by Lynda McDaniel
Even as a child Monica Legatt was an ambitious learner who asked big questions. “At a young age, I began thinking about the meaning of life,” she recalls. “I wondered about our purpose on Earth.”
So it wasn’t surprising that she graduated with a double major in English and religious studies, or that she went on to earn a master’s in teaching. What was surprising to friends and family was how she then enrolled at the Seattle-based Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
But it made perfect sense to Monica, whose many questions were guiding her toward a life’s work in Chinese medicine.
“Every day I use my studies in religion and philosophy, my communication skills from my English degree, and insights from my education degree to help explain diagnoses and treatments in clear, lay terms,” she says. “It all ties together.”
Monica first heard about traditional Eastern healing techniques from Puget Sound Professor Emeritus of Religion Richard Overman. Later she learned how Chinese medicine is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western medicine, and how it deals with “chi,” the vital energy behind all life forms and life processes. Today her practice, which opened in 1996 and serves patients ranging in age from two weeks to 84 years, focuses on acupuncture and herbal treatments, as well as the benefits of massage, dietary therapy, meditation, and exercise.
“Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are commonly associated with pain relief, but that is only a small percentage of the range of medical conditions they successfully treat,” she adds. “We work with fertility issues, digestive conditions, allergies, anxiety and depression, sports injuries, hypertension, and migraines. I see a lot of patients with migraines, and Chinese medicine is especially effective at treating the root cause.”
While she normally exudes a calm assurance, her voice and color rise as she talks about this holistic approach to healing. “There are inextricable components to most diseases of stress, anxiety, and negative emotions. They are not in addition to or alongside the diagnosis, in some cases they are the cause,” she says. “People often resist hearing about more complex causes for disease or imbalance—they want the answer to be cut and dried. But the answers lie much deeper.”
With patients who are willing, Monica explores facets of their lives that Western medicine often overlooks—the emotional, mental, and psychological components of illness, as well as the physical manifestations of disease or imbalance. She teaches them how detrimental to health long-term stress can be and that it, along with longstanding negative emotions, has a direct correlation with cancer, hypertension, menstrual pain, and immune-system disorders. “That’s when we talk about whether it’s worth ripping their hair out working 80 hours a week,” she says. “Such pressures to perform can make us lose touch with the meaning of life.”
Inside her downtown Seattle office, the feeling is warm, open, colorful, and rather Western, just the way she planned it. “I designed my office to look and feel like a typical M.D.’s office—not too new agey,” she says. “I want people to feel comfortable, especially when they might be nervous about trying something new to them.”