How is POCA Tech's Liberation Acupuncture program different than a TCM program or a 5 Element program?
The Liberation Acupuncture program is focused on training people who will serve marginalized people by making acupuncture available to them on their own terms. The focus is on praxis, on the preferential option for the poor, and on making acupuncture practical. The Liberation Acupuncture program teaches students to be familiar with a variety of theoretical approaches to acupuncture, but all of the theories are submitted to the question: what good is this in the lives of ordinary people? What use is it, particularly, to marginalized people?
Participation in the Liberation Acupuncture program requires a commitment to work for 3 years after graduation in a clinic of the POCA Cooperative.
Who are our role models?
The Black Panthers and the Young Lords in their community programs, particularly their health clinics and their creation of Lincoln Detox; the founders of NADA; Miriam Lee; and Ignacio Martin-Baro, the founder of Liberation Psychology.
What do you mean by praxis?
Praxis means practice as distinguished from theory; action, application or use.
Community acupuncture is the praxis that led to the development of Liberation Acupuncture the theory. Community acupuncture depends on acupuncture being useful to, and used by, a large number of ordinary people. Otherwise, there’s no community.
Ignacio Martin-Baro wrote about Liberation Theology: “True practice has primacy over true theory, orthopraxis over orthodoxy. Actions are more important than affirmations in liberation theology, and what one does is more expressive of faith than what one says.” For Liberation Acupuncture, what one does is also more important than what one says. For example, if we claim that a theory of acupuncture is important, we have to be able to prove its importance by making it consistently and reliably useful to ordinary people in real life.
Liberation Acupuncture maintains that acupuncture must be practical, by being based on experience and by having a positive impact on society. Therefore the Liberation Acupuncture program is focused on how acupuncture works in the lives of ordinary people rather than on how it works in textbooks.
What do you mean by the preferential option for the poor?
In Liberation Theology, the preferential option for the poor means that while God loves everyone, God REALLY loves poor people. (Or, according to Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, “The living God sides with the oppressed against all the pharaohs of this world.”) In public health, as Paul Farmer writes, “Any serious examination of epidemic disease has always shown that microbes also make a preferential option for the poor” — and so practitioners must make an option for poor people and also work on their behalf.
In Liberation Acupuncture, the preferential option for the poor means that we work to approach acupuncture from the perspective of the poor and also that we involve ourselves in action that benefits them. While a variety of theoretical perspectives might encourage an acupuncturist to take into account the social status of a patient and/or to be aware of the social dimensions of health, Liberation Acupuncture is after something more radical: acupuncture and its practices must be submitted to the judgement of the poor, rather than the poor being submitted to the judgement of acupuncturists. Why is acupuncture so expensive and so inaccessible? And what are we going to do about it, not in some future utopia, but right now?
Who are “the poor”?
For the purposes of Liberation Acupuncture, “the poor” encompasses everyone who is marginalized by capitalism and oppressed by our society.
Similarly, Johanna Hedva writes in “Sick Woman Theory”, “The Sick Woman is an identity and body that can belong to anyone denied the privileged existence – or the cruelly optimistic promise of such an existence – of the white, straight, healthy, neurotypical, upper and middle-class, cis- and able-bodied man who makes his home in a wealthy country, has never not had health insurance, and whose importance to society is everywhere recognized and made explicit by that society; whose importance and care dominates that society, at the expense of everyone else…The Sick Woman is anyone who does not have this guarantee of care.
The Sick Woman is told that, to this society, her care, even her survival, does not matter.
The Sick Woman is all of the “dysfunctional,” “dangerous” and “in danger,” “badly behaved,” “crazy,” “incurable,” “traumatized,” “disordered,” “diseased,” “chronic,” “uninsurable,” “wretched,” “undesirable” and altogether “dysfunctional” bodies belonging to women, people of color, poor, ill, neuro-atypical, differently abled, queer, trans, and genderfluid people, who have been historically pathologized, hospitalized, institutionalized, brutalized, rendered “unmanageable,” and therefore made culturally illegitimate and politically invisible.”
How does the clinical component of POCA Tech's Liberation Acupuncture Program reflect a preferential option for the poor?
POCA Tech’s clinical component depends on working partnerships with other clinics of the POCA Cooperative: a long list of POCA clinics participate in students’ Observation training, and Working Class Acupuncture and Acupuncture for Wellness donate their facilities for the POCA Tech student clinic.
Most people who come to the POCA Tech Student Clinic overlap with Working Class Acupuncture’s patient base. Since 2012, Working Class Acupuncture has been collaborating with CareOregon’s Health Resilience Program. “CareOregon, the state’s largest Medicaid managed care plan, established HRP to provide trauma-informed care management for Medicaid and dually eligible Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries with complex health and psychosocial needs. The program is designed to address the bio-psychosocial needs of this population using a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to advance client-identified health goals.” We encourage everyone to read this article about the HRP and Trauma Informed Care. Working Class Acupuncture and POCA Tech provide acupuncture treatments to the clients and caseworkers of the Health Resilience Program.
The preferential option for the poor means that POCA Tech clinical interns learn to practice in a way that centers the clients of the Health Resilience Program. There are a variety of public health programs which seek to adapt acupuncture to certain public health settings. Liberation Acupuncture goes much farther than that in insisting that every aspect of acupuncture practice and theory be considered from the perspective of oppressed people, and that their needs have priority over other considerations. POCA Tech clinical interns don’t treat HRP clients any differently than anybody else who comes into the clinic; instead, they learn to provide acupuncture so that it works for HRP clients. Marginalized people set the standards.
Since WCA’s collaboration with CareOregon is expanding beyond the Health Resilience Program, POCA Tech clinical interns can expect to treat more people who are beneficiaries of Medicare-Medicaid and to continue to prioritize their needs.
I think I see what you're getting at, but what would really help me is an inspirational 4-minute video clip of a POCA Tech Board member talking about Liberation Acupuncture.