Comrades, over the last week I am having a perfect storm of Internet Things. They all somehow relate to my last blog post, so I'm calling this a follow-up: Some Contradictory-Ass Things.
If you have seen the latest POCA Tv offerings, you know where we got our title. One of Andy's Situational Punking exercises involved patients asking for lifestyle advice; we tried to make a video about it, but things… devolved. At one point, Wade spontaneously announced, “There is some contradictory-ass shit in the body of knowledge that is Traditional Chinese Medicine.” (Experience it for yourself: https://pocacoop.com/pocatv/post/weight-loss-stop-smoking-lifestyle-advice)
Not that I needed confirmation or anything, but I was fascinated to find this post on Matt Bauer's site. You should go read the whole thing yourself, but here is a summary:
“Have you ever wondered what would happen if several top acupuncturists were to diagnose and set treatment plans for the same patient? Just such a thing took place about 25 years ago on stage at an acupuncture conference. I was in the audience that night…(t)he speakers included Ted Kaptchuk, the “Web That Has No Weaver” author and Harvard Medical school professor, J.R. Worsley,founder of the Western Five Element school of acupuncture, Kiiko Matsumotto, popular author and lecturer with Japanese style techniques, Joseph Helms, the M.D. who founded the American Academy of Medicinal Acupuncture and taught M.D.s an acupuncture course at UCLA, T.W. Woo, the inventor of the Korean Hand Acupuncture system, Tran Viet Dzung of the Vietnamese/French energetic school who substituted for Nguyen Van Nghi as his health prevented his traveling , and a TCM doctor from China whose name I do not recall. The patient was a young woman with a few common health issues…Guess what happened? Only two of them agreed with each other on the findings/diagnosis and that was the Chinese TCM doctor and Dr. Tran Viet Dzung who follows a similar school of thought. Each of the other five acupuncturists had quite different ways of describing this patient’s condition and advice for treatment.”
I love it that Matt is making an effort to pass on the history of the profession to the rest of us who weren't there, and who would otherwise be unable to appreciate the many contradictions. But I did not find this story inspiring. Fascinating, yes; inspiring, no.
Finally, a blog post titled, Abbreviated Courses in Acupuncture for Physicians Pose a Serious Problem, popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. The comments are pretty much what you'd expect.
And then I remembered that I am the executive director of an acupuncture school, and I thought, God hates me.
The take-home message from Matt's post, and from our whole history as a profession really, is that there is no genuine standard for how to think about acupuncture, let alone how to implement it in a clinic. The theories and their application vary so widely that they are, for the purposes of training practitioners, virtually meaningless. If the luminaries in the field can't agree on a garden variety case, how are we lowly workers supposed to understand the theory behind what we're doing every day? You guys, you are not making a convincing case for yourselves. So the fact that a lot of acupuncturists, including some community punks, really believe that it's a terrible thing that physicians and PTs and chiropractors aren't spending thousands of hours learning the same contradictory theories that we L.Acs have to, well, I'd say it's a joke but it's not funny.
Speaking of luminaries, you know another joke that's not funny? Ted Kaptchuk's degree, apparently. (Dan Bensky's too.) If you want to go down that rabbit hole, start here, second post down. Spoiler alert: the absolute best case scenario is that they're not doctorates, they're diplomas — assuming the school existed. Nice to know that POCA Tech students will be at least as educated as Kaptchuk and Bensky, I guess. But if there's outrage about undertrained practitioners going around, I'm wondering why none of it is directed at the Macau Twins.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not a fan of acupuncture dilettantes, either. But what makes a good acupuncturist is not a head full of theories; it's a sophisticated range of human skills that you can only develop by treating a lot of people with acupuncture. To be a good acupuncturist, more than anything else you need the opportunity to work. That is sadly denied to many acupuncture school graduates because of the sheer economic dysfunction of the profession; but it's also a kind of humble working-class desire that a lot of them are apparently too refined to have. They don't know what they're missing. The range of human skills that make a good acupuncturist has nothing to do with aspirational props like professional middle class culture, thousands of hours of theory, books and lectures. What matters is access to ordinary people who will let you work with them, their bodies and their troubles — patients who will be your teachers.
Like I said before, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the people who tried to scare us away from doing community acupuncture really had no idea at all about how acupuncture works — never mind that they were acupuncturists. And you know what? They still don't. A friendly heads-up, Internet: just because we're making an acupuncture school doesn't mean I'm going to shut up about all the contradictory-ass things. Yeah, unfortunately we have to put a bunch of them into our curriculum; there's no way around that if we want our graduates to get licenses. Given that, I feel more of a responsibility than ever to admit it when they don't make sense. Abbreviated courses in acupuncture pose a serious problem — a serious branding problem for acupuncture education and all its contradictory-ass things.