Can CA Go Deep?

One of the aspects of oriental medicine that I like is its
empirical nature; performing a treatment and observing the results. It makes me
happy when I have to push myself to think outside the standard textbook
treatments when the results aren’t what I would expect. It never fails to amaze
me how a minor shift in strategy can make all the difference in the world to
the treatment outcome. This is not to say that oriental medicine does not have
its share of certainties and logic that work, but working with the flexibility
that acupuncture allows is sure fun. The other side of this empirical coin
seems to be the proliferation of ideas that are patently not true. Some things
don’t work, but the information seems to keep moving around anyway either
because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy, or validates how we want things to be.

Concerning CA, I have run into an empirical argument against
CA over and over again when I talk to other acupunks or read a CA related
article, and it is that because of the CA style, the patient (or pattern, or
disease, etc.) cannot be treated on a “deeper” level. What the hell does that
mean? Can we GET anymore subjective and meaningless than this? What is
“deeper”? Deeper compared to what? Does CA not work at ocean depths greater
than 50 feet? If CA practitioners needles points at the deeper recommended
depths does the treatment become void, so we should only do shallower needling?
Or is there a magic fairy that comes in only when a patient is alone in a room
and sprinkles “Deeper Dust” on them to make the treatment More Better. It
baffles me how such an inane argument becomes concrete proof to shore up the
fear and ignorance of people who don’t want to work to earn the knowledge the
empirical process demands.

Being a fresh graduate of Acupunk Training Inc., I am asking
for your experience here. Is CA more than capable to treat patients, or is CA “a
jump-off point” for patients to go into deeper waters elsewhere? Please share
your empirical evidence.


Author: cpowellaz

I Grew up in Utah and even did some experimenting with LDS, but I am recovering now. I am currently in my last 6 months of acupuncture school in Phoenix, Arizona, afterwards my wife and I are very excited to open a CA clinic in the east valley area.

Related Articles

Survey of CAN clinics

Skeptics in the acupuncture community say that CA clinics can’t be successful.  A variety of reasons are cited – prices too low, patients want one-on-one attention and wouldn’t like treatments in a room with other people, Dr.


  1. what does the dictionary say?

    deeper-adj.-(relating to acupuncture treatment)
    1. involved and time consuming session associated with long gazes, ample talking about feelings, feigned interest in typical life problems and basic life advice.
    2. the act of using Chinese medical jargon in a way that makes a patient feel both slightly confused and blithely self important.
    3. relative depth a patient must reach into their wallets to pay for said treatment.
    4. any acupuncture session over $80 an hour.
    5. any acupuncture session involving crystals or aromatherapy.
    6. five element acupuncture.

    7. descriptive term used by shallow people. 

  2. Mabye we don’t give “deep”

    Mabye we don’t give “deep” treatments but the important question is-does the patient get better as quickly as possible?  I think the frequent treatments that we can give in CA help a lot more than infrequent “deep” treatments. 

     Tom Riordan L.Ac.

  3. I don’t know…

    I may be inviting the guillotine here, but I think that there is something to this. Wait, wait, now hear me out:

     Most of the people I have seen (let’s be empirical here) have so many layers of disharmony and dysfunction that I’d never be able to actually know about most of them unless I did some kind of intake. (I block out 30 minutes for the initial paperwork, consult and needling – looking to cut that shorter) The great thing about CA is that most people don’t want their acupuncturist to know all that stuff anyway, especially not in the first treatment. In private practice, they avoid the questions, lie, or don’t come back. In CA, we skip most of them.

    But there are a lot of patients out there with histories of abuse, trauma and disease that they would like to have addressed all at once. And it’s often easier to do this (or at least make them feel like we’re doing this) when they get a chance to tell us about these things up front.

     My only point in even bringing this up is to remind us all that CA and private practice are geared toward different patient populations with different concerns and desires. Yes, most patients don’t know the difference, but I think we’ve all had the ones who really want a shrink/friend more than they want acupuncture, and those that can’t get through the 10 questions fast enough to start the treatment. Different people, with different needs.

