Communal Healing

A new breed of acupuncturists aims to make the age-old treatment available to more patients



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 acupuncture

Instead of treating one or two patients per hour in private rooms with doors closed, Thing treats up to 15 people in a single large room, allowing each person to pay what they can afford based on a sliding fee scale ($20 to $40 per visit). Patients receive treatments while seated in comfortable lounge chairs or on massage tables, some clustered together, others strategically placed between Japanese Shoji screens for a little privacy. Plants and soft music contribute to a calm, soothing atmosphere. Patients simply choose a resting spot, roll up their sleeves and pant legs for the acupuncturist, settle in, and let the healing begin. And unlike private-room acupuncture, people can keep the needles in for as long as they choose.

“This is exactly the way acupuncture is practiced traditionally in Asia, where it has worked successfully for many hundreds of years — many patients per hour, and very little talking,” says Thing, adding that in the U.S., private acupuncture visits usually include a lot of unnecessary verbal exchange and counseling.

Ulster County publisher Jonathan Schein relies on acupuncture for pain relief, relaxation, and stress reduction. Although long-accustomed to receiving acupuncture privately, when he met Thing at a local farm market, he decided to try it her way.

“I was a little standoffish about it at first,” says Schein. “But at the end of the day it really makes sense. I like it. There’s this communal healing energy and well-being going on in the room.”

Peekskill acupuncturist James Lorr had feelings similar to Thing’s after several years in private practice: “In U.S. schools you’re taught the private-room model. It just got very compartmentalized and there’s always that whispered conversation, ‘How do you know what to charge?’ ” So Lorr opened Main Street Acupuncture, a community clinic he modeled after Working Class Acupuncture, a place he discovered in Portland, Oregon.

“I opened a coffee house and I realized the real product is community,” says Lorr who put the words “acupuncture” and “community” into a Google search and found the Community Acupuncture Network (CAN), a nonprofit organization that promotes the model. “It matched up with everything I thought. I was seeing maybe 13 people a week, now I see 60 or more — and I see results. That’s pretty satisfying.”

The owner of Working Class Acupuncture, Lisa Rohleder, founded CAN nearly three years ago after her clinic was “inundated by acupuncturists looking for information about it.” Of the communal-room setup, she jokes, “It’s a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: it works on a train, it works in the rain. It’s so flexible.”

Community acupuncture has other benefits as well. “Because it’s less expensive, it affords people the ability to go more often,” says Evan Schwartz of Hudson Valley Acupuncture. “When people are going for $80-$100 private treatments, it’s hard for an acupuncturist to say, ‘I'd like to see you three times this week.’ ” Community acupuncture also allows friends, families, couples, parents, and children to experience healing together, a very appealing and comforting prospect for some. “I think people find it a relief to have other people around, especially those who are new to this,” Lorr says. “It’s just great.”
Regardless of whether or not one can afford private treatment, there are some intangible reasons to try a community acupuncture clinic. “The whole room gets this vibe,” says Lorr, “which is something we really don’t have a lot of — except maybe in church or during a meditation class.”

“You have to give up your preconceived notions,” says Schein, who revealed that cost was never a deciding factor for him. “I’m not opposed to doing private again. But I just think this is wonderful — I’m a total fan of the whole thing.”

Community Acupuncture Clinics in the Hudson Valley:

Earthbound Herbs and Acupuncture
504-516 Broadway, Kingston
845-338-5575
Sliding scale $20-$40 (First-time consultation is additional $10)

Main Street Acupuncture
32 N. Division St., Peekskill
914-320-6647
Sliding scale $15-$35 (First time consultation is additional $10)
Free “acupuncture parties” are held on the third Thursday of every month (5-8 p.m.)

Hudson Valley Acupuncture
69 Main St., Cold Spring
914-907-8960
Sliding scale $20-$40 (First time consultation is additional $10)

For more information, visit the Community Acupuncture Network on-line at www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org.

 

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