Seattle’s Hidden Healing Gem
by Eliza Fletcher
To say I was tense, as I careened off I-5 onto 85th, would have been an understatement. Traffic had been its usual uncivil gridlock; I’d had a stressful encounter with a co-worker earlier in the day; I was worried about my mother; my credit card payment was past due; and I was in pain, physical and emotional pain. This pain had been an unwelcome, intermittent visitor for years, but lately it seemed to have taken up long-term residency. I have to admit, I’d been trying to ignore it, largely because I didn’t know what else to do. Despite the various practitioners and self-help strategies I’d embraced in the past, there I was, still in pain . . .
For months, a friend had been advising me to visit her Network Chiropractor, and it was due to her persistent nudging that I found myself, with teeth clenched, weaving through traffic to Dr. Dick Shepard’s office. Although the traffic was a nuisance, it wasn’t the only reason for my anxiety. I wasn’t looking forward to visiting yet another new healthcare provider. I knew they all meant well, but so often, I left healthcare offices feeling unseen and unheard, and definitely, unhealthy. However, my friend had assured me that Dr Shepard was not your ordinary chiropractor! Although NSA (Network Spinal Analysis), or Network Care, grew out of traditional chiropractic, it took the concept of health and healing a step further.
A quick bit of research on my part revealed that NSA was developed by Dr. Donald Epstein when he discovered it was more effective to entrain his patients’ bodies to use the tension already present in their systems as fuel for healing rather than to directly manipulate his patients’ vertebrae. As a result, a NSA doctor focuses on what is already working well in the body to promote the body’s inherent strengths. It sounded a bit mysterious (and frankly, it looks even more mysterious when you see it done). However, a study by Dr. Robert Blanks, Professor of Biology and Neurobiology at the University of California at Irvine Medical School interviewed almost 3,000 NSA patients. The study found 76% of patients reported improvement in mental and physical wellness and 99% wished to continue care. Thus, with more than a little trepidation and a bit of curiosity, I opened the door of the little red brick building on the corner of 8th Avenue NW and 83rd, and walked in.
Almost within moments of stepping inside Dr. Shepard’s office, I realized this experience would, indeed, be different, and my tension began to evaporate. Just being there felt good. Uplifting and relaxing World Music played quietly in the background as I relaxed into an inviting ambiance, awash in Mediterranean ochres and greens that echoed a private patio garden visible through French doors in the next room. (I later learned that Dr. Shepard remodeled the office himself, drawing upon his experience in furniture and cabinet work.) It wasn’t just interior décor, though, that created such an appealing environment. It was also the obvious warm feeling of community amongst the patients in the waiting area, which Dr. Dick and Noel Shepard foster with their informal, but professional style.
While it was a relief to walk into such a warm, welcoming environment, it was an even greater relief to meet Noel and Dr. Shepard. I immediately felt comfortable with them and their genuinely holistic perspective on physical and emotional health. Like many people, I had begun to realize that focusing on my symptoms and stories wasn’t leading to a greater sense of well-being. In fact, the opposite was occurring. One symptom might resolve, but another would develop to take its place, and my stories about those symptoms remained disturbingly similar. I quickly learned that Dr. Shepard and Noel maintain a great deal of spaciousness around their patients’ symptoms and stories. While they are accepting and curious about them, they are not distracted by them. Instead, they both embody and embrace the belief that healing will naturally occur when we focus our attention upon what our bodies and beings are trying to process and balance underneath those symptoms, and they provide a great deal of intellectual and emotional space for that healing process to emerge.
I also quickly learned that their work is unlike other chiropractic methods. It could be considered deeper, and yet it usually feels gentler than a conventional chiropractic adjustment. The patient’s only task during an entrainment (or adjustment) is to relax and breathe while Dr. Shepard uses gentle, triggering touches to help the body release tension. Dr. Shepard explains that he “is looking for tension in the body, which the patient might not even know is there”. He has discovered that most people unconsciously carry tension throughout their bodies and this tension can result in any number of symptoms including chronic pain, depression and/or anxiety, digestive distress, headaches, TMJ, sleep disorders, and loss of vitality. With just the slightest touch, Dr. Shepard helps the body release and redirect that tension. The patient’s immediate responses vary from deepening of the breath to involuntary movement and/or to vocalization, all leading to feelings of greater relaxation and well being. The longer-term results are often amazing and go far beyond relief of pain and symptoms to include improvements in emotional and physical health, as well as improved quality of life.
During my initial visit, Dr. Dick and Noel explained that their care is founded on the premise that we all possess an Innate Healing Intelligence. Our bodies and beings know how to heal – we simply have to access that Intelligence. It is the task of the practitioner to help us find those innate healing strategies and then to amplify them, so that the strategies become more accessible to us. Recognizing this, everything in their office is designed to help individuals develop lifelong skills for releasing stress and reconnecting body and mind.
In my experience, the effect of Dr. Shepard’s care has been startling. When I began care, it seemed unlikely that those brief and mysterious sessions with Dr. Shepard and Noel would lift my depression and resolve my chronic pain; and yet, they did. I was soon amazed at how much better I felt after each session. And, that feeling of well-being persisted as I began to shift physically and emotionally in subtle, and not so subtle, ways. Not only have my original symptoms changed, I feel a greater sense of ease in my life and in my body.
Not surprisingly, healing has been a lifelong journey for both Dr. Shepard and Noel. They each come from families of healers, and they have been dedicated to healing since young ages. Dr. Shepard received his degree Summa Cum Laude in Chiropractic, and he continues to study both conventional and non-conventional healing modalities. When in chiropractic school, he quickly chose to specialize in Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) because of the depth and breadth of changes he saw and experienced. Dr. Shepard has achieved the highest level of NSA certification and has served on staff with Dr. Donald Epstein.
Noel’s wonderful intuitive capabilities and exceptional gift for connecting with people, have led her down numerous, powerful healing paths. Along the way, she studied healing arts with Louise Hay, Dr. Robert Jaffe, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, and Dr. William Nelson among others, and she has also served on staff with Dr. Epstein.
Care is affordable and safe at any age. The office is open weekdays by appointment. With the motto “not your ordinary chiropractor”, this is truly a whole new world of healing waiting to be discovered!
Dr. Dick and Noel Shepard may be contacted at (206) 525-4155; for more information visit www.networkcare.org and Facebook.com/DrDickShepard