    My biggest problem with this whole CA vs PP thing is the middle part. The “vs.” Who cares? We are offering something different. It’s not a question of better or worse but as long as people on either side of the aisle are still thinking in those terms, feelings will get hurt and silly things will be said. Does anyone here really think that a PP treatment is ineffective? Sure, you could argue that it’s wasteful of time, energy, money, and resources, but it should still work. From the other side, anyone who is concerned that CA treatments won’t work just hasn’t stepped out of their neat little acu-school box and tried it yet. I’m not convinced that CA is better than PP, that’s why I’m still a hybrid, and not trying to see 6 pts an hr. That’s me. I’m not saying my way is better, but no one wants to hear that their way is wrong.

    I know that CAN, WCA and all of this was fueled by fire and anger. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I’ve met Lisa and Skip (hey, guys! I was in the Phoenix class early this year) and they’re awesome. I think that their anger at “the system” and classism and social injustice has been directed in the most positive way imaginable. If I’ve ever heard them say/write a mean thing in the heat of the moment, they’ve always apologized or explained. But when someone tells me that what I’m personally doing is wrong, they’re probably going to have to do some fancy rhetorical footwork before I get defensive and insult them back. It’s not rocket science, it’s human interaction. Lisa and Skip are like the Bolshoi Ballet at this – all of the things that they’ve railed against (many of which I was personally guilty of) rarely made me feel beyond redemption. So I listened. And I learned. And I believe. And I’m trying…

    Unfortunately, many of the rest of us (myself definitely included) are not so graceful. We’re all in this big acu-boat together and there’s really no need to start shooting each other yet. If we insult someone else’s practice style, they’re probably not going to listen for much longer. It’s a given that many of us will agree to disagree – again, human interaction. But there’s really no reason to get personal or take anything personally.

    Some of my best friends are ac’s – many of them in PP. Not a one is trying to get rich, or ever says “screw the poor.” The other side of this issue is not malicious and cruel. We’re not talking about Bush/Cheney/Rove and the oil and war mongers. They’re just other ac’s with different histories, experiences and practice styles. Maybe we can all learn something from each other. If we just tried to listen as much as we speak…

    Much easier said than done – as are most things in life. Good luck!

  4. First two thoughts

    1) Can CA go deep? Sure-  I’ve met several CA practitioners who can go yard.


    2) The Zang Fool is mainly right as the whole concept of “deep” in Acu-land is completely undefined and is used mainly in a defensive way by practitioners trying to justify their prices.


    More thoughts in a bit.

  5. Marketing, that’s all

     First, as a background to this “deep” question, it must be recognized that all branches of medicine these days that aren’t western allopathic medicine get caught up in saying that they are “deeper” whatever that means. And I will say that all of us Acupunks got into this business because we wanted to find something more than what western allopathic medicine offers even if we like it for what it does. So we Punks tend to have this “deeper” word in the back of our heads even though we have a hard time defining it.  That said…

    The idea that some acu-techniques and/or schools of thought and/or practitioners are “deeper” (meaning better) than others unfortunately has almost as long of a history in this country as acupuncture given by white acupuncturists. In other words this faux battle started waaaaaaaaaaaaaay before Community Acupuncture entered the field. (CA of course being nothing new at all.) But its safe to say that this whole “deep” thing has the origins with one person in this country:

    JR Worsley.

    It was he who started a really silly battle with TCM practitioners back in the 80’s (or was it late 70’s?).  He constantly slammed TCM (what he called “Eight Principles”) and in turn the TCM folks slammed him. Note that I think what Worsley taught was valuable; I’m just slamming his proto-Karl Rovian marketing strategy. This battle has largely cooled down to a simmer though most students at  Worlsey-type schools still get an earful. IMO Worlsey did great harm. Not only did he try to promote his system as better but in doing so he opened the door for other misguided practitioners to do the same. That TCM practitioners felt they had to respond was also unskillfull. It was like a bunch of twittering birds squawking at each other.

    But of course since none of these advocates can back up their claims its all a bunch of hot air that retards the development of our profession and further alienates us practitioners from our patients.

    As I said there are many genuinely stupid descendents of Worsley. In my town one school- NCNM- promotes itself as practicing a deeper method of practicing called “Classical Acupuncture” purely as a marketing ploy against OCOM’s TCM. Sure, NCNM has some different techniques but they go way too far in trying to pretend to be better.

    Then of course you have the tiring Boutique practitioners, ignorant of, but threatened by, Community Acupuncture who claim they are deeper to try to justify their high prices. Farting in their general direction is a waste of time with these misguided people.

