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Background: Acupuncture, as part of Chinese medicine (CM), is based on a holistic therapeutic theory. Individualised differential diagnosis is the essence and an integral part of its practice. It leads to an individualised treatment plan. Little research on the nature and effects of the CM consultation has been conducted. Previous studies showed behavioural and cognitive changes after traditional acupuncture treatment. In this article, through a hypothetical case, we illustrated a CM consultation process, examined the changes produced and compared the features between CM consultation and cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT). Main text: The two therapies share nine out of eleven features, including five specific factors that took different forms in CM and CBT and four non-specific factors known to partially mediate the relationship between psychological therapies and positive therapeutic outcomes. Although Chinese medicine treatments induce changes in behaviours as well as cognition, CM consultation does not share two essential features of CBT, namely a framework of the interaction between behaviour and cognition and teaching patients how to identify and dispute dysfunctional thoughts. Discussion: CM consultation has CBT-like features and effects. Existing qualitative studies suggest that changes in behaviours and cognition after traditional acupuncture treatment are probably due to the CM consultation process or its combined effect with needling, rather than acupuncture needling alone. This hypothesis provides a new perspective on the contributing factors to acupuncture effect. CBT-like features and effects of traditional acupuncture is underestimated by practitioners and researchers, and need to be taken into consideration in acupuncture trial design and clinical practice.

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Journal Article

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