I Want to be Everybody’s Everything….


I just want to be their acupuncturist. And not even the super-involved one who takes on every issue the patient might have, and considers all the angles I know of, or have ever heard of, or can call someone about, to give the most comprehensive possible care.  

That sounds bad, but it’s not. It’s good for me and good for the people who get acupuncture at BCA. That’s because I have boundary issues. I am not proud of that. It’s ridiculous. I’m a 38-year old woman with a family for pete’s sake. No reason to get in people’s business too much or think I can fix what’s broken. These boundary issues probably contributed the most of all to my impulsive life-changing decision to study chinese medicine (the decision was not all for the better…wow, that was a long time studying lots of ‘not acupuncture’ and piling up debt). There’s a fixer in me. And community acupuncture helps me to get it right. Be here, right in the moment, figuring out the most helpful place to stick needles, and sticking them in. It helps to keep the relationship more appropriate. Offering more than acupuncture crosses the boundary. Not necessarily in a harmful way, and sometimes I do it anyway a bit, but it’s something I’m mindful of.  

This came up today because a new person came in and we talked and she said she got the most well with her last acupuncturist after she finally started running blood panels and prescribing a special animal organ and it helped so much…and I thought, wow! Huh. Darn it. It gave me pause, and made me wonder if it’s OK to just keep on trying to use needles to balance out the body and get the hell out of the way. Maybe I’m doing people a disservice by not thinking harder about how they got to their current place and unraveling the mysteries, and offering more solutions. She went on to say that she has a new practitioner, and he’s so great because he has private rooms and does this massage after every treatment that feels so amazing…and do I ever do cupping?… and I will confess. I got a little tired. Of course I don’t think it hurts people to get extras beyond acupuncture. I mean, who hates a neck massage? Still, this is someone who needs more from her acupuncturist than I’m offering. And I was fine with that as she walked out the door after enjoying one free treatment here. More than enough people will benefit from good, basic acupuncture.

It’s not good for me personally to get too involved. I know that–I’ve always been the one who holds eye contact too long and makes all the murmuring sounds, and starts right away to think about ways I can help. I could benefit from codependents anonymous. Ask my husband.

One person can’t give you everything…they even say that about love/marriage.

Community acupuncture, at least the way I’m doing it, has shown that this is OK. People who stick around just rave about how something so simple can have such profound effect.

It’s enough.

Author: obnicole

Beach Community Acupuncture (BCA) is located in San Diego's historic Point Loma. We opened in 2009, and provide more than 10,000 affordable treatments a year. Treatments at BCA are $25 for everyone, every day.

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  1. Well said!

    I think it’s natural for many of us to second guess ourselves when we compare our ways of practicing to those of others.  This seems to happen to me mostly when I am interacting with non community-acupuncturists, or sitting in continuing ed courses – suddenly it seems like what I’m doing is not enough, that I could be working harder, giving more, that I’m a slacker, that I’m lazy… and yet, when I step back and have a reality check and see the ways that acupuncture, in its simplest form, has helped so many of my patients immensely, I am reminded of the falsehood of these claims that there’s something I’m not doing enough of.

    I find it helpful to remind myself that “I am enough, I do enough, I have enough.”  It is extremely important to have boundary issues.  I wonder how many of us have caved to the “needy patient,” only to find that we suddenly are going beyond the normal amount of work, time and energy for them over and over again, while our other patients get the usual care and do just great – and then that person who wanted more still isn’t always satisfied.  It obviously says so much more about them than about us.  In the end it’s always helpful to know that none of us can ever be everything for everyone, and that fortunately people have choices in who they can go to for care… so we may be for them, and we may not be.

  2. I want to be your patient!

    To add to what you & Justine are saying – sometimes not only is what you do enough, it’s just exactly the right amount.  Less can be more, you know?  A good antidote to US American excessiveness. 

