Discomfort may lead to discovery

Mon, Mar 13 2017


Philosopher. Traditionalist. Not afraid of needles.

Darren Tellier had just finished studying philosophy and was planning his future in law when he fell ill during a hiking trip in Nepal.

“I got really sick with giardiasis—a small intestine infection—lost weight and was malnourished,” remembers Darren. “I had decided to go home until another traveller told me to go see a group of Tibetan monks where I was staying on the northern border of India.”

The monks treated him using traditional herbal medicine, and he recovered in time to finish his trip. But the experience left him wondering what those monks were actually doing and how it worked.

“ We can’t snap our fingers and make problems go away, but there is a lot of exciting potential in this field. ”  

CEI_Darren_Tellier_HikingWhen he arrived home in Canada, he headed to the library to study for the law school entry exam. But his mind kept returning to those questions.

“I started searching for answers, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for,” he says. “When I finally came across some books that talked about the philosophy of these older medicines, more and more of my study time was spent reading them.”

Eventually Darren decided to trade studying law for traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and he hasn’t looked back.

As his practice grew over the years, Darren found himself treating more and more patients from emergency services and the military looking for help with symptoms related to trauma. So he set out to try to understand the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms at play, going to psychology conferences and studying post-traumatic stress disorder. The goal? Break down the elements of trauma so he could map them out using the language and parameters of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Blending the modern and traditional in what he describes as a hybrid version of practice has become his life’s work.

“At this point, I don't think what I practice is traditional Chinese medicine,” says Darren. “I use its fundamental building blocks, but in areas like shock and trauma we need to move beyond a protocol-based approach.”

Darren is also quick to emphasize that although seeing changes that improve a person’s life—restoring strength and mobility in a joint that wasn’t working properly or a limb that was weak—is incredibly rewarding, the medicine he practices isn’t magic.

“Sometimes people come to us having tried everything else and expecting us to be able to work miracles,” says Darren. “That’s unreasonable. We can’t snap our fingers and make problems go away, but there is a lot of exciting potential in this field. I think acupuncture becomes a lot more powerful when we connect it with specialties like athletic therapy and physiotherapy, and I think those practices become more effective when they have a tool like acupuncture.”

Darren Tellier is a faculty member in the Acupuncture program. Learn more at MacEwan.ca/Acupuncture.