Acupuncture for depression

Using acupuncture for depression

Acupuncture is an excellent treatment for depression and there is now robust evidence from high quality clinical trials to support this. It works very well alongside conventional medicine or with other complementary medicines (such as St John’s Wort), and with talking therapies.

I have worked with many clients over the years experiencing depression and anxiety and the three main types of change that people with chronic illness notice with using acupuncture are all potentially of great value to depression sufferers. These are: changes in symptoms; changes in energy strength and relaxation, and changes in personal and social identity (Paterson and Britten 2004).

Acupuncture for pain and depression

Research at the University of York, informed by the preparatory studies I conducted for my National Institute of Health Research funded PhD, has shown that acupuncture is equally beneficial to counselling for treating depression, as an adjunct to usual GP care. However, acupuncture potentially offers additional benefits to counselling in terms of pain relief (Hopton et al 2014), which can be very useful as approximately 60% of depression sufferers experience pain symptoms alongside depression.

An extra support to come off medication

Many people using antidepressants would like to be medication free but find it hard to come off these drugs, even though they are not addictive. Discontinuation symptoms, although self limiting, can be distressing and unpredictable and it can be that the time to come off never seems quite right.

Research (Schroer et al, 2009) has suggested that those coming off antidepressants would value acupuncture as an extra support and I have developed a treatment program to assist and support with antidepressant discontinuation, in accordance with NICE guidelines.

The care I offer is bespoke and tailor made to suit an individuals needs. Since I am not medically qualified I recommend that your GP is informed about your decision to come off medication to help with the discontinuation, so we can, if desired, work together as a team.

The discontinuation process should take 4-8 weeks and a three month follow up plan is recommended. Further treatment may be offered to prevent relapse.

Acupuncture is potentially a very helpful treatment to discontinue medications and to re-balance the body. It is widely used in drug and alcohol projects throughout the UK to help substance users, and patients report feeling substantial benefits from the treatment. I have a decade of experience working in such projects and have seen acupuncture assist patients to come off highly addictive drugs including heroin, where I have provided support for this.


Schroer S, MacPherson H, and Adamson J (2009) Designing an RCT of acupuncture for depression – identifying appropriate patient groups: a qualitative study. Family Practice 2009 Jun;26(3):188-95

Hopton A, MacPherson H, Kedling A, Morely S (2014) Acupuncture, counselling or usual care for depression and comorbid pain: secondary analysis of an randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open 2014; 4 Issue 5, e0004964

Paterson C and Britten N (2004) Acupuncture as a complex intervention: a holistic model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 10, 791-801