POCA Tech Class Discussion

Lisafer's picture

Taking Ignacio Martin-Baro's quote and editing for our situation: But an acupuncture of liberation requires a prior liberation of acupuncture, and that liberation can only come from a praxis committed to the sufferings and hopes of the people...

What do we mean by a "liberation of acupuncture"? From what does acupuncture need to be liberated, and why?


Lisa needles a patient
Photo courtesy of
Dave Hudson


LaEvaLockhart's picture

The first two things that come to mind when I imagine what acupuncture is being liberated from are prestige and, for a lack of a better word, dogma. In the US right now acupuncture is regulated and taught by a number of authorities (ex. colleges and regulating bodies) which work to uphold the high status of the profession and dictate how real acupuncture "should be practiced" (ex. hour long treatments in private rooms). Liberation Acupuncture is shaking the medicine free from the dogma and prestige and offering a new, different, and I would argue much better way of practicing acupuncture and relating to the profession. Its taking people out of isolation in a very literal sense and bringing the profession back down to Earth, to common ground, where it belongs. 

Shevek's picture

I have never attended classes at a most acupuncture schools. However, one of the results of those schools is the acupuncture spa and facial rejuvenation treatment. Clearly this type of acupuncture is not "committed to the sufferings and the hopes of the people". This is what acupuncture needs to be liberated from. There are millions of people in the US alone who would benefit from regular acupucnture treatments. Unfortunately the general perception of acupuncture, if there is one, historically is not one that regular everyday people think of as something for them. Acupuncture needs to be liberated from those who would treat it as something special, to be revered, and given to all who need to use it as the simple healing form that it is. 

jenmylo's picture

I agree with LaEvaLockhart about the need to liberate acupuncture from dogma around what it is and how it must be practiced. In the United States we have a habit of taking systems created to help the poor/oppressed and turning them into bastions of upper-middle-class exclusivity. A good example of this is the Montessori schooling progarm. Maria Montessori developed her methods specifically for children living in the slums, and worked out practices that were optimized for classrooms of 30 or so children. In the US, because of trademark law, a stranglehold has been placed on the Montessori name, and Montessori schooling is mostly limited to private schools for wealthy people (and ironically, to classes with a low student-teacher ratio, the opposite of Maria Montessori's intent). 

With acupuncture, I think we need to liberate the practice from the weight of the educational regulation -- there has been proof that basic acupuncture that helps people can be practiced with significantly limited (but specific) education, such as with drug detox protocols. Requiring all acupuncturists to be Chinese medical theorists when what we really need more of are basic practitioners of inexensive health care has backed us into a corner. Community acupuncture is the format, changing education licensure to reflect different levels of education and practice (just as the western medical field does) is what's needed next if we want to change how acupuncture is practiced in this country.

josephI's picture

I was on the train today and overheard a man complaining of the way his physician was dealing with his severe knee pain, which was apparently so bad he could barely stand up and had to pop it into place just to move. If he didn't, he would fall and likely reinjure his knee. His doctor, likely wary of drug seekers, just told him to take ibuprofen and refused to give him prescription pain killers. 

Of course, acupuncture is great for any kind of acute or chronic pain and would likely greatly benefit this person. With liberation acupuncture, this individual would find easy relief from his intense knee pain without having to beg for it at the doctor's office and without the shame of feeling like an addict for asking for relief. Shame is easily a type of emotional trauma, especially when it's unjustified.

I find it amazing that there are some acupuncturists who want to be perceived as doctors. Physicians are extremely knowledgeable and well-respected, yes, and deservingly so, and studying acupuncture requires dedicated study. But let's face it: going to the doctor's office just plain sucks. Children are probably the most honest humans. Can you think of one kid that enjoys the doctor's office? Nope, me neither. Why would you want to emulate that kind of environment?  I'm not saying get rid of all western medicine, but the way it is delivered in this society is less than optimal to say the least.  The capitalist model of health care simply does not work for the human organism. We need a new way to think about what it means to be healthy. A society free of the physical and psychological barriers to receiving health care is a healthy one, and defining liberation acupuncture is a good start.

