I first got into acupuncture after dealing with some health concerns in my mid-twenties. The "normal" treatment options for me (read: pharmaceuticals) had a high risk of side effects and a low chance of success, so I wasn't willing to take them. A friend of mine was in acupuncture school at the time, and she suggested I give it a try.
At first I was... Apprehensive. Truth be told I'm not exactly a "spritual" person, and new-agey stuff kinda freaks me out. I couldn't really see myself going to a guru, or even a "healer." Those words kind of made me cringe, and they still do. Eventually, I got so desperate to feel relief that I was opened to anything.
Thankfully, my wife Shiri was a public school teacher at the time, so we had very good health insurance. Acupuncture was covered for 20 visits per year at a $20 copay per visit. I got the name of a lady who accepted our insurance and stepped into the great unknown.
At first the sessions were miraculous. Not only did I feel completely acu-stoned after each one, but my health problems were getting better quickly. My acupuncturist told me to come 3 times a week and I did, for 6 weeks. By the end I was substantially better, and a big-time acupuncture promoter.
The problem was that at this point, my insurance visits were used up. I was doing so well that I knew I didn't have to continue at a 3 times per week frequency, but I very much wanted to continue the treatment, at least in a maintenance sort of way. I was concerned that I would slip back into my previous state if I stopped going too early. I asked my acupuncturist what to do and she told me her cash rate for treatments was $100. The best she could do is offer me a student rate of $80 per session.
I have to say, i was devastated. I had been sick for a long time, I had lost my job due to my illness (I was working freelance), and I was totally depressed - I couldn't afford $320 a month for acupuncture, not by a long shot.
It was at this point that a couple of things became very clear:
1. I had to go to acupuncture school. Not only was I fascinated by the whole enterprise, I was also out of a job, and looking for a new path now that I was starting to feel better. Also, I could get treated for free at the school clinic as long as I was a student, natch.
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2. I had to come up with a better way of structuring my future acupuncture business. I hated that an insurance company actuary was dictating the terms of my treatment. I also thought that $100 was far too expensive per session. Mind you, this is in NO WAY an attack on acupuncturists who charge that much. I think it's great that people in this city are doing well enough to be able to absorb that kind of out-of-pocket expenditure... I also think it's important that my profession recognizes and appreciates that not everyone can.
3. I had to shake off some of the cliches if I was going to be a part of the medicine. I am not Chinese and I won't pretend to be. I am also not a "healer." Definitely not a Guru!
I knew that there were a lot of other people out there that felt like I did, and I have worked really hard since that time to break down the barriers of entry to acupuncture. I do this because I know how life changing acupuncture can be, and I know that you don't have to "believe" in anything in order for it to work.
The simple fact is that acupuncture is a fast, very effective, affordable treatment option for most ailments, and it's high time that mainstream America was able to benefit from this ancient-yet-ever-changing medicine.