Trauma-Informed Care & Community Acupuncture

(Adapted from a piece by Stef Cordes and Lisa Baird)

“Trauma is a wound. Typically trauma refers to either a physical injury, such as a broken bone, or an emotional state of profound and prolonged distress in response to an overwhelmingly terrifying or unstable experience. Some trauma … heal relatively quickly, some heal slowly, and many influence life going forward, like scars. Scars and trauma do not result in defects or deficiencies; rather they are markers of life experience one has survived.

Trauma Informed Care is a commitment not to repeat these experiences and, in whatever way possible, to restore a sense of safety, power, and self-worth.”

- Trauma informed Oregon

Trauma Informed Care (TIC):

  • Acknowledges the widespread impact of trauma,
  • Recognises the signs and symptoms of trauma,
  • Actively resists re-traumatising people,
  • Tries to promote an environment of safety,
  • Operates transparently and builds trust,
  • Operates with minimal power imbalance between staff & client.

What does this have to do with acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an excellent tool in the recovery from trauma and PTSD, with more research coming all the time (here, here and here) to show just how effective it is. Patients at this clinic, as well as treatment groups at Island Health facilities have given feedback reporting positive results in healing from trauma using acupuncture as part of their recovery.

Acupuncture brings together many physical, mental and emotional benefits because there can be aspects of therapeutic touch, mindfulness mediation and other therapies within every acupuncture treatment.

Community acupuncture is a safer space for healing

Everyone and anyone in our community has the potential to have a history of trauma in their lives. It is almost impossible to be sensitive to every trigger that so many different people may have, so community acupuncture is designed to be safer.

At Nanaimo Acupuncture, clients are rarely alone with a practitioner. Your entire visit is in the open; we have a large, open treatment room and treatment is done in a way that allows everyone to remain fully clothed (as opposed to underpants & gown). We want to foster a soothing community atmosphere, not an overly clinical one. People who are anxious about acupuncture can even bring a friend or family member along with them for the treatment. Whatever support you need to make your treatment comfortable and safe is the support you can use.

Whether or not you choose to discuss any experience with trauma, and whether or not you want to make trauma recovery a primary goal in your care, regular acupuncture treatment can help significantly in healing. We will never ask you to disclose anything you aren’t comfortable talking about - because the work happens inside, you’ll get benefit either way.

Trauma informed care is essentially an extension of universal precautions - treating our clients equally & openly reduces stigma and maintains the respect & dignity of everyone.

Community Acupuncture: no needles in the pain

Over thousands of years of practice, acupuncture has developed into hundreds of different styles all over the world. Some styles treat only one part of the body such as the scalp, ears, hands or abdomen, some require very in-depth intakes for optimal treatment focus, some focus on he body as an energetic system, others only a physical one.

Community acupuncture clinics tend to use styles of acupuncture that allow us to treat the entire body using often only points located below the elbows, below the knees, and sometimes on the head and ears.

The advantage to this style of practice is that we can:

  • Get the exact same therapeutic effect without needling an area that already hurts
  • Treat areas of the body that you don’t want exposed, in private or not
  • Not only treat pain but many other conditions that other needling therapies don’t.
The idea is that acupuncture can promote relaxation, loosen tight muscles, calm the mind & emotions and improve circulation at specific points anywhere in the body from a different area. We want to “guide the pain away from an area” by treating away from the area.

You’re in control

When you come to this clinic, you choose what you can afford to pay on our sliding scale and you decide what you need to be comfortable. We will offer some suggestion as to the length of your stay, and where the needles will be put, but you have the final say.

Whether you want a blanket to cover yourself up, earplugs to drown out snoring, to listen to your own music on headphones, want to keep your socks on, lots of needles or just a few - it’s all up to you. We will discuss how often you should come in for the most effective treatment, but how often you decide to come in is still your choice. We want you to play an active role in your healthcare.

A safe environment is one that is predicable and understandable; if you look around you will always know what is happening, because everyone is treated the same.

Comunity acupuncture is built around respect, compassion and non-judgment

Education in Traditional Chinese Medicine here in Canada usually includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, massage, Qigong exercise, and more. There’s also an expectation these days that one practitioner can have all of the answers, and is able/wants to micromanage your life for your optimal health and spiritual growth.

But I’m just an acupuncturist - I made a conscious decision to focus on how to most effectively use acupuncture to treat people. I know that acupuncture treatment can help with most issues that people have, and that regular acupuncture treatment can be affordable. With regular acupuncture you can often completely treat many health problems.

Maybe we all need a reminder to eat healthy, get a bit of exercise and enough rest, and there’s that reminder. You don’t need another person telling you what to do. You’re coming to this clinic for acupuncture; I hope that you want me to do it well and to focus on getting the best results we can, not thinking about what other services I can offer you.

Too long, didn’t read?

Acupuncture is a great healthcare tool that complements counselling, mindfulness work, and many other therapies and can even make them more effective. Acupuncture doesn’t block pain or shut down how you feel, rather it treats pain by increasing circulation & relaxing tight muscles. It also directly treats and relaxes the nervous system so you can more easily process what you need to.

I’ve worked very hard to make this clinic safe and comfortable for everyone, If you have questions about our clinic and trauma-informed care, please get in touch. I'm open to any suggestions on how to make our space feel safer for you.