Symptoms manifest on all levels - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual - when our original nature is blocked in some way from expressing itself through our form. In other words, when our own energy is not allowed to flow, we are in resistance with ourself, and this resistance creates symptoms. Chi Nei Tsang addresses the very origin of symptoms and integrates all aspects of our being. Because Chi Nei Tsang is not about "techniques," and because its focus is more on supporting the body in the present moment than it is about massaging it into a "better" state (in fact, my teacher frequently would exclaim to people in class, "Chi Nei Tsang is NOT massage!"), there are about as many styles of Chi Nei Tsang as there are practitioners, so the description below is necessarily very broad.
In a Chi Nei Tsang / Applied Chi Kung session, a practitioner works mainly on the abdomen, listening to the body with a deep, gentle touch and supportive holding. The client’s breath is guided through the body, bringing awareness to places of restriction and stress, as well as to areas which already experience openness and ease. This combination of awareness and supportive, 'listening touch' relaxes and releases tissues, freeing energy pathways, and allowing the body's intelligence to wake up. Chi Nei Tsang is extremely detoxifying at every level of being. It addresses all of the bodily systems (musculo-skeletal, endocrine, circulatory, metabolic, etc.) and can actually change our DNA, reprogramming the Self at the level of ancestral history.
At the emotional and spiritual level, Chi Nei Tsang is also a powerful tool for self transformation. Emotions (feelings) are energetic charges that, if not digested, are stored until the body feels the conditions are appropriate to be able to feel the charge and allow it to flow. This is a subconscious self-protection technique that unfortunately takes a tremendous amount of energy and results in uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Energy wants to move - it takes your own energy to keep your own energy from moving, depleting your health and manifesting as unwanted experiences.
The purpose of Chi Nei Tsang is to bring awareness to all parts of you and to enable you to release the stored emotional charges which keep you in conflict with yourself. Emotions are released by actually feeling them thoroughly, without judgement (resistance). Awareness allows more feeling, feeling allows energy flow and fuller embodiment in the physical plane, and fuller physical embodiment allows you to flow easily with/as Life. When energy/emotion is held, unable to flow, symptoms such as pain, dis-ease, inability to break unhealthy habits, etc. arise. They are simply clues as to which emotion wants to move. Releasing stored emotional charges (your qi) results in greater ease of movement, ease of being, and ease of creation on all levels.
Chi Nei Tsang/Applied Chi Kung (Qigong) is not a quick fix. In fact, the intent of CNT is not to "fix" anything or to make your body do anything it doesn’t want to do, but to assist your inherent self-healing ability. Pain and discomfort - whether emotional, mental, physical or spiritual - are not a sign of malfunction. On the contrary, pain indicates that your body is having a healthy reaction to something it does not like. Chi Nei Tsang does not approach the body with the intent to stop it from telling us it's not happy. Rather, its focus is to listen and put us in touch with what is being said so that we feel it and hear it more clearly. Symptoms are not viewed as problems to get rid of but as messages from the body requesting that changes be made in order that it may return to its natural state of health and ease.
The focus is not on the diagnoses of pathology, but on freeing the flow and circulation of your energy. This results in greater health and self awareness, freer expression of heart and spirit, and greater ability to enjoy life. Chi Nei Tsang engenders growth and transformation grounded in softness and lightness of Heart: it is compassion and the recognition of the client’s inherent perfection as he or she is that bring about the conditions necessary for healing to occur.
The healing process (in fact, life itself) is not something that can be fully understood by mental consciousness and often takes place below the level of conscious thought or words. Just remember that the only reason you feel "broken" at times is because your nature is wholeness. If you had no experience of this on some level, you would not recognize when something is out of alignment.
People often ask how many sessions they'll need in order to heal. The truth is there is no answer. Every body is unique. I have seen a person heal from cancer in one week, another person heal from 35 years of asthma in 2 years. Your Self decides when it's time to heal - most often this is not a process instigated by the conscious mind, and most often the healing process is gradual and subtle. However, the more you engage consciously in maintaining proper conduct (sleeping, nourishment, resting, etc.), the better.
It is highly recommended that chi nei tsang treatments be received weekly or every other week for some time. True healing – not just the removal of symptoms – is a gradual process which requires/entails change. In general, the time it takes to heal is directly proportionate to the ease with which you are able to assimilate and retain the changes that occur during the healing process.