Another (Beautiful) Day in the life of a CA clinic

I checked the schedule this morning…2 patients…clearly the string of 100+ patients per week was coming to an end….but not so fast you of little faith…by the end of the day, 16 people had received treatment in my 4 hour shift, well, 17 if you count the guy who….that story in a moment.

In between 2 and 17, a lot happened. About ten people walked in the door in the first hour, half of them with appointments. One of them a former patient bringing in a friend (E) in extreme pain (and paying for her friend).

I hate making people fill out paperwork when they are in pain, so (don’t do this if it makes you uncomfortable)…I skip the paperwork, and get them comfortable and out of pain as quickly as possible with some distal point acupuncture. The LaFuma chairs seem very comfortable and supportive for people with low back issues. E., on her very first acup. appointment ever, slept for 3 hours once the needles were in.

Then there was one of our Vets, J, who brought in a friend from his support group at the VA, or, an acquaintance as he later clarified. The guy reeked of alcohol, but he dutifully started filling out the forms. I went over to introduce myself and said “Hello” with good intention, and he did not look up, but seemed to snarl a little bit. Okaaaay…I’ll just keep moving and let that energy untangle a bit more before I go there.

Another regular came in, he’s been coming 2 or 3 times a week for a month or so, finding some relief and balance from having just completed chemo and radiation. He always brings a friend (who drives him), and they almost always get a treatment….most of whom have been back. He shared with me that if he could go to a private session for the same price as CA, he would chose CA.

He pays at the top end of our scale, so clearly, its not the price which attracts him, but the community circle….one more reason to have a somewhat larger community space – we have 10 chairs in a circle.

The other salient reason is that people can cook for longer…seems like we had 4 or 5 three hour simmers today. It’s almost time to go home, and I may have to wake a few up.

Back to our guy filling out the paperwork. I came back into the reception room to find him snoring…pen still in one hand, clipboard had dropped to the floor. For a moment, the thought “what should I do now?” crossed my mind. Then quickly, a bit of Taoist common sense told me “absolutely nothing”. Sure, maybe a few new patients got a little weirded out by the smell…and then again…maybe not. Maybe they could understand that somehow this guy too was finding some balance, or at least, not getting into any trouble.

J’s mother understood. She shared with me that J’s Stryker Unit had been hit by 4 roadside bombs and J had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He had been going to the VA for 3 years with no apparent improvement, and in the 3 months he has been getting regular acupuncture, he is starting to recover his emotional flexibility, his motivation to live, his ability to express a variety of feelings. His mother sees it quite clearly, and so do we. 

This was really the best part of the day, reflecting on this, how a simple, affordable treatment can be of such healing benefit to someone who has come to a dead end with all other approaches.

 J’s acquaintance slept for 3 hours, as did J. J woke up his buddy, and they left together with mom. Time to go home…who knows what joys will come tomorrow.


river Jordan
Author: river Jordan

After graduating from the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in 1997, I had a hobby practice for a few years before moving to Northern India to study Buddhism. During this time, I volunteered in a local clinic, giving acupuncture to Tibetan refugees and Indian nationals. <p> Returning to the U.S. in 2002, I started a typical insurance based acupuncture practice catering to the upper middle class. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with <a href="" target="_blank">Acupuncturists Without Borders</a>, using community style acupuncture to treat trauma victims in a natural disaster setting. </p> Inspired by the power and efficacy of acupuncture in a post-disaster setting, I began to contemplate issues of socioeconomic class. What could be done to make acupuncture accessible to everyone and still provider a livable wage for an acupuncturist? After attending WCA's first conference in October of 2006, I had found the answer to that question. In January 2007, together with my partner Serena Sundaram, we founded <a href="" target="_blank">Communichi</a>, Seattle's first dedicated community acupuncture clinic. <p> As a Buddhist, I believe that healing begins in the mind. As the positive qualities of wisdom and compassion are cultivated in the mind of a practitioner, this...

