Your Acupuncture Education Is Like A House

Your Acupuncture education is like a house. It’s a big expensive house and one with lots of curb appeal. Once you get inside you realize that much of it is not very useful. There are hallways that lead to nowhere. Things are constantly breaking down. The furnace keeps some rooms toasty and other rooms are just too drafty. But its your house and you decide to love it anyways. Then you decide to invite someone over and you can accommodate a guest or two with minimal problems. You just have to know what rooms are worth a damn and definitely don’t let them in the pantry or upstairs! Your neighborhood is in the same situation as you. They are all a bunch of expensive houses some shitty contractor built overnight. They all look ok and everyone is just going to grin and bare it. It’s embarrassing and nobody wants to talk about it. Plus one must keep up appearances. Right? Then you decide you would like to have a party. Your family is coming in town for a big reunion. They don’t have a lot of money and spent it on traveling to get there so you invite them all to stay in your big house. The problem is that they are not comfortable. Most of them are polite because they can see that you tried really hard but they will not agree to have another party at your house. You just don’t have enough functional space even though the house is big and expensive. The house is sad and lonely. That’s not good enough for you. You really like your friends and family and want to have them all over all the time. That’s why you bought that fucking house. Then you realize. You own the land! And the foundation it not bad either. There is only one solution. So you get a dumpster delivered to your house and you start to deconstruct. Some things you can keep but only what is useful. Some old things can be made into new and helpful things. You don’t want to be wasteful after all. The house is just a work in progress now. It has lost some curb appeal but you can throw one hell of a party! The people that visit your house are so excited about it that they start helping you with construction and pretty soon you have more people in your community that you ever thought possible! The neighbors complain that you are bringing down the value of their houses. Curb appeal was all they had. They accuse you of cheapening the neighborhood. You decide not to worry about it. You used to have houses just like theirs and you realize what brings down the value of those houses is the poor functionality. You offer to help them start deconstructing their own places. Some of them take you up on it and before you know it there are people all over rejecting their big expensive and useless houses and transforming them into something else. Your community keeps growing and growing.

Author: Ztrukn

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. Well put Nick!

    Hopefully other prospective ‘house’ buyers (AOM students) will see that all the professional AOM (alphabet orgs & schools) hype doesn’t equal owning a solid home (clinic) and dumping their acupuncture mortgage money (Title IV student loans) into this education may not be a good return on the investment.

    BTW, what do you think the monetary value of your education is truly worth?

  2. YES!

    so awesome. thank you so much for crafting this, Nick, and for putting yourself out there in sharing the message near and far–big hug!



    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.

  3. I’m coming over with a mini-sledge hammer

    and maybe later we can go over to your neighbor’s place and do some renovations.  But those folks with the second mortgage who we’re hoping to do more ceu’s to help their house have more curb appeal, do they know that there’s termites in their foundation?

  4. As an AOM student, I’m not

    As an AOM student, I’m not aware of any other current options for someone seeking to practice acupuncture, besides getting (and paying for) the education. So the words are truthful, but what is the benefit of continually emphasizing to AOM students that their education isn’t worth the investment? It doesn’t edify us as future practitioners and members of the acupuncture community.

    Just as community acupuncture uses the ideas and traditions of a very old healing practice to empower patients today, it seems to follow that the same approach should be taken to empower and uplift students who seek to follow in your footsteps.

    Wanting to open a community acupuncture clinic is the reason I came to acupuncture school. I’d love to read less about how my acupuncture education is inherently worthless, and more about how I can make the most of it.

  5. dig deep!

    Yes, Cat, I hear you.

    Nick’s blog is just one of many.  You’ll definitely hear some kvetching about the schools here at CAN.  But if you dig in, you’ll find plenty to empower and prepare you for practice.

    That’s why I love CAN.  We bitch, but we also “do”.


    David L f’ing Ac (my earned title)

  6. I don’t think Nick is saying it’s inherently worthless.

    Read a little closer. 

