I’ve 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.

Author: POCAGuestBlog

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. Thanks so much for sharing this, Robert. It’s such a great summation of what a lot of us struggle to convey when we are teaching workshops or otherwise trying to explain CA.

    This is part of what I’ve been hoping to get at in my posts about POCA Tech, and you said it better. CA is not just a style of acupuncture that an individual acupuncturist can pick and choose and have control over like they pick and choose any other style. Community acupuncture introduces all these other people into the equation: the people you live with, the people you pray with, all these people and all their needs. So many of us learned about acupuncture in the absence of all these people, and the way that we learned to be professionals just doesn’t work for so many of them. At some point we have to choose. Thanks for describing how you chose your community.

  2. When I opened my practice in Crystal Lake I was hoping to create community. What I have found is that I’ve been a part of a lot of other communities i.e. running community. Now that I have a child I have a community I was so desperate for when we first moved out this way. That community is one town over because our home is really on the border of Crystal Lake. It was always hard for me to make friends that ended up being patients but with children it now makes my student loan debt feel worth while. I’m moving NAP into my community in April sharing space with a chiro who is giving me a more then fair deal on rent and shared reception. I’m so happy that this will now be way more DIT then DIY. cheers to community!

  3. so many things ask us to shun our community- professionalism, class, consumerism, race, individualism
    when really need it- its all around, just got reach out
    and help eachother, be there for eachother, with this huge project- life
    yes the people next door are your neighbor

    It does not always seem so obvious

    Thanks great post

  4. One thing I think is especially interesting about your experience, Robert, is that you were very successful at the “standard model.” Not many graduates end up with those rare, coveted hospital gigs, or teaching jobs. I’m sure you loved things about those jobs (I hear you are an excellent teacher!); but it’s moving to me that you still sought out different/deeper/broader connection with your community/communities. The joy you have for your work really comes through in this post; thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  5. Thanks, Nora, and everybody.

    You know, it strikes me as kind of funny sometimes. I’ve been teaching for a long time, in acu-schools in Illinois and Florida. A lot of established practitioners are my former students. I’m not exaggerating when i say that not a day goes by without me giving free professional advice privately to someone, often acupuncturists with years in practice, who charge the going private-room rate and beyond.

    I choose to practice this way, because i believe that people of ordinary incomes deserve to get acupuncture. I saw someone post on the forums about getting grief from students and teachers at her school because CA supposedly steals patients from “respectable practitioners”. What a hoot.