Why I Practice Community Acupuncture

While practicing the style taught in U.S. Chinese Medicine schools, I read these articles written by Lisa Rohleder in 2006-07 for Acupuncture Today (the paper versions):

“Acupuncture and Social Entrepreneurship”, March '06 https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30335

“The Art of the Sliding Scale, Part One: Creating Inclusion”, May '06. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30374

“The Art of the Sliding Scale, Part Two: Establishing Cash Flow”, July '06. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30407

“The Art of the Sliding Scale, Part 3:  Building Community Self-Esteem”, Sept. '06. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30442

“Vision and Decision”, Nov. 2006. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=31420

“Widening the Door: Privilege and Access”, Jan. 2007. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=31448

From the very 1st article, the whole idea was a real eye-opener for me. These articles were pretty much all it took for me to see that community acupuncture makes complete sense and that I want to practice this way. It was not a hard-sell.

For me, the whole thing was (and is) quite simple and straight-forward — charge affordable rates so that as many people as possible (many of whom have not used acupuncture before because the fees were too high) can have the treatments they need. And do it in a group setting, treating several clients in one hour.

It took me some time to be able to confidently treat in a group setting — read and re-read Miriam Lee's “Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist” (wherein she writes of her 10 Great Points that can be used in different combinations for many different conditions), took classes on Master Tung's Points, studied Dr. Richard Tan's books (and later, took some classes with him), read the original “The Little Red Book for Acupuncturists” by Lisa Rohleder (rewritten several times since, and recently in the expanded version as “Acupuncture is like Noodles”, with other writers). I visited Lisa and Skip at Working Class Acupuncture in Portland and had a treatment there. I also visited Lumiel in San Rafael several times. And of course, read as much on CAN as I could. (I still try to.)

I have been practicing community acupuncture for one and a half years now and I love it. It's fun, not at all boring (except for those down times between patients, but there's always something to do in the office). I like being able to see people with chronic conditions improve over time. I like seeing members of the same family being treated at the same time. I like the times when the treatment room is full with everyone off in dreamland. I like not billing insurance for my service. I most like providing a service where clients can complete the needed course(s) of treatments because the fees are affordable. For me, and a growing number of acupuncturists and acupuncture school students, CA is it.

Not everyone who learns about CA will want to practice this way. And that's fine. CA is not for everyone. Because unless one's heart is in it — with the motivation to make acupuncture available to as many people as possible, it won't work for you. If one's heart is not in it, you won't enjoy practicing this way.

I knew going into this that I would not become a millionaire doing it, and I'm OK with that. I'm paying my bills, making a living at it.

There are as many different personalities with varying viewpoints on CAN as there are in almost any other group. CAN is made up of individuals. You don't give up your individuality practicing CA. As with most groups of individuals, there are disagreements within CAN. 

Each CA practice is independently owned and operated. Each CA owner is free to express his/her own self in the practice within the parameters of the $15-40 range of fees for follow-ups and treatments in a group setting.

David Villanueva, Oasis Community Acupuncture, Newark, CA

Author: davidv

Have been practicing community acup. since early 2008. Solo acupuncturist. No employee. Previous employments in Home Audio retail sales and Insurance claims.

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  1. Family Connections

      I agree.  I think the healing is more profound when persons sharing a heart-connection are treated together.  Right now, about half of our patients are bringing either a family member or friend along with them for poking.  I especially love when it’s the *children* initiating an acupuncture session, and the parent tells me: “He (child) said he missed acupuncture; it was time for us to get back in again.”  Thanks David!

  2. And along those same lines,

    Community acupuncture expands the notion of family, to include all of humanity…all colors, races, cultures. Chi or energy or whatever you call it – does not discriminate, does not exclude, is open to all life.

    Today I treated 24 people in 4 hours, including several new people. Probably a record for me. It was just a blur of humanity and it truly was beautiful to imagine the invisible connection of heart-mind-spirit from patient to patient, breaking down isolation and otherness. I think it adds a lot of hope for the future survival of our species.

  3. that was great

    you explain it exactly how it is and why anyone would enjoy working in this kind of setting.  It really is a joy to create a setting where families, friends, and friendly strangers can be in a room together for themselves and without necessarily being aware of its common purpose or its payoff for you the practitioner.  All in the win-win category of reasons to treat in the community style. 

  4. Tess, I think you’re referring to the blog.

    If so, thanks, and it was your voice of reason ( and that of  others) in your recent post “What I am Learning …” in the Forums that provided the impetus for this. “Win-win” is exactly right.

  5. having the heart…

    having the heart…

    thanks for this lovely post. one thing that seems tricky for some is completely giving their hearts to CA. people i know have been interested in doing it, while somehow clinging to the private room “when they need it.” this could block the path to heart-ful community acupuncture.

