Community Acupuncture

People in the United States have demonstrated a growing interest in health, wellness, preventative medicine, and alternative healing over the past decade. However, many have assumed that alternative wellness treatment options are just too expensive to be feasible. The problem is that the current economic climate has contributed to creating a population that cannot afford the health care it needs. Of Americans fortunate enough to be able to afford health insurance, almost seven million of them spend 33 percent of their income on health care ( And sadly, most insurance plans still do not cover alternative medicine. Thankfully, in the world of acupuncture there is an affordable option. Community acupuncture, or group acupuncture, was adapted from traditional treatment methods used throughout Asia that involves 2-6 individuals being treated at the same time while sitting in the an open space setting. Lisa Rohleder, founder of The Working Class Acupuncture Clinic in Portland, Oregon, is generally credited with adapting this method for use in the U.S. The model has been earning widespread enthusiasm and support throughout the acupuncture community. Some might question whether community acupuncture is “as good” as a private session and might assume that with a multi-client approach, treatments would be shorter and less personalized. In reality, most people who make the transition to community acupuncture love it. The practitioner is able to provide every patient with an individualized treatment by staggering appointments in ten or fifteen minute intervals. While one patient starts a treatment process, another is already in the middle of it. Even modest patients don't have to worry, since community acupuncture uses a style of acupuncture called distal point. This style focuses on targeting points on the head and extremities allowing patients to be treated fully dressed. In general, acupuncture is most effective if the patient receives treatment frequently and regularly at first, ideally at least two or three times a week. In China, such regularity is common. In the U.S. however, private acupuncture often costs upwards of $70-$100 per session prohibiting such frequent treatment. Group acupuncture, which averages $25-50 a treatment, makes regular treatment attainable. Patients decided what they can afford and no financial questions are asked. Practitioners and clients also agree that the group atmosphere creates a synergistic healing experience that capitalizes on the power of combined energies in the room. As a result, the healing experience is heightened making the treatment more effective. Furthermore, community acupuncture, as a business model, makes sense. Because several patients are treated at once, the acupuncturist can charge less, cover overhead, and establish a win-win for practitioners and clients. As Rohleder states, “Acupuncture is not boutique medicine, it’s community medicine. It is valuable not because it’s expensive, but because of what it can do for the people who need it.” The goal of community acupuncture is making acupuncture part of the solution to our current health care crisis. It continues to be used successfully in Portland, Boulder, and St. Louis, and now this incredible healing opportunity is available to all in Durango. by Carla Marie Toth, LAc MAOM, Durango Community Acupuncture