I see that Lisa anticipated my blog post here in the last post of mine just below this one. What she wrote about there is the flip side to the numbers game that I comment on there also and so I’ll expand on it here. But please read her comment first. She’s a much better writer than I am.
Getting (understanding) Community Acupuncture (CA) is tough. Most Acupuncturists in fact don’t get it, including many here. Why is it tough to understand and how do Acupuncturists don’t get it? I’ll explain below.
Patient vs Professional is more than just a slogan.
Almost every western-trained Acupuncturist first received, got enamored by, and learned how to do Acupuncture in what I’ll now call a Conventional/Boutique/Professional setting. (That’s CBP for you acronym fans out there.) That includes, me, Lisa, and most every member of CAN. It’s in our blood. Our first experiences of Acupuncture as patients happened because we were looking for something different from conventional medicine. We wanted something special. Very normal: it’s the human condition.
When we enrolled in Acu-school we did so because we wanted to do something different with our lives. We wanted to help people but not via the more common medical approaches in our country. We wanted to do to other people what our Acu-practitioner did to us. That was special, unique. We wanted that understanding, an extension to what we experienced so positively as patients.
Our thinking automatically goes to how the Acupuncturist sets up the environment in which the treatment takes place. The treatment is dependent on the practitioner’s personal style: what techniques they use in needling, herbs, and other modalities. It’s a unique and special thing and most importantly it’s what we all experienced that made us fall in love with the medicine. When we enrolled in Acu-school it’s what we learned how to do. We wanted to learn how to do that. It’s now our default mode of treating patients. It’s what practically every Acu-school graduate tries to do (and fails).
So our thinking automatically goes to this Professionalism and to ourselves as the basis for a clinic. But here’s the whammy: Acupuncture has nothing to do with the setting or that Professionalism. It has nothing to do with how the room is arranged or how long the practitioner stays with the patient or any of the environmental amenities that we as a culture associate with Acupuncture. Acupuncture has to do with sticking needles in a person. That’s it. Those cultural things don’t help the treatment one bit. They are beside the point.
But we’ve become dependent on those cultural things, just like we are in the rest of our lives. Being in a separate room is one of those things that can be hard to shake. Realizing that it takes only a minute or two to treat a patient is another cultural thing that’s hard to shake. Realizing that treating a lot of patients is less consuming energetically is a third thing that’s hard to shake. Just those three things shake most Acupuncturists from understanding what is going on in a CA clinic.
Acupuncturists go one of two ways in misunderstanding CA (sometimes both). The first is that they think that CA is like HMO health care or public healthcare. Triage. Not deep. They think there’s no possible way that a practitioner can diagnose and treat a “whole” person in five minutes or less. They don’t believe it’s possible because nothing in their Acupuncture experiences so far has taught them it’s possible. Thus they try to make an analogy with some other type of medicine that treats a lot of people and they go to HMO’s or public health settings. Since those western settings are exactly what drove them to Acupuncture in the first place it’s no wonder that they think CA is like that: very unsatisfying. They are wrong of course but it takes a lot of thinking to get to that realization. Acupuncture is nothing like Western medicine as it is now practiced.
The other misunderstanding Acupuncturists go to is more personal. They like having a practitioner dwell on them and their problems. That was a the key difference they noted back in the day when they first tried Acupuncture as an alternative and that’s what they want to do with their patients. They want to linger and they see CA as rushing from patient to patient. Again that’s wrong. CA practitioners who get it simply don’t need to take a long time with each patient to do a great treatment; one that the patient feels great afterwards. There’s a misunderstanding that the practitioner needs to do more than insert needles. That massage or talking, etc. are needed to satisfy the patient. That’s what our culture superficially values. That’s not what our souls value however. As The Spleen says in the movie Mystery Men, “BIG! DIFFERENCE!”
Writing about this or talking about this are one thing. Doing it is another thing altogether. In my experience only a very few Acupuncturists really get CA right off the bat (and that includes the practitioners listed on Locate-A-Clinic. For most of us it takes time and effort to understand because it’s not what we were taught, what we grew up with. Lisa speaks of Acupuncture School Deprogramming and that’s part of the problem- Acu-schools don’t know what CA is about either and you the practitioner need to strip down your ideas about Acupuncture to properly understand where CA is coming from. Even the Chinese born practitioners don’t really get CA because they just think that the US is different and you have to practice in that Conventional/Boutique/Professional model here. (When they talk to us and we say they don’t have to treat one-on-one they are usually so happy. They often say they now can practice like they did back home.)
You can come to a WCA workshop. You can talk to CA practitioners. You can read CAN. But none of them can change your thinking enough if you (like most of us) are tied into the old way of thinking of how to practice Acupuncture. You have to do it and then be open to your glitches that keep you from fully grasping how to do CA. Almost all of us (including me) have some glitches, some snags. You have to work at regaining your innate populism, your connection to the world and all the humans in it. It’s a great journey but one that so far is not well understood in the western Acu-world. If you read the CAN forums you see this work happening by various practitioners. It’s very cool.