    It *is* frustrating to pay so much for the “deed to the land,” as it were, and folks understand that frustration all too well; most of us are “underwater” on our “acupuncture mortgages.”  To pretend we aren’t doesn’t make the situation any better.  We can only come up with real solutions when we really identify the problems.  In the meantime: hang in there, stay tuned, get involved. 

  7. .

    I don’t think Nick is saying your acu education is inherently worthless, I think he’s saying that your acu education *as it is presented to you by your educational institution* is inherently worthless.  The presentation is the house, acupuncture and what it can do for people are the land/foundation.  I think it’s really uplifting to read about taking the house apart and putting it back together into something inherently useful.  The parts are all there, we all just have to go down to the CAN tool library and get a new blueprint to put it all back together into that useful thing. 

  8. I was actually responding to

    I was actually responding to Shauna’s comment, suggesting the prospective AOM students will hopefully realize that “dumping” acupuncture mortgage money into the education is not a good return on investment.

    Nick’s article isn’t new on this site. Certainly the first to use such a great metaphor, but not the first to suggest or discuss the reality of the cost:benefit ratio of AOM education in the US. I read a couple of articles on this site about the same idea a year ago when I decided I wanted to attend acupuncture school.

    I completely understand that it is cathartic to air your grievances about the disproportionately time-consuming and expensive education that is required for acupuncturists in this country. But I think there’s a point at which catharsis has to evolve into a motive force of change.

    I know that many members of the CAN community are active in trying to reopen the Apprenticeship path to licensure, and I think that’s exciting, even if it is farther off than will be of benefit to me. But at my school, most of the students entering either don’t know what community acupuncture is, have never even heard of it, or associate the community set-up with free clinics. Additionally, only one licensed acupuncturist on staff is associated with a community clinic, despite the fact that there are 5 CAN clinics in our area (most of which have been started by alumni of my program).

    Rethinking acupuncture (and acupunk education!) has to start with students; if everyone around them (us) talks about acupuncture from the same misleading perspective, then the next generations of acupuncturists will be frustrated too. That doesn’t get us anywhere, does it?

  9. I respectfully disagree with this:

    “Rethinking acupuncture (and acupunk education!) has to start with students”–

    since quite a lot of it has been re-thunk by CAN punks, and Lisa in particular; and a lot of it will likely be re-thunk by patients.  That’s not to say that students don’t have good ideas; I would love to hear your ideas for more immediate change.  Tuition strike, perhaps?  

    P.S. at the risk of putting words in Nick’s mouth I don’t think the purpose of this post was catharsis.  But I’ll let him speak to that.

  10. It’s not worth it…..

    …from a purely financial level its not a good return on investment. Especially if you need to take out student loans to obtain the degree. Period. Based on the expected earnings for an acupunturist, you should not be taking out loans or paying more than $30K for the entire education. Definitely no more than $40K on the high end.

    Yea, makes no sense that OCOM would have only one community acupuncturist on staff considering number of CA clinics in the area. I wish your school would take the feedback from their current students seriously and implement some new ideas. The same issues have been brought up year after year. 

    You bet we talk about this kinda stuff on CAN. But we also come up with solutions to support each other, our patients and our clinics. The profession doesn’t have a good track record of trying to do this for itself. CAN is changing this. Hopefully the next generation of acupucnturists will never need worry about finding a job….because there will be thousands of CA clinics all over the country waiting to hire them.

  11. and…

    as you have noticed, Cat, most mentions of CA in schools are complete
    misperceptions. The best way for students
    to know what it really is like is to hear it directly from successful,
    experienced CA clinic practitioners/patients. We could use your help to correct this.

    The only
    way this will happen inside schools is for students to demand it. If
    you have others in your class that want to know more, maybe you could
    put something in writing to the Dean of Students every semester until it

    At times, various CAN members have taught, or participated in school CA classes
    and clinics (watched this with some interested friends yet?and this)but some have been dropped or are now being taught by non-CA
    clinic practitioners. Given the resistance, our resources have been better
    spent creating a new universe out here.