  3. Striving for mediocrity…

    That has been my mantra these past few years.  The years after trying to get straight As as a single mother working towards my BA so I could get into Stanford for my PhD, etc. etc. All that striving for some crazy sense of The Best was twisted in so many ways, incredibly unhealthy for me — and everybody around me, I suspect.  But I don’t mean mediocre in the sense of under achieving or doing a half-ass job.  I mean it in the way that I’m hearing what you fabulous women are talking about – that just doing it — whatever it is, but esp this acupuncture stuff — is, in itself, often perfect.  I have to catch myself all the time from over thinking and then hesitating on acting so I can have a little more time to think about it just in case I didn’t think of the perfect thing….  ack!  Doing CA is, selfishly, the perfect elixer for me, and it’s also great for the peeps who are getting CA, too.


    Nicole, I love your self-reflexive style.  I suspect we are actually sisters separated somewhere along the way!  We could start a chapter of Hostess Complex Anonymous.  That’s what I often call the disease I am trying to recover from.


    Love you guys and gals.  Truly.

    Julia in Berkeley

  4. I hear you guys!!

    As a self-proclaimed “people pleaser” I appreciate this post! It is hard to go from BA to CA sometimes and drop that need to give some extras when I have “all this knowledge”. Boundaries are something I am definitely working on in my still pretty new CA. I love the mantra! It’s always good to hear others working on this too!

  5. Do what you do well

    I think a patient benefits more from getting the best that you can do rather than a whole assortment of stuff which none is focused.  The kitchen sink approach can dilute the power of your needles too, so don’t doubt yourself or your ability to give her the healing she needs, even if she thinks she needs other stuff (or let her go elsewhere and pay private practice fees). 

    I met a woman at the qi gong retreat I took this summer who goes to a private practice person I knew back from supervising her years ago in the student clinic.  This woman talks with her acupuncturist for ages, then has a 20-25 minute needle retention, which anyone who has studied with Susan Johnson now knows is not long enough for the qi to fully circulate (as measured by imaging machines no less!!  yeah, I took her Denver weekend in August).  The patient says she gets cheap therapy with some acupuncture.  Sorry, but I even told a patient once in my private practice days if you want me to be your therapist the fee goes up to $100/hour, the local going rate.  I don’t have the energy as a 40 yr old single woman (albeit with 2 heavy academic master level courses in public health and poly sci this semester) for that, I can’t imagine any of you with families and lots of life outside of clinic do either.  

    Sorry, rambles here.  Hope my 2 cents came across close to their intention.

  6. This resonates very clearly

    with me too Nicole… I am fairly new here (and to CA); have been digging around in the archives without jumping in. What you describe is that fine line that comes up for me quite frequently. I’m trying to hone the skill of staying very conscious and present in clinic conversations, which usually does the trick and keeps me focused on the task at hand (just compassion and acuuncture!). …turns out it’s really useful to do less blahblahing in general, not just in clinic! Thanks for sharing. Naomi

  7. Wow, this really hits home

    Just this afternoon I was talking with my boyfriend about  the difficulty I have in interrupting overly talkative patients. I fear seeming rude or uncaring. I know I’ve been trained this way as a woman and as a member of my family.

    This issue will come to a head in a few weeks when my partner and I open our clinic. I have been able to avoid thinking about it too much until now because there has been so much to do, but really, I have no idea how I’m going to manage a 15 minute interview and needling interaction even with a non talkative patient! I have this fear that it won’t be enough, that I’ll seem brusque, that i’ll not ask the one question I really should have asked. Or, god forbid, I have a real talker. aak! Sign me up for Hostess Complex Anonymous!

    It’s really helpful to hear about how other people, especially women, are handling this. Thanks for the post, Nicole.



  8. ha!  at first i thought you

    ha!  at first i thought you wrote “Hostess Cupcakes Anonymous” and I was like, o.k. i don’t get it, but there must be a joke in there somewhere.  well, joke’s on me,  guess i know now what happens when I got chocolate on my mind…

  9. Remember that one of the

    Remember that one of the great things about CA is patients can afford to come back often, if you forget a question you can just ask it next time, you will probably realize no single question is that important anyway. 

  10. When you interrupt, they’re going to love it,

    because you’ll lean forward and ask “Where does it hurt?”  They point, you see the channels, case closed.  Tongue, pulse, and lead them to the chair.