“By putting light into the body, you are helping the cells communicate better,” she said. “That, in turn, helps your health both physically and psycho-spiritually.”

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, has not studied colorpuncture.

Althen uses the light work to treat a variety of problems, but it is a tool she often uses when a patient has any kind of hormonal issue. Some patients are seeking straight-forward relief from aches and pains, while others are seeking treatment for conditions less tangible, such as the release of trauma experienced years earlier -- even dating back to their time in the womb.

“The light is actually what helps your whole hormonal system operate,” she said, working on both physical and emotional levels. The great thing about the light work, Althen said, is it allows trauma to be released without repeating it.

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“You don’t have to sit in therapy for 20 weeks and cry and scream and relive whatever the trauma was,” Althen said. “You may have an emotional reaction to it, but you don’t have to go through an ugly ongoing emotional catharsis to it.”

Though colorpuncture is not widely practiced, Althen is not the only person who uses the technique in Howard County. She said she knows of at least two others -- Fran Iamele, an acupuncturist in Clarksville, and Shari Sternberger, the owner of Elements of Energy LLC in Highland.

“I blend all the different modalities that I have,” Sternberger said. “For me, color just adds a whole different dimension to the work that I do.”

Sternberger uses a variety of alternative healing methods -- hands-on energy work, tuning forks, essential oils, flower essences and the light work. “I love the light,” said Sternberger, who uses the technique on both humans and pets. “I love the quickness of it. I love the simplicity of it.”

“It’s especially helpful with the senior animals who may be on the last part of their journey,” she said. Even with people, Sternberger said she has found colorpuncture is great at healing old wounds.

“Color, in what I noticed, has been very profound,” she said. “A little bit goes a long way. It’s like peeling an onion. You take a little bit at a time.”

Sternberger traveled to Germany to study colorpuncture, and receive treatment, at the Mandel Institute. “I was blown away by the changes that happened within me,” she said.

Detective work and persistence

Though it’s not an exact science, Althen said she has seen the light work heal many of her patients. 

“Sometimes it takes detective work and a little bit of persistence, but once you get there, you can get to the root cause,” she said. “And that’s what real healing does is get to the cause, not cover up the symptoms.”

When patient Echols started seeing Althen, she had a wealth of medical issues, including Lyme disease, arthritis, migraines and intense back pain. Much of the pain, she said, started after she was hit by a car at age 18, some 26 years ago.

Echols has used a combination of acupuncture and light therapy, on a roughly weekly basis, to treat her pain and to help release the trauma the accident caused. Since starting treatments with Althen, Echols said she has not had the same sensations of pain that she lived with after her accident. “I’m in a much better place than I was four years ago,” she said.

Four years ago, Echols said she was at her “wit’s end” with pain, medication and doctors. “I would get up mornings the three years before coming to Janet and say, ‘How am I going to get through the day with three kids?’” Echols said, adding that she frequently credits Althen with saving her life.

Columbia resident Laura Loughery, 37, started receiving acupuncture treatments from Althen in July 2011 to boost her chances of getting pregnant. But it turned out she was already pregnant when she started acupuncture.

“Two months into it, I miscarried,” Loughery said. “So we kind of changed the course of treatments.”

In October, Althen began to use the light work, in combination with the acupuncture, when treating Loughery.