    So don’t let them try to
    bring in someone who “has an idea” of what CA is, but has never
    practiced it, or practices some high-priced fabrication of CA or no
    longer does it because “it didn’t work out for them” or calls it public

    You could ask for a CAN/POCA workshop in your area and help promote it in your school. Ask that local
    CA alumni and their patients be brought into your practice management
    class for a
    presentation and Q and A panel. Write to Acupuncture Today, student
    branches of state associations and other industry groups and
    publications to request more info on CA be presented by CAN/POCA members. Co-host with a local CA for a student screening of the CA documentary.

    If they ignore you or resist, you might want to ask them (and yourself) why.

    And thanks for your interest. We realize you’re doing all you can to survive right now. Breaking up illusions is painful stuff. We’ve all been there. We’re doing all we can to make a new world and by really examining the old rotten foundation we’re able to build a much better new one.



    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.

  12. proof in the pudding

    just re-watched the OCOM talk. at the time in 2007, CAN was only 6 months old, only 30 CA clinics, only 137 members.

    today: 5 years of CAN grows into POCA, over 200 hundred CA clinics, over 1500 members, almost $7 million dollar gross income, 1/2 million treatments per year. as David said, lots of actual “doing!”



    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.

  13. Given the current state of

    Given the current state of the state there are few college degrees that are worth it on a purely financial basis.  That probably accounts for many of the 99%ers showing up to rock Wall Street.

    Acupuncture schools havent embraced the reality of CAN, nor have the major organizations nor have the established practitioners who got in early and thrived.

    However, that is changing because we are becoming the 99% of practitioners doing 99% of the treatments.  That will bring with it 99% of the responsibility to improve the profession.

    However, I don’t school bash.  I am glad I had the opportunity to go to acupuncture school and survived long enough afterwards with my license intact to open my CA clinic.  

    The reality of degrees that don’t pay is a much wider problem than just within our profession — ask any graduating lawyers you might know.

    Taking the plunge and embracing the Tao isn’t always profitable in the expected ways.   But what other path exists to get to needle people and rock their world?  Until another path exists there will still be schools and students moving through them.   

  14. not so much catharsis

    Hello Cat,

    my frustrations have been vented long ago and im happy with my practice and where i am right now. 

    if you want to become a CA punk and are not a LAc now then yes that probably means you have to go to school.  thats the breaks.  the cost is unfortunate and in a strict fiscal lense totally ill advised.  Worse decisions have been made.

    This was written as part of a CAN101 workshop in DC to help get a point across.  That point is that acupuncture as you learn it in school functions alright in the one on one world with wealthy clients.  Not so much if you intend on seeing lots of people of modest incomes.  So in that sense it is useless to my purposes.

    Its my experience that students come out of school and they are afraid to veer too far from what they have learned.  Its also my experience that if you want to do CA then lower prices and higher volume are not the only changes that are needed.  Take a hard look at what you have been taught and see what is helping and what is holding you back. 

    My main aim was to let students and non community punks know its ok to tinker or completely overhaul how you talk, think about, and do acupuncture.  Thats not as hard as it sounds.  Acupuncture is pretty forgiving and we have a great network of support.  

  15. sacred cow tipping

    If I were starting acu school all over again,  I would find the sacred cows and tip them over.  Then see what happens. 


    If the idea is a good one, it will survive the tipping and find its way back into the practice of acupuncture.

    If the idea is just dogma, probably it will not survive the tipping.

    What are the sacred cows that might need tipping?

    I think Nick is tipping over the sacred cow of the AOM profession that unless acupuncturists charge $60-120+ for a treatment, they are ‘devaluing’ the profession.

    In another post, we practiced tipping the sacred cow of taking pulses as critical to treating.  That poor cow… well, it didn’t make it.

    Anyway, if this is useful to  you, practice identifying the ‘sacred cows’ of what it being taught at your school.  Sneak in at night.  Tip them over.  See what happens next.