  6. the whole time I was writing for AT

    I was quietly wondering if there was any point at all to it. So reading what you wrote:

    These articles were pretty much all it took for me to see that
    community acupuncture makes complete sense and that I want to practice
    this way.

    makes me very happy. It WAS worth it. Even if nothing else came of it, our movement got YOU, David. AT did a lot of good despite itself.

     “You know how people always say there’s a reasonable explanation for things like this? Well, there isn’t.” Daniel Pinkwater, The Neddiad

  7. …the heart of acupuncture is radical, elegant simplicity…

    “I believe the heart of acupuncture is radical, elegant simplicity.

    -(LisaR, AT article 1) .

    Thanks DV, with you on these thoughts, these articles found me at the perfect time too, and although it took a little while to get it together here in the desert, there was no turning back.

  8. Well then.

    Maybe I should just send Marilyn Allen a big bouquet, or a box of chocolates or something. She (inadvertently) gave me all of you.

    “You know how people always say there’s a reasonable explanation for things like this? Well, there isn’t.” Daniel Pinkwater, The Neddiad

  9. my name’s Melissa, and I’m a CANaholic

    david, thanks for this reminder. i am coming up on my two year CANniversary in October and i know just how you feel–i am eternally grateful to be part of such a truly incredible community of practitioners and patients, doing what i love!

    i wish i had found Lisa’s articles earlier, because i just despised AT for all it’s glossy, advertising-heavy lack of substance. i really did have that feeling of dread, like “is this really what i
    have to look forward to as my professional fellowship? yikes” it must have been sort of twilight-zoney  to come on the articles in that context! 

    i found my way here while trying to study for midterms in my last year of school. i threw down my internal medicine textbook and went to the computer in despair and distraction. the panic about life after school was setting in and so far nothing appealed to me very much except maybe acu without borders. i was dreading that i might end up on a cruiseship!

    i sat at the keyboard, prayed for inspiration and typed in the words “acupuncture” and “community” (not even realizing what an misnomer that really was) i landed on the WCA website–still remember that first siting of the floating recliners :), downloaded the Remedy from Lulu, immediately joined CAN, found the AT articles and a million precious words of inspiration. i spent 8 straight hours online, drinking it in, knowing i had found my destiny and my tribe. like someone said, there was just no turning back. eight months into it, and it just keeps getting better and better!

    for KevinCampo’s gratitude box, i am hugely grateful to all of you for walking on ahead and reaching back to show us the way!



    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  10. stop wondering


    Thank you so much for writing those articles.

    I came across your writing while in the midst of my practice management class my last year at Bastyr (thanks to my anarcho/punk rock ND student friends who pointed me your way).  That whole quarter I got more and more depressed as the vision of how to practice they presented made no sense at all to me.  I vividly remember sitting on the grassy hill behind the school with my laptop, reading every little bit I could about community acupuncture, with tears running down my face, because, finally, someone was writing something that actually made perfect sense to me.

    Here I am a few years down the road, and I love this work more than just about anything I’ve ever done.  More importantly, there’s a whole mess of folks in Eugene feeling better because of it.

    Again, thank you for sharing your work with the rest of us.  It has made a huge difference for more people than you might know.

  11. Lisa, it was absolutely “worth it” for

    you to write them. Thank you. I probably would not be practicing acupuncture now if not for those articles. I remember being so excited and happy when I learned about this other way of practicing. Those emotions are still there.

    Ann M., thanks for the “What if…” blog challenge.

    Keith, good quote from Lisa, article 1.

    Melissa, “CANaholic”, you’re in good company.

  12. A long time ago, right after graduating the Master’s program

    at PCOM, I took a marketing seminar, which gave some valuable nuts and bolts of basic marketing, but in its heart was inspirational.  The presenter brought in some regulation-sized wooden arrows, tipped with non-piercing cones.  At a certain velocity they could enter a target.  He told us that we would be able to place those cones against our throats and break these arrows by pressing hard against the feathered end resting on a wall.  Not a single one of us believed him.  He asked for volunteers.  Since no one stood up, he showed us how it was done, himself.  When that shaft broke, we were amazed.  We couldn’t believe this could be done, yet there he was, demonstrating it in front of us!  We still weren’t ready.  Then his wife stood us and did the same thing.  After that, the entire room rushed up to stand in line to do the same thing, and we all did.

     Lisa’s first article did that to me. It jolted me into realizing that someone had done what I thought was impossible.  I got up and decided to convert right then and there.  It took about 2 months, but it happened.  After 12 years of practicing like I’d been taught in school, I had been saved.  SAVED!  Praise the Truth!

    Thanks, David, very nice blog.