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Therapy and Qigong: Good for Clients and Therapists

Incorporating qigong into counseling offers many benefits for both clients and therapists.  This article is about those benefits and the complementary nature of therapy and qigong.

A sweeping comparison in 2010 by the National Institute of Health (Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., Etnier, J. & Fang Lin, 2010) found that anxiety and depression improved significantly for clients as a result of practicing qigong and tai chi.  My experience as a client and therapist affirms these findings.

While complementing talk therapy and psychopharmacological treatment, qigong improves many of the symptoms associated with anxiety, depression and mood disorders.  For example, qigong is a widely accepted practice for lowering individuals’ blood pressure and heart rate, normalizing breathing, and reducing hypertension and reactivity—all symptoms of anxiety.  For depression, qigong works to diminish symptoms like hypersomnia and insomnia, while regulating  energy and appetite, and promoting concentration and decisiveness.

Qigong also clarifies various types of conflict, promotes authenticity, and fosters relational sensitivity.  When practiced between sessions, it furthers the psychological work accomplished during sessions and gives clients an easily accessible and readily available tool for self-soothing and self-efficacy.  People suffering from a wide range of adverse symptoms benefit from using qigong as an effective, low-cost means of holistically supporting psychological healing and wellness.

The highly eminent qigong master, China scholar, and health expert Kenneth Cohen (1997) writes, “I firmly believe that qigong and psychotherapy are congruent and comparable healing modalities.  Sometimes either technique is enough to solve a problem; often both are required” (p. 227).  Accordingly, many therapists utilize qigong in their practices.

Psychologist, qigong teacher and author Michael Mayer writes that, “A fundamental part of the suffering of civilized men and women comes from being out of touch with nature, our nature…[when we use qigong] we “re-member” our connection with the elements of our wider nature” (Mayer, 2007).  Echoing Mayer’s sentiments, author, therapist and qigong teacher Patrick Dougherty writes that, “Integrating qigong into therapy offers immediate, effective tools to not only help people mitigate the effects of their stress-filled world, but to help them maintain the changes they have made in therapy” (Dougherty, 2007).

My experience squares with the writings of all three authors: as a client and therapist I have found that changes occur more readily, hold much easier, and last much longer when qigong and therapy are used concurrently.

Qigong benefits therapists too.

When therapists use qigong in their practices they prevent burnout and enhance their effectiveness and longevity as practitioners.  During the long sedentary days of sitting with clients, practicing just a few minutes of qigong between sessions re-establishes integration between the thinking mind and the feeling body.  As a result, therapists’ increase their capacity to understand and track their clients’ processes.

Using qigong with clients during sessions deepens the therapeutic alliance by increasing previously established safety and trust.  It also gives therapists access to information precluded from exclusively verbal sessions.  Practicing qigong with clients often exposes new revelations, insights, and details that organically change previously held thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

For clients and therapists alike, using qigong and therapy together has a synergistic effect.  It helps both people work better.

Peter Gold, M.A. has written extensively on the benefits of combining qigong and psychotherapy. He uses qigong with his clients and has designed a 6-session training that teaches therapists how to use qigong for themselves and their clients.


Cohen, K. (1997). The way of qigong: The art and science of Chinese energy healing. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Dougherty, P. (2007). Qigong in psychotherapy: You can do so much by doing so little.  Minneapolis, M: Spring Forest.

Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., Etnier, J. & Lin, F. (2010) A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American Journal of Health q Promotion: July/August 2010, Vol. 24, No. 6, pp. e1-e25.

Mayer, M. (2007). Bodymind healing psychotherapy: Ancient pathways to modern health. Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing.