Springs Community Acupuncture: Sticking it to the Man

Words: Kate Perdoni

Photos: Kelly Fischer

The door sits open on this quintessential summer day, suggesting even to casual passer-by that Springs Community Acupuncture (SCA) is all about removing barriers.

Within the quaint, unassuming adobe building in Old Colorado City, a half-dozen varieties of herbal tea, an overflowing community bulletin board and volumes of literature regarding Eastern medicine await patients. A large wall map of America indicatesby way of push pins, not acupuncture needlesother community clinics across the country.

A revolution in healing, there is no ringing phone and no receptionist stationed to collect fees. Here, as in all of the 170 community acupuncture clinics in North America, patients choose the amount they can afford for their treatment, no questions asked. With the sliding-scale model, community clinics aspire to make acupuncture as affordable and available to as many people as possible.

Removing obstructions to energy flow with carefully placed needles allows the body's energy pathways to self-correct.

Acupuncture works to rebalance the body's systems, functioning in tandem with naturally flowing energy to reduce inflammation and improve circulation. Removing obstructions to energy flow with carefully placed needles allows the body's energy pathways to self-correct. As a medicine, acupuncture lends relief to conditions ranging from headaches and migraines to depression and anxiety, asthma, addictions, immunity, menopausal symptoms and even, in both sexes, issues of infertility.

As clients push through an opaque glass door into low light, the gentle sounds of a waterfall provide a relaxing soundtrack. A former yoga studio, SCA's treatment room presents an open floor plan ideal for communal healing. Eight plush recliners beckon as vessels of tranquility. One need only lay back, prostrate their feet and await the magic.

In the ten preceding work days, and with her own hands, Hannah has provided 250 acupuncture treatments.

The friendliness of the building is accentuated by the genuine presence of owner and acupuncturist Hannah Beachy. Though it carries an unpretentious vibe, what happens inside the clinic plays a notable role in the community's well being. In the ten preceding work days, and with her own hands, Hannah has provided 250 acupuncture treatments. When she opened the clinic three years ago, Hannah was treating a handful of clients each week. Now, the clinic enjoys a patient roster of almost 2,000, with upwards of 650 treatments occurring each month. Hannah said hundreds more have been served during the clinic's special free days, when up to 50 patients per day come to experience acupuncture, many for the first time.

Hannah first began studying Shiatsu massage, which led to an interest in energy meridians, or pathways in the body through which energy flows.

"I had actually never had acupuncture when I realized I was going to be an acupuncturist," Hannah said. "I had one of those moments where you just know what you're going to do with your life. Something just clicked."

After graduating from the Boulder campus of Southwest Acupuncture College, Hannah began looking for work. "But there really aren't any jobs in my field," she said. "It's very, very limited. There weren't a lot of options."

She quickly realized it would be necessary from a financial standpoint to start her own clinic. She began to identify areas of Colorado where underserved populations might benefit from a community-based practice. "Since there are schools in Denver and Boulder, there are a lot more practitioners in that region," Hannah said. "Southern Colorado is much more in need. I realized the Colorado Springs area was a good place to be. There was nobody doing community acupuncture."

Hannah's passion for inclusivity in healing grew from the realization that her schooling had trained her to adhere to a vastly inaccessible, traditional business model.

"First you go to school because you love acupuncture and you want to learn all about it. Then you realize that you need to make a living as well," Hannah said. "The way they were teaching us was to structure a practice around a fee that was more than I could afford for myself, and more than my friends or family could afford."

"[Community acupuncture] is a totally different approach," said Hannah. "A practitioner who does a private-room setting is going to charge 60 to 100 dollars for a treatment. They might have a couple of rooms going at one time, but the patients are separate. Our businesses are not in conflict, but while they are serving a very small population at the top, we're trying to make acupuncture available to the vast middle. We often deal with people who are marginalized, and in poverty. Our main goal is to serve those populations."

For optimal results, regular, frequent treatments are advised. The community model allows patients to receive the care they need, when they need it, with affordable treatments as low as $15 with an initial $10 intake fee. It is also a nod toward tradition, as in Asia, acupuncture is typically practiced in a group setting, rather than one-on-one.

Once inside the treatment room, a whispers-only rule of thumb is enacted. Hannah welcomes patients to settle into a comfortable recliner, then takes their pulse, sometimes looking at the tongue to collect an added diagnosis.

Where to put the needles to help balance the body's channels and organs depends on each individual. Hannah quietly rotates around the patient's body, lightly tapping the hair-thin needles into place. After checking to make sure the patient is rested, and inquiring if there's a specific time they wish to depart, Hannah tends to other patients for twenty minutes up to an hour. Often there is an organic process of feeling "done," which is communicated with a simple nod or look. The treatment is complete when the needles are removed.

"That's about it," Hannah said. "There's a lot more to it as far as all of the theory behind how acupuncture works, and how the channels and organs work together, and how we are influencing those, we hope, with the needles. But it's also really simple."

The universality of pain and healing are evident in the way communication occurs in the treatment room. Whereas some clients have complicated health histories and want to talk about it, "there are others who come in who don't speak any English at all," Hannah said. "But in acupuncture, there are methods of diagnosing based solely on taking the pulse. Or they can just point to their shoulder, and imply that it hurts, and that's enough information to go on for treatment."

Because it offers such widespread relief, community acupuncture also unveils a strong multi-generational aspect.

"We're part of the families' lives," Hannah said. "We often treat multiple generations at one time. The other day we had an older couple come in who are in their 80s. When they woke up, their granddaughter was in the room, and she had come in with her mom. So half the treatment room was one family! Often that will happen. People want to share it with friends and family. It's so cool."

Hannah said there is something magical that happens in a group treatment area that doesn't always take place in a one-on-one setting.

"It's like a group meditation—it's a place that we can get to together that we don't get to by ourselves."

"It's like a group meditation—it's a place that we can get to together that we don't get to by ourselves," Hannah said. "Sometimes you'll see this wave go around the room, and everyone kind of catches the wave. Everyone falls asleep. It's sort of a sleep-slash-altered-healing-state that they go into. Some people wake up and they've been dreaming, and some were just really relaxed. But everyone will go down. And then I won't want to get anyone up," she laughs. "Because as soon as you wake one person up, then the wave goes around the room again, and others will start to wake up, or a few will feel restless. It's priceless. I mean, it's a room full of napping grownups. We don't always have quiet time in our lives like that."

The alleviation of consciousness also suggests that, as Hannah is often asked of her trade—no, acupuncture doesn't hurt.

In the same way that solo treatments can be isolating for clients, practitioners in a private-room practice can also feel detached from the greater acupuncturist community. One of Hannah's favorite aspects of her clinic is its association with the People's Organization of Community Acupuncture, or POCA, which offers technical support for community practitioners including help drafting business plans and an innovative micro-loan program for new clinics.

"We're really fortunate to be a part of this larger movement. It's just awesome," Hannah said. "We have a strong network, and we're constantly supporting each other. I was just on the phone helping somebody who has a clinic in Illinois. When I started here, I had a business mentor through POCA, and now I'm mentoring someone else who is setting up a new clinic in Flagstaff. And so there's this constant process of interconnectedness. It really captures the spirit of the movement."

The reward for all of this hard work is witnessing the positive effects on clients. "We see sometimes that people's lives are really transformed," Hannah said. "The majority of our patients see some relief, and some of them see miraculous results. We work with a lot of fertility patients, which is something that is long-term, and tracked over time. It's fun because now that we've been open for three years, some of those babies that we helped are now two years old and running around."

Hannah shapes her goals for the clinic on community need. Right now, she said, the clinic has outgrown itself.

Hannah shapes her goals for the clinic on community need. Right now, she said, the clinic has outgrown itself. She is currently looking for a space with a larger treatment room and more parking to accommodate the overflow of individuals seeking help. And someday, she would love to have satellite offices around Colorado Springs, which she said hinges on building a team with other acupuncturists.

"The Springs is so spread out," Hannah said. "If the population were more dense, it would be wonderful to have one, big clinic. But that doesn't serve our city." Hannah said many of her clients drive over an hour to get to the clinic. "That's really not sustainable. And they can't come in as often as they want to. I think this area could easily support four community clinics—so we'll see!"

 

Springs Community Acupuncture

2828 West Colorado Ave.

Colorado Springs, CO 80904

P: (719) 464-5211

POCA - People's Organization of Community Acupuncture