At Heart & Hands, we’re pretty passionate about supporting the Community Acupuncture movement as it is an authentic and sustainable way to support our community as well as ourselves. This is article will hopefully deconstruct the finer details of why and how this practice model works and why we think it is the future of acupuncture.
In a nutshell, it is high volume acupuncture
provided in a supportive group setting at sliding scale rates (at Heart & Hands we charge $20-$50/session). Community Acupuncture is both a practice/business model as well as a social movement first founded by Lisa Rohleder and Skip Van Meter, Licensed Acupuncturists in Portland OR. It makes acupuncture an accessible option to a wider range of individuals who otherwise could not afford the going rate for acupuncture (in Victoria $60-$140/session). It is also a modern take on how acupuncture is traditionally provided in Asia; in a large open space, treating many people at once, quickly, efficiently and effectively.
Why does it work?
Acupuncture is a dose dependent therapy and that the benefits are achieved by frequency, and less so by individual doses. Therefore, the appropriate treatment plan is key in assisting the gradual process in resolving issues and promoting recovery.
Due to a variety of factors, many people in North America aren’t getting enough acupuncture to truly experience the benefits, whether it be education, access or cost. And, as practitioners and business owners, don’t we all want everyone to get more acupuncture?
By making cost less of a barrier, it becomes easier for clients to comply with a treatment plan, producing favorable results. By implementing the Community Acupuncture practice model, it becomes more accessible for clients to receive as much treatment as often as they need.
Isn’t that empowering and community-building on many levels for both the clients AND the practitioners alike?
For clients, the open group-oriented nature
of the clinic room allows for flexibility.
At Heart & Hands, we often encourage clients to bring friends/family/co-workers/classmates to their sessions. With short notice, clients are able to drop-in for sessions during our office hours. Being able to choose how much to pay for sessions not only builds a relationship of trust and accountability, it also is a strong motivator for word of mouth and responsibility of one’s well-being.
The Community Acupuncture model is infectious as it is in the spirit of generosity, gratitude and positive social change.
For practitioners, it eliminates barriers to treating individuals from all walks of life. We engage in lots of practice (spending more time poking, less time talking), on lots of different people and see great results. We get creative with marketing (ie. Free Acupuncture days, discounts for cyclists, TWO for $30, etc.). And we don’t hesitate to consider the financial barriers of our client-base. Everyone participating in Community Acupuncture is helping to bring acupuncture to the forefront as an excellent way to not only treat disease, but a powerful medicine to prevent it.
Why a sliding scale?
A sliding scale serves two main purposes:
1. Affordability – for individual sessions, but also for budgeting over time. Clients are able to stretch their medical benefits further and at $20-$40, it is a manageable amount to pay out of pocket. We encourage clients to pay what they can afford, an individual judgment based on their financial situation.
2. Sustainability. Acupuncturists wear two hats, first, as a practitioner and second, as a business owner. The affordability of the sliding scale markets itself and ensures affordability to a wider client- base, many of whom have limited budgets. Greater affordability gives way to higher volume, allowing a practitioner to earn a reasonable income per hour as well as a living wage.
Ultimately, the sliding scale is the core of a Community Acupuncture practice and it markets itself. It makes the cost per session (and over time) more attainable to more people, more people visit a clinic for treatment and practitioners see more volume. It’s all about strength in numbers.
The Power of the Invisible Receptionist
The invisible receptionist functions around the
concept of the “gift”. Shifting attitudes towards trust, generosity and abundance rather than scarcity and pitting cost against personal values.
The “Invisible Receptionist” is a self-serve payment system where clients are trained to make their own payments based on the set sliding scale. No income verification, clients are encouraged to pay what they can afford, no questions asked. It has been something that Heart & Hands has used since day 1 and we consider it an essential part of the
Community Acupuncture experience at our clinic.
We want to promote the concept of personal autonomy; to gift clients with the freedom to choose their own rate based on value, budget and treatment frequency. We provide a clear, but flexible framework for clients to do so and providing this, we also build a relationship of trust. What someone values does not always equate to what they can afford. And that no matter where someone pays within the sliding scale, ALL of our clients receive the same quality, calibre and length of treatment, bottom line.
$20-$50 translates into: “I just paid rent and things are tight, but I really need a treatment” to “I have health benefits and I really want to support the work that this clinic does” and every reason in between. Any amount between $20-$50 goes, which is circulated back into the clinic covering business expenses, but more importantly, a sustainable wage for the practitioners providing treatment.
And the group setting?
In today’s modern world of hand-held devices and ubiquitous WIFI access, many of us are starved for genuine human connection. There is an essential need to “unplug” from the over-stimulation of our everyday lives and acupuncture is the solution. We want to promote and support attitudes towards self-care and preventative health, which is a divergent from our mainstream medical system.
The intentional act of being “pinned down” so you can truly receive a deep, intentional and undisturbed rest is the sanity that we are all lacking. There is something strangely safe and honest to quietly enter a room of strangers sleeping together. That each and every individual is participating in something larger than themselves. Whether it be spiritual or not, everyone contributes an energy to the room making every day at Heart & Hands a a little different.
And to be in the presence of a group of people
peacefully unwinding their physical, emotional and spiritual pains together is just beautiful. A client once told me that aside from the accessibility of the service, they most appreciate everyone’s presence and that during sessions where he is unable to fall asleep, they will meditate and send the intention of loving kindness to everyone in the room.
So, we’d like to thank each and every person who participates in the Community Acupuncture model, whether you give or receive. We’d like to believe that acupuncture is for everyone and the work we are doing is slowly, but surely making that happen. Each of you provides a unique and essential part of what makes Heart & Hands the positive and healing experience that it is and it wouldn’t be the same without you :)
Join us, www.heartandhandscommunity.ca
Christina Chan, R.Ac., Owner/Operator, Acupuncture Action Figure