Guest Blog by Joe Smith: Who Knew Acupuncturists Could Have So Much Fun?


The following is a newcomer’s take on the POCAfest, from one of POCA’s first organizational members, Joe Smith, aka Artdude, creator of POCA Point.  This was originally posted on the Artdude blog.  



Who Knew Acupuncturists Could Have So Much Fun


I was invited to POCA Fest 2012 at the incredible Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Park. The People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture asked me to provide a bit of continuing education for their members. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate POCA Point, a scheduling service I created especially for community acupuncturists.

POCA Fest 2012 #poca12

I am grateful to Skip Van Meter and Lisa Rohleder of POCA (and Working Class Acupuncture) for their gracious invitation and accommodation. I also am indebted to Alexa Hulsey of East Nashville Community Acupuncture for her trust and friendship.

At times POCA Fest could’ve been confused with the class reunion or a beer aficionado club. Then Demetra Markis spoke about ‘The Answer’. It was all so passionate, so convincing. Demetra’s thesis: Acupuncture is the answer to pain and stress, something most people need repeatedly.

The next night brought Lisa’s opportunity. It turns out Lisa Rohleder is the voice for community acupuncture to the world. A voice that positions community acupuncturists as ‘punks’ or rebels because of their model for affordable acupuncture. And a voice that inspires the movement. A movement longing to help as many people as possible with this magical, zero-side-effect treatment. For years community acupuncturists in the West have struggled against regulators, accreditation boards, acupuncture schools and traditional-western (or boutique) acupuncturists to provide a model of treatment that everybody can afford.

Shifting focus

Last year the group now known as POCA was called CAN, the Community Acupuncture Network. POCA is a professional association that hopes to reach beyond clinics and punks to schools, students, health care allies, organizations, and patients, where CAN was a support group unto itself. An inwardly focused group is moving to look outward.

It is this shift in the movement that opened the door for my invitation to POCA Fest—Art Dude is an organizational member. The shift from CAN to POCA is what I want to respond to in this blog.

Let me first say that POCA is an infant, having just conducted its first event. The whole movement stands in front of us, ready to change the world one baby step at a time.

POCA’s audience(s)

I understand the new direction for POCA to be very simple: Do more acupuncture for more people. Remember the “P” in POCA stands for People. Promoting POCA begins with its audience and that has been well defined, but let me break it down into two groups. The first is acupuncturists. This group includes practicing ‘punks’, the clinics they own and work for, students of acupuncture and boutique acupuncturists.

The second audience are non-acupuncturists. This group includes health care allies, organizations, and patients. Health care allies are physicians, health organizations and wellness practitioners other than acupuncture. Organization members are companies that can provide products and services that directly help the association or its members. Patients are, well, patients of acupuncturists.

The acupuncturists group knows the benefits of acupuncture well and they will join for the benefits of continuing education, vocational support, the network of jobs and the camaraderie. Boutique acupuncturist present a particular challenge because of the philosophical and economic differences between the POCA and the boutique view. Bigger still is the challenge of selling POCA to non-acupuncturists. To the question of sales I ask the advertising question “what’s in it for me?”. I will start with me, Art Dude. I’ve created a service especially for community acupuncture clinics called POCA Point. I stand to make some money by cultivating a relationship with the punk members of POCA. I also know the movement is growing so my opportunity can only grow. Sell POCA to organizations like hand sanitizer, cotton ball and recliner suppliers. “Join the movement to make some money”. Oh, and along the way take hold of The Answer to pain and stress.

I believe it starts with good content for patients more than any other group. POCA should provide great articles, videos, info graphics, and podcasts that help the non-acupuncturists understand acupuncture. I know the good people of POCA are working to improve the association web site but I cannot find much of the content I know must be available. Patients and potential patients want to know acupuncture is not weird or scary. They want to share their experience of acupuncture’s help with their friends and family who suffer from pain and stress. And patients must know how affordable community acupuncture is. I would not have gotten treatment if it were not so affordable.

A punk’s attitude

The leadership has done a fantastic job building a sense of community, an environment of belonging. I experienced the event as a reunion. This is true because community acupuncture is a movement with a cause. POCA has a magic wand the size of a needle that can help the whole world feel better. It is the punk’s posture to stand with your people in the line of fire, and I don’t doubt the attacks on the community acupuncture model are real and painful. But, I hope POCA can lose some of the punk attitude for the sake of the bigger goal. Do more acupuncture for more people.

The punk title is intentional and purposeful but making it the centerpiece of POCA’s identity at this time of growth and change might hurt more than help. I saw a clinic in my neighborhood go from an empty space to a thriving business in less than three years. Community acupuncture has a huge upside and unfortunately ‘punk’ turn people away. By all means keep the term internally for the emotional connection it provides. In turn, make your clinics safe places to visit, because what could be safer than an open room where I can find relief from my pain.

A private-room acupuncturist may practice the way they do because they don’t want to be seen as a rebel but as a professional. Converting them would be difficult if they were portrayed as the evil establishment. Private-room acupuncturists may just be the best near-future source of growth for POCA. Growing clinics requires more community acupuncture practitioners. So does adding more clinics in acupuncture deserts like my state of Tennessee.

Make more acupuncturists, make more advocates

The long term answer for doing more acupuncture for more people is to have more acupuncturists doing the community model. The best source for more of those acupuncturists is a community acupuncture school. Lisa has explained the case for this very very well. (When I locate an online source I will link it here.) I am happy to report their are efforts underway to make a POCA school a reality. A school would train new acupuncturists who could join growing clinics and start their own clinics. Graduation creates advocates and that will only result in more acupuncture for more people. Keep up the good work POCA, I look forward to working with you to move this thing forward. Exciting times ahead.

Author: alexa

Hey y'all!  I opened my CA clinic here in beautiful Music City, USA, in January 2010.  I love hanging out with other community acupuncturists, so come visit!

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