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My CA Journey

note: This is a guest blog post i wrote for the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA), originally posted at http://www.pocacoop.com/prick-prod-provoke/post/ive-been-asked-to-write-a-blog-about-my-ca-journey

I’ve been asked to write a blog post on my CA journey.

Some background: I’ve been in practice since 1995 in a variety of settings. I worked in a rheumatologist’s office, a community HIV clinic, a CAM clinic at a hospital. I had private room practices in various settings: holistic center, home practice, chiropractor’s office. I’ve taught and been an administrator at acupuncture colleges for many years. I’ve taught CEU courses on Japanese Meridian Therapy since about 1998. In light of all that, I think it is pretty safe to say that I’ve been pretty well invested in the standard private room acupuncture model.

I got interested in Community Acupuncture (CA) back when I read Lisa Rohleder’s Acupuncture Today series, back in 2007. I joined Community Acupuncture Network (CAN), and read the posts with interest. In October of 2008 I decided to open up a CAP (Community Acupuncture Practice) and began looking for space.

I hired a realtor to help with finding spaces. The first thing I noticed was that she (like most other people, ultimately including myself, but more on this later) did not understand the nature of Community Acupuncture and so kept finding medical office spaces for me. I kept telling her “Imagine that I’m opening a yoga studio”, but she didn’t quite get it. This was complicated by my own inner doubts about the CA model, both in terms of economics and treatment style/efficacy.

Finally we found a space that seemed a perfect compromise: a former architect’s office with a small waiting room, private office and a larger room which could accommodate 4 or 5 chairs. I immediately understood how I could use it. I would use the private office for intakes, and for private treatments on days when I wasn’t doing CA. The larger room would be the community room. I leased it, painted, had the flooring put in, and in January 2009 opened Presence Community Acupuncture.

I found that I loved doing CA. It wasn’t too long before the idea of being a hybrid (offering private treatments and CA in the same office) was abandoned. But there were some difficulties.

When I first started, I put four chairs in the large room and one table in the office. However, because the idea of treating in chairs was new to me, I lacked confidence in the method; after all, I had been treating on tables for 14 years, and had accumulated a lot of effective treatment strategies which involved needling the back and other areas that are difficult to access with the patient seated in a recliner. To make a long story short, I basically reverted to treating many of the patients as if I still had a private-room practice. But this limited me in terms of openings in my schedule; people would come with friends wanting treatment, just walk in, come early or late or on the wrong day, and often I couldn’t fit them in. My practice numbers declined, and I began to get frustrated: with my practice, with CA and CAN, with my job at the acupuncture college. Three years in, I knew something needed to change.

Something had already begun to change, however. Late in 2011, my home was burglarized. I live in a lower-to-lower-middle income neighborhood. The economy has not been favorable over the last few years, and crime was on the increase; talking to the neighbors, my wife found out that every house on the block had been broken into at least once over the previous months. So my wife began to organize the neighborhood – something that had never happened where we live. Soon we had a community organization with monthly meetings, and involvement with city government and local businesses. With more attention being paid to our neighborhood, the city began to revitalize a business district right by our house. It became very clear to me that I needed to relocate my clinic there, around the corner from where I live.

At that time it hit me. The thing that I had been missing about Community Acupuncture was community.

I took a good long look at what I had been doing with the practice, and how it differed from the model promoted by CAN and now POCA. I looked at the groundwork that had been put down by my wife and the community organization. And I realized that between POCA, the local community and the city I had a lot of resources that I hadn’t been using, for various reasons, and that putting all of those resources together was probably the only way that the clinic was going to thrive.

I opened the new location in December. There are no interior walls. There is a bookcase which divides the reception and treatment areas, some shoji screen dividers for storage areas and one table (used mainly for small children and the occasional back treatment request), and a growing number of chairs. We just had our Grand Opening event, drawing over 50 people from various communities: patients (current and not-so-current), former students, members of our community organization and others nearby, local business owners, and city commissioners and planners. We showed the Community Acupuncture documentary, and a lot of people attending the event got the whole idea of CA very clearly.

The next morning, I had a decent 3 hour shift with 12 patients then drove to a health fair at a mosque in Miami. I gave an extemporaneous talk and so many people there were amazed and delighted that something like CA was available to them in South Florida. I handed out bunches of cards to people who couldn’t wait to tell their family and friends.

Driving home afterwards, very tired after the previous 2 days, i reflected on how grateful i am that i got involved with CA, Lisa and Skip, and everybody involved in the CA movement, and especially how i’m able to bring this all together with my neighborhood, the people i live with, the people i pray with, people who need this and are excited to have the chance to get treated and tell others about it. God is Great.