It begins with acupuncture

There were two catalysts that led to my realization that I wanted to do a CA clinic.  The first was reading The Remedy (get it and read it if you haven’t.)  The second was discovering Tan’s Balance Method and Tung style acupuncture.

Reading  The Remedy was great — it opened my eyes to the possibility of running a successful clinic without selling my soul.  I saw that this was the way I wanted to run a clinic — a lot of patients at an affordable rate.  It made sense and it felt comfortable.  Right away, as a third year student, I started formulating plans on how to run a clinic.  But, in my head I kept straying from the model created by Working Class Acupuncture.  What if we use tables instead of chairs?  How about hospital curtains for privacy?  Should we include more time and privacy for intakes?  I loved the idea of CA, but I couldn’t make it jive with what I was learning in school.  Then I discovered Tan.

I’d heard of Balance Method before, but didn’t really pay attention — Tan’s website looked too cheesy and not “professional” enough, so I immediately dismissed it as not “real TCM.”  Luckily two classmates were experimenting with BM in the student clinic and bragging about their results.  I gave it a second look, and bought his first book (12 and 12.)  I till remember the first time I put in Ling Ku and Da Bai in a patient, asked her to wiggle her aching back.  She looked confused for a few seconds and then got a big smile on her face.  It was gone.  I almost bust out laughing and couldn’t keep the goofy grin off my face, I think I was even more thrilled than my patient.

That first experience changed me.  I became a Tan-a-maniac and spent all of my time studying everything I could get my hands on — his books, every inch of his forum, notes from friends that attended his seminars — I soaked it in.  After being burned out by three years of school, I was suddenly in love with acupuncture again.  All of the beauty and power that had originally drawn me to the medicine was finally in front of me.

More importantly, CA finally made sense to me.  Now I understood how you could treat back pain in a recliner, and why I didn’t need a 30 minute intake that bordered on becoming a psychotherapy session to formulate a treatment plan for a patient experiencing depression.  Here was a method that was simple and worked.

Learning Tan and Tung also allowed me to look more critically at the education I received.  Much of what I learned was not necessary for running a CA.  Much of my time in school, I had a strong feeling that something wasn’t right.  I knew the education was inflated and that the school was mostly a money factory for a few lucky administrators, but I didn’t know what was missing.  It took the beautiful simplicity of Tan’s style to realize that much of my education was window dressing to rake in students, and to “legitimize” the profession in the eyes of people who didn’t giving a rat’s ass about our profession.

If you are looking at this website for information on how to start a CA, then my advice is make sure you know a good meridian-based approach to acupuncture. It doesn’t have to be Tan or Tung, but it does need to be something that allows you to work quickly and confidently. Combine this with The Remedy and the information in the CAN forum, and you will have a recipe for successfully treating and helping a lot of people.

David Lesseps


Circle Community Acupuncture

1351 Harrison St

San Francisco, CA 94103 

Author: Davelcorp

I'm French-Irish-American hybrid living in SF, married to a Irish-American gal from New Hampshire. I have a son named after my hometown in Texas; he was born in the year of the Monkey (me--the Dog.) I went to school to learn how to stick needles into people in order to make them feel better. I'm broke, in-debt, and pay too much rent for a <strike>one-bedroom</strike> two-bedroom apartment. I have health insurance but owe about $2000 in medical bills and believe that CA will make my life, and others like me, more comfortable. I also have about 20 kilos of puer tea aging in a red metal cabinet -- I plan to drink it all before my days are over.  

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  1. I agree with David, a

    I agree with David, a practitioner has to find a way to treat quickly and confidently (if you are new, don’t worry confidence comes in time :)) Learning Tan/Tung is a great idea for all acupuncturists because the results are so amazing.  I think we owe it to ourselves and our patients to keep learning throughout our careers. That said, I would hate to see a practitioner reject community acupuncture because they don’t know these styles yet.  