    (As an aside, and this isn’t directed at you itayneta, I find it interesting and misguided that some folks are calling that type of practice where the treatment is done in a little room with lots of talking, high prices etc. “private practice”. That term- private practice- is just another marketing strategy that subtly digs at Community Acupuncture but makes no sense since the opposite, public practice, is well established over all branches of medicine- and CA ain’t public practice.  To me this is yet another misguided, self-serving, and ineffectual attempt to justify high prices. At least in western allopathic medicine they call this type of medicine for what it is- Boutique Medicine, as it caters to people who can shop at boutiques- the upper middle and rich classes. Its funny how Punks are so squemish in borrowing that term when they are trying to emulate those Boutique MDs. who proudly wear that name.)

    But really the Zang Fool says all of this better than I.




  6. deep transformation in small steps

    i originally subleased my last private room office from a five element practitioner. when i moved into the office, she told me that she had no interest in treating people with, say elbow pain or something that mudane, that she only wanted to work with people who were seeking deep spiritual transformation. i had not heard of community acupuncture at that time, but even then i immediately thought that her comment was somehow classist / elitist and that she was deliberately limiting her possibilities for practice. i told her to to send the elbow pain person to me, and thought ” we’ll get to the deep stuff through the elbow, the medicine will provide the support”


    when i hear the term “deeper work”, i understand it to refer to some kind of inner transformation, beyond physical, and i find that is it often best achieved through small dedicated steps and regular practice. if you think about it, community acupuncture actually is perfectly set up for this deeper work because there is a lot less verbage and a lot more stillness, which allows people to acquire more self-awareness through just being with themselves in silence. the group setting provides encouragement and energetic support structure. and like any deep inner work, we usually need regular practice to progress to deeper insight, which of course i made much more possible by the affordability of community acupuncture.

    i agree that the “deeper” argument we hear from other non-ca practitioners is an ignorance and fear-based assumption. too bad. my best response is to invite them for a free treatment in my clinic, then if the want, they can tell me it’s not deep.


  7. Deep may just mean frequent

    Hi Chad

    All CA practitioners bring their experience and training to the table  just as all BA practitioners do,when they treat a patient .This can mean I believe that they can employ any of the many modalities that are a part of this medicine . The depth of their treatment reflects just that: their experience and their training (mostly after graduation from acupuncture school)brought to every interaction with a patient.

     The boutique model has always had a large impediment in terms of delivering a treatment that gets at the root and that is that as good as our diagnosis  and treatment may be in the boutique setting do we not ration our treatments or supplement them with herbs just because many of our patients cannot get in to get the treatment that will result in a signifigant improvement in their condition because of the high  cost of treatment.

    Many of us  punks talk of the idea of “peeling the onion” i.e .going for the root imbalances and then watching all the other layers of a patients presentation reveal themselves over the course of treatment. I suggest that for most BA practices to really have their patients’ onions peeled requires a financial comittment that manyp patients cannot afford.With the CA model we have a unique opportunity to really see those layers reveal themselves simply because the price of treatment allows this exploration.

    I think that other features of this model also address patients health needs in a way that few BA practices can.We can  treat acute conditions in a timely fashion

    In a thriving CA practice hours are patient centred with weekend and afterhours popular choices which means that a patient really can see us as relevent treatment for the HA that they have now or the cold that they just might be coming down with. They are taught that it is the needles doing the work and when they are in pain we aim to be open.With slots every 10-15 minutes a patient should find something when they need it . 

    We can treat acutely and deeply.

  8. You could argue the other

    You could argue the other way — that the greater the volume of patients  you see, the more experience you gain in a shorter time, and the more quickly you are able to get a real sense of the patient on many levels.  I remember first meeting Nakada Koryo sensei at the Toyohari conference in Boston in ’95.  He hadn’t known me for more than five minutes but, after checking my pulse and hara and looking at me, began telling me some pretty accurate things about myself — from my bladder function to how i sometimes cry at sappy movies.  How did he know all this within minutes of meeting me?  I think it’s because he’s seen lots and lots of patients over the years; his clinic consists of three tables in an open room and he sees probably a couple hundred patients a week, IIRC. It takes a MUCH longer time to get that kind of experience doing 90 minute appointments.
    Just a thought.