AudraS's picture

Working at a chiropractic clinic, I have spoken with numerous patients who were distraught over their physician's treatment of their conditions. My belief is that many doctors, physician's assistants, etc., especially under HMOs, are focused more on palliative care and less concerned with preventatives and finding the root of the condition. Some will refer you to acupuncture if you ask, but rarely is it their go to advice. Even more common, if you are referred to an acupuncturist, your insurance will only cover a certain amount of visits or money per year. This is one major advantage of the Liberation Acupuncture movement, no need for insurance.

I often encourage the patients I see to advocate for the care they really need. At a community acupuncture clinic, they are freely given that power without question or discussion. Just today, I spoke with a woman who tried 'boutique' acupuncture, but did not receive lasting results. She couldn't try a different clinic because her insurance allotment was already used up. After introducing her to POCA and Liberation Acupuncture, she seemed to have a renewed hope something could help her chronic pain that was affordable, easy to access, and medication free. 

My hope is that this movement spreads like wildfire throughout the US and beyond. Only good things can come from people being given the freedom to choose affordable alternative care. Western medicine is not without it's benefits, but we are overdue for other easily accessible options.

betho's picture

One of the forces that acupuncture needs to be liberated from is over-regulation.  I would not advocate for absolutely zero regulation.  But, what are we protecting people from by requiring acupuncturists to have so many credit hours and so much TCM theory?  How many centuries has acupuncture been practiced without governmental regulation?  If it works, people will seek it out; if it doesn't, then people will not come back for more.  Of course we need clean needle technique.  Acupuncturists should be assessed for their ability to determine a treatment protocol. Thinking of how acupuncture was practiced for thousands of years, as knowledge handed down in families, it seems convoluted for the Chinese government to have come up with a protocol that is now viewed as the only right way to practice acupuncture.  The mystery and elitism surrounding current American acupuncture models need to be traded for availability and function.  Beaurocracy may be a necessary evil, but can we consider paring it down a bit and using common sense?

ewolfk's picture

I believe much of the energy around regulation has developed from a "need" to establish ourselves in the eyes of other health care professionals.  The medical community could (and did and still does) warn patients away from untrained "quacks."  So, regulation initially, and to a great extent now, has sprung from a desire to show the physicians, who have become the gatekeepers of health in the eyes of the west, that acupuncture isn't just a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

eksmithisme's picture

My family cannot afford Acupuncture where they live. There is no Working Class Acupuncture clinic in their state. The schools in the state talk about the importance of having professional ethics, but this is a subtle code word for keeping the costs over $65 a treatment and treating only one person at a time. My family cannot afford this and neither can most people I know. I developed a low cost clinic and was criticized by my peers. I had a clinic where people could pay on a sliding scale and the Ackupuncture association felt that it was unprofessional. Since I was working in a Western Medical Clinic, they did not pursue the issue, but made it clear in association meetings that this was unacceptable and hurting other Acupuncturists. However, none of the people coming to the community clinic hours would have ever been able to pay $65 an hour twice a week. I saw a lot of people get better. Many of whom were off work, out of work, and in need of medical care. Acupuncture worked wonders for them. So I think the Acupuncture field needs to free up it's attitudes and look at the importance of the working class model. I think it can become the new "light" on the medical horizon.


Cleo Wolf's picture

Freeing acupuncture from the high cost of education without compromising the quality of that education may seem like pie in the sky but I really think that is the answer. Commitment to working for NPO or Govt agency post grad for loan forgiveness is completely reasonable in my book but only so long as the treatment can be provided to the best of the practitioner's ability. In biomedicine there are standards of care are being set by big pharm and wisdom is not encouraged, we have to avoid that same thing happening to us. To achieve this we have to invest time and attention in our state and national organizations and political representatives. BTW "the best of practitioners ability" includes appropriate number and frequency of treatments, not bridging the gap between treatments with herbal formulas. Formulas are fantastic but they are not merely a bridge between treatments. If the patient has limitations on the frequency of treatment it should not be because of the cost. I am very excited to find out about Liberation Acupuncture and POCA, I see the day that community acupuncture is our main go-to for preventative and maintenance healthcare. We all benefit from this becoming as common as a library in communities across the nation. That's my humble opinion, thanks for the opportunity to join the discussion.