    You can practice CA using other styles with some minor adjustments.  With a community clinic your patients can afford to come more than once a week, and for as long as necessary.  There is time for you to build a treatment plan, you don’t have to do a long intake on the first visit because you can ask more questions throughout the course of a patient’s treatment.  You can start with a simple treatment based on initial complaint and a few pointed questions, if you have a thorough intake form you can go over it later and add to the treatment plan.

    You can do back points in the chair with an angled insertion, just have patients lean back carefully or use a little medical tape.  I use them less as I learn more Tan, but I still use them when I feel they are warranted.  A lot of clinics have one or two tables they can use if they really need to. 

    I love the term Tan-a-maniac! 

  2. Tan 1-2-3 Class

    I believe Dr. Tan’s 123 class is essential for a CA practice

    In Fact , take it at least twice….perhaps a few months a part
    not only is the method slammin’

    he knows all the places in the mind
    where the typical american training

    gets it wrong

    when you hear the truth it RINGS

    so pay attention

  3. Clarification?

    Since I am not an eloquent writer, and my thoughts often stray before I put them into words, I left out one of main points.

    Learning Tan allowed me to see the fluff that is built into our education.  Doing this, prompted me to question the actual structures of our “profession” in the U.S.  Lisa’s book, and the dialogues on CAN,  provided me the opportunity to see the answers to these questions in terms of classism.

    So, as I said before, learning Tan style is not essential (although damn helpful), but I do think it is essential to learn a quick and effective meridian based system of acupuncture.  Instead of sticking to what you learned in school, and trying to modify the CA structure to fit that, it is important to question the TCM status quo, and at least understand how it is possible to run a clinic in the CA model.

    I don’t know about you, but I find something devishly subversive in the idea that you can treat back pain, depression, headaches, etc with just a few needles below the elbows and knees.  



    Circle Community Acupuncture

    San Francisco

  4. Dave,
    You hit the nail on


    You hit the nail on the head in terms of a) why I chose CA and b) what’s missing from the education of someone who wants to practice CA style. 

    I’m learning Tan from his books before I attend the June seminar in Chicago, and I totally agree with your assessment about its merits as well as your assessment of our education as excessive for a CA practice. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent more time with Tan in school and not been so obscessed with grades. I hope newbies who are convinced about CA can learn from this.

    I still use a table, too, when I’m not feeling confident about my chair methods. I am hoping to phase out the table as I gain confidence and experience. 

    I am no fan of the “30 minute intake that bordered on becoming a psychotherapy session”. This style of intake has NEVER appealed to me. Psychotherapy should be left to people who are trained to do it, IMO.

    Of course, THE REMEDY was instrumental as well (thanks Lisa!–I can hardly wait for the next book!)

    Darlene Berger

    Community Health Acupuncture Center

    801 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220


  5. I also didn’t pay much

    I also didn’t pay much attention to Tan when I first heard about the method. It was only when I found Lisa’s articles that I decided to really look into it. I bought the 12 Magic but really fell inlove with the first part of it, which is more like Acu 123. Luckily, Ilan Migdali comes to Israel every year so I had the chance to go to a seminar and see it work.

    I think it’s possible to stay with tcm doing CA, but Tan just fits like a glove.

    Thanks David. Your post inspires me to stick with it and even dive more deeply.


  6. Yes!

    Great blog-you hit the nail on the head.  The greatest part of my acupuncture education was when I sat at a Dr.Tan seminar and he said “there are no empirical points.” BAM! His perspective on points could actually back that staement up.  I’ve been devouring this stuff since then. 

    And we get to help people.  Really help people.

    The other perspective I want to add is that CA makes you a better Tan practitioner, and a better practitioner overall.  I love experimenting with this stuff.  I never know what the  next day will bring because no two back pains are alike, no two Shaoyang/Jueyins are alike.  Along the way I am becoming a better acupuncturist due to sheer volume. …Wouldn’t ya think AAAAAAOM and the rest would want that in a professional population?…