Poignant and humorous glimpse of a week in a CA clinic

A week or so ago, the thought suddenly occured to me that my patient profile had radically shifted from my days as a boutique acupuncturist. On this particular morning, we had three patients – one was a middle aged woman who had been sleeping in her car for years. Another was a black man living in a Tent City. A third was a single mother working at a job she hated and generally struggling to get by. The two women have since become regulars and the one who sleeps in her car seems to catch up on her sleep in our recliner.

A few mornings ago, I put the needles in the one who sleeps in her car and left to start putting in needles in others, as the room quickly filled to capacity (8 chairs). Looking around the room, I could see she was still anxious and I walked over to check in with her. “I feel like I'm going to scream.” I listened to her sharing her difficult feelings coming up and asked if she wanted me to take the needles out. Tears came welling up and said she wanted to try riding it out.

Minutes later I looked back and she was fast asleep. People came and went, but she slept through it all, hour after hour, finally waking at 230pm….four and a half hours after she had sat down. Probably not necessary to say it here, but I will anyways: This would not have been possible in a two table office with clients scheduled each hour.

I'm remembering Skip's advice to “make no small plans.” We are exploring options with our building management to move a wall and expand from 8 to 10 or 11 chairs.

On the humorous side of things, another regular came into the treatment room recently and brought his pet with him, or at least, a new friend. D is an arborist and was wearing sandals on this particular day. As I knelt down to needle his feet, I noticed a baby slug sliming around on one of his toes. Only in the Northwest! I asked my volunteer assistant to take sluggo outside to a new home in the grass.

Regarding clinic sustainability, January and February were each record breaking months, and March appears to be headed towards yet another record with 180 appointments recorded as of mid month. It's a great feeling to offer healing service to that many people in our community every month. Especially as it appears increasingly likely that Serena and I will be able to make a living at it, and hopefully very soon, be able to afford to hire some office help as well.

 Thank you all trailblazers for making the Community acupuncture model a viable contribution to our present day world. It is so needed.

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="https://www.acuwithoutborders.org/" 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="https://www.communichi.org/" 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...

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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. Including everyone

    …even slugs. I loved your post. Widening the circle is the best feeling ever as a practitioner, and I’m so happy to hear about your numbers. May your circle keep expanding.