About Wilhelm F. Heppe
The path from clinical to graceful medicine
A pivotal moment in Wilhelm Heppe’s life occurred when he witnessed an orthopedic surgeon jamming a metal rod up the center of an infant’s sternum. Just four months shy of completing his medical degree in Cologne, Germany, he was observing a lung resection as part of his surgical clerkship.
The violent scene at an operating table just five yards away — of the sweating, cursing surgeon with his power tools — flooded Heppe’s consciousness with its absurdity. He walked out of the room knowing he had to find another way; he set out on a path in the healing arts integrating clinical pragmatism with mindfulness, knowledge with wisdom.
Rolfing® and Structural Integration
His earliest inclination toward psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and image-based psychotherapy indirectly brought him in touch with Rolfing®, when a Gestalt therapist friend brought Dr. Ida Rolf’s book back from a trip to Big Sur, California. In seeking an alternative approach to established healthcare, an inquisitive Heppe went through a basic Rolfing® series himself with one of only three practitioners then in Germany. This corrective methodology involves releasing connective tissue through systematic manipulation to allow fluidity and movement.
Heppe’s own direct experience was a revelation: a living body is not a rigid mechanism but a dynamic organism responsive to touch. While still in medical school, he had augmented his studies with energetic and esoteric pursuits. In the wake of his departure, he determined that his emerging interests — delineated by change and human potential — would be best pursued in the United States, which in the early 80s was in the vanguard of cutting-edge transformational thought. Heppe moved to Boulder, Colorado, a college town and counterculture outpost, where he studied at the Rolf Institute in 1982, earned his advanced Certificate in 1987, and taught for the Guild of Structural Integration in the early nineties, as he became a much-sought-after master of his discipline.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine
Also living for a time in Bozeman, Montana, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Heppe could readily satisfy his curiosity about an array of subjects considered outside the mainstream. While refining his manual technique, he sensed that a gentle and effective form of medicine required an understanding of natural processes of which we humans are only dimly aware — that intelligence necessitated constantly expanding horizons and reformulating truths.
Incorporating new perceptions into his bodywork sessions, Heppe apprehended relationships between seemingly disparate elements within the structural, organic, and emotional, which pushed at the boundaries of his training. Recognizing the need to be licensed in additional healing modalities, he relocated to Tempe, Arizona, where he studied at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and became a naturopathic physician in 2001. Upon moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, he also became a Doctor of Oriental Medicine in 2003.
The approach of Medical Art
A major thread throughout his lifelong study has been homeopathy, which recognizes a person’s capacity for healing and personal transmutation — ripple effects of minute amounts of distilled remedies. A practitioner works with an individual to ascertain coherent body-mind patterns that operate as a distorting closed circuit prohibiting flow or growth. This emphasis on big results from small measures as well as the ability to detect patterns had a tremendous influence on Dr. Heppe’s evolving integrative, interdisciplinary medical art. With a multiplicity of tools and perspectives along with communication, nuanced observation, and intuition, he balances awareness of the whole with attention to the specific in discerning life-designs within individuals, which are addressed in a resonant manner.
Dr. Heppe sees himself as a medical profiler rather than a test-driven diagnostician. The organization of symptoms into conditions imposes categories of likeness and difference that misrepresent the unique and lived. As a medical profiler, Dr. Heppe, in contrast, guides an individual in their passage toward well-being by discerning clusters and constellations — a topography formed by ancestry, personal history, as well as inner and outer environments. A disease or misalignment may be the body’s expressive response to a “sick” situation, and suppression may only forestall a person’s actualization. Avoiding mystification and pathological designations, Dr. Heppe’s approach ameliorates that cough, migraine, irritable bowel, or whatever may ail you momentarily or chronically by fine tuning your system to affect a meaningful physical change.
The key to finding an authentic expression of being
Dr. Heppe makes sense of the factors influencing or aspecting what one is experiencing, which is an on-the-way to uncovering what actions should be taken. Whether it be diet, acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, Rolfing, or more psychoenergetic therapy, his protocols — marked by simplicity and subtlety — are not formulaic nor determined by any one set of his expertise, but are prudent and responsive to unfolding changes. Any map is a schema from which actual conditions and experience deviate, and Dr. Heppe’s lucid counsel is never “take as directed” but a matter of “let’s think about this.”
Blending the physical and the metaphysical, he mines the core competencies and illuminates the lingering dream, revealing a space consonant with a profound ordering principle. Attuned to regulation and functional medicine, Dr. Heppe looks to a person’s milieu as the key component of health; with both a depth and breadth of understanding, he takes the whole person into account in order for them to find an authentic expression of being. Acknowledging the creative dimension of existence, he interprets “milieu” as the realities and the symbols we make individually and collectively, so that the power of imagination can be a means of insight and overcoming. Working with Dr. Heppe means working through obstacles that might manifest as chronic illness, pain, depression to arrive at a new spaciousness — the tipping point toward the possibility that is life.
As a modern day Wanderjahre — the itinerant healer who went to villages bringing medicine to the people — Dr. Heppe benefits from his bicultural background and way of life. Having established a base in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest, he travels for extended periods teaching osteopaths and physical therapists in Germany. With the clarity of his native intellectual tradition and the iconoclasm as well as spiritedness of the New World, he gleans the best of both while questioning each.
Dr. Heppe’s vision of health
Moving through communities allows him to stay light on his feet and adopt new findings, while maintaining a vantage point of both conventional and alternative medicine that affords a clear-eyed consideration. His ongoing shift from immersion to reflection has awakened him to the multiplicity of meanings rather than any one fixed authority. Participating in but not restricted by either society or paradigm, Dr. Heppe has a vision of health based in our humanness, in which the physician reminds himself and those whom he or she serves of their own humanity.