art and science and it truly works. Receiving Five-Element treatment changed my life and once I experienced it for myself, I had to learn more. Once I began to study it, I knew I wanted to spend my life sharing this amazing healing form with other people.

TBN: Are there “elements” that typically are out of balance with trauma or patterns that you have seen in working with people who have experienced trauma?

MF: Trauma is going to affect each person differently because we are each unique. Often with trauma, energetic “blocks” will develop and one of the first things I will do in treatment is clear those blocks. Treatment will always be unique and specific to each client. I never do the exact same treatment on two different people because it wouldn’t be appropriate.

As far as the elements go and are related to trauma, I will touch on them briefly. The emotion associated with water (Winter) is fear. Water is also about will-power and deep reserves of power and strength. Wood (Spring) is the emotion of anger and the energy is intense and uprising. Fire (Summer) is joy and is about our connection to other people. Fire allows us to love. Earth (late Summer) is sympathy. It is the Mother Earth energy, allowing us to be held and also hold. It is also the harvest time. Metal (Fall) is grief. It is about letting go and it’s also about a connection to something greater than our self. It gives our life purpose and awe.

You can see how each of the elements could be affected when there is trauma. With Five-Element, each element will be treated in a unique way that fits the individual and their experience.

TBN: Can you describe the sensation of the needles? Are there varying levels of intensity? How do you manage a client who may be nervous about “pain” associated with needles?

MF: Very tiny stainless steel needles are used (not much larger than a strand of hair). There often is no sensation when the needle enters the skin. There is however, a sensation when the needle connects with the “chi” or “energy”.  That sensation differs from person to person, point to point, and day to day. However, it can feel a bit like a dull ache or pull, movement, or even a little bit like a tingle or light buzzy feeling. The sensation is not too intense and it is brief. If a client is nervous about the needles, I go slow with them. I often have them breathe with the needles and I use a very gentle technique. Many clients don’t mind the sensations at all, some really love the feeling and some clients fall asleep during treatment.

TBN: How much would a survivor have to tell you about their “story” (the event/s itself of the sexual violence) for you to be able to provide treatment?

MF: A survivor can tell me as much or as little about their “story” as they want.  What is most helpful for designing the treatment is to understand the impact that the violence has had on them and the ways in which it is affecting them presently.

TBN: Are there ways in which your clients (or people in general) can incorporate the philosophy of Five-Elements and looking to nature into their own self-care, wellness and resilience practice outside of their acupuncture treatments?

MF: Absolutely! When I work with clients in different seasons, I give them advice on diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices they can make to help support them in each season. One thing I tell everyone is to drink lots of water. I recommend ½ your body weight in ounces each day. Also, avoiding coffee or minimizing coffee intake will help conserve your ancestral chi and vitality.

TBN: Do you use “tools” other than needles? Such as herbs, electricity, heat?

MF: I use Moxa, which is a healing herb that is heated on the skin. Most people enjoy the smell, the warmth and find it enjoyable. The herb has healing properties and also creates heat, which in turn builds energy.

TBN: Knowing that you are working closely with people on an energetic level, how do you take care of yourself?

MF: It is very important that I take care of myself. I receive regular Five-Element acupuncture treatment, I practice yoga, I make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, drink a lot of water, eat right and I make sure to have some “down time”. For me, a healthy balance of quiet time alone either at home or out in nature balanced with social time with friends and family keeps me feeling good. Everyone has to find their own balance but that is what works for me!

TBN: Thank you Melissa for the amazing work you do to support survivors along their healing journey, and your commitment to holistic healing!

To learn more about Melissa Farran or to contact her to explore Five-Element Acupuncture treatment,  please visit Melissa’s practitioner page. Melissa’s professional website can give you more in depth information about the Five-Element approach, as well as some of the commonly treated imbalances, and what you can expect during a treatment session.