Related Articles

Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. thanks Jordan for another

    thanks Jordan for another thoughtful post…

    i was wondering recently that perhaps some of our longer simmering peeps in CA were  exploring some ‘new’ or at least only partially traversed pathways with the option in CA to have organically longer cooking times if necessary.  it’s a nice option in our setup to not have to be so controlling of the needle retention times.  i’ve heard feedback from folks who were were at PP visits and had their needles pulled before they felt done, and they prefer to finish simmering al natural, usually when the waves and ripples of the waters have become calm.


  2. PP Visits?

    I am unfamiliar with that acronym? 

    Regarding long cooking times – I vaguely remember something in my academic learning that perscribes certain cooking times, or maybe it was just word of mouth from the clinical supervisors at my school?

    In any case, my intuition tells me that it is difficult to “overstimulate” someone unless they are very nervous/anxious and/or very deficient.

    Most people seem to either fall asleep, or go into a deep state of relaxation, which makes sense given that so many people are over worked in our stress factory culture. I see the long cook times as being a valuable therapy in helping calm a lot of that agitated, ungrounded Chi, thereby helping to bring people (and the society) back into balance.

  3. you remember, #1 and #2,

    you remember, #1 and #2, nah, seriously just kidding.

    pp — private room/private practice/ba

    my rudimentary understanding is that tthe old classics say that qi circulates 50 times thru the channels in a day, so every 28.xx minutes, so i think this is where many teachers say minimum 30 minutes for cooking time.  i believe Young said at the seminar 30-40 or 40-50 for cooking time.  DT says 45.  with that said, since CA has the unusual option of longer organic cook times, i have seen people regulate themselves and ask for a certain amount after they get a few treatments and see what works best for them, anywhere from 20 to 60 usually.  one interesting thing i have noticed is that for the peeps that set a time frame say 30, 40, or 45, many are waking up right at the time the “timer” goes off.  internal alarm clock?  it’s pretty cool.  


  4. Butterball turkey

    I have found that if the needles in an acute pain situation are really smooth coming out on the affected meridians that the person will almost without fail report a good outcime.

    Sometimes with an acute pain situation however my sense is some people do better with a quick boil rather than a slower simmer.If i was to think about these patient’s presentation it would be on the more Yang side of the 8 variables(hot/Cold etc) 

    Sometimes i am reluctant to pull needles that are simply not ready to let go and have been known to ask the patient if they have 10 more minutes, reinserted and found that they are ready 10 minutes later much like that butterball turkey of years of yore. 

  5. curious

    I am new to CA, and plunging right into it without much preparation, so I’m curious, how do you determine when to actually take them out? Do you actually tug on the needles to feel if the treatment is done? Do you ask the patient or just watch for signs of awakening? (what if they don’t fall asleep and stay nervous the whole time?) So far when I try to do the intuitive thing and ask them if they’d like to stay more, most people answer that they dont know and turn around and ask me what’s better…

  6. I make a deal with my

    I make a deal with my patients before I put needles in.  They should spend at least 30 minutes with needles in.  Anything beyond that is up to them.  They’re responsible for deciding when they’re done, and they should signal this by opening their eyes and making eye contact with me when I check the room.  I like to point out the positive correlation between relaxing deeply and getting good results, and mention that most people tend to nap or just rest for about an hour, but that it varies from person to person and treatment to treatment.  I’ll also mention things to pay attention to (since alot of people just aren’t used to paying attention to their bodies, which makes sense on account of who wants to pay attention to feeling crappy?) like – going from relaxed to feeling restless, eyes popping open and staying open, just plain feeling “done”.

    Some people do stay nervous, especially during first treatments.  I’ll often just throw in shen men and/or yin tang if I feel like someone could use some extra help relaxing.  I also often tell first time patients that they might fall asleep, or not, but that they should at least try to close their eyes, breathe deeply, and relax as much as possible.

    I don’t like to be The Man In Charge.  I like to relate parameters that have worked for other people, and leave it open.  I do feel that part of the healing process is learning to pay attention to your own body and taking responsibility for it as much as possible.