The community health care model aims to provide access to high quality and affordable services based on community needs. Community health care can improve the general health and wellbeing of a community. Research suggests there is a heightened benefit to creating opportunities for communal healing space. These benefits which include building empathetic capacity as well as opportunities for social development through inclusion and engagement with others. Using this concept, community/group acupuncture is based on using the skills of highly trained practitioners in a communal space to treat many people effectively.
Linked to group healing is the concept of mirror neuron. Mirror neuron is the mirroring of a behaviour of another person. In its simplest form contagious yawning is considered an example of a mirror neutron action. Science believes contagious yawning demonstrates social bonding and empathy. When we yawn, others yawn. Similarly, when we heal we can lead others to heal. Consider the role mirror neurons can play in a group healing scenario, including community acupuncture.
Back in 2012 when I started my journey as a Chinese Medicine Practitioner I had a vision for acupuncture to be accessible to all (which I now offer through seasonal Yin & Pin sessions held all over Melbourne).
I set out to find a way I could engage and learn from practitioners who shared the a similar vision.
Prickle Community Acupuncture was a clinic in Richmond which aimed to provide acupuncture to help disadvantaged and low income members of the community. The benefits of acupuncture for chronic pain, digestive complaints, sleep, mental health, and women’s health is well documented, however, as Prickle identified some people weren’t able to access the benefits of the practice for any number of reasons. The highly trained, humble and dedicated team at Prickle showed me the powerful impacts of allowing disadvantaged people to access affordable acupuncture. The team at Prickle were committed to providing a service that was inclusive and not dependent on income, education, cultural background or belief.
After my volunteering experience at Prickle I was well on my way to learning more about community health care, accessible acupuncture and the benefits of group healing. I wanted to acquire more knowledge. Since my time at Prickle I have travelled to Sydney, China, Taiwan and Indonesia to learn more on the subject.
In Sydney at Experience Acupuncture, I saw other practitioners offering high quality, affordable acupuncture and using group acupuncture in the management of chronic pain. In China and Taiwan I volunteered and engaged in hospital settings where patients sat next to each other while having acupuncture. Sometimes the small consultation rooms were packed with over twenty people. When I volunteered in a small Indonesian community, the patients would come in groups of three often all presenting with a similar condition. They would want to be treated together in the same room and would often hold hands.
Of course here in the west, we have a very different idea of what our acupuncture experience should be. However, I have learnt to adopt some of these methods to suit my vision and practice. As acupuncture facilitates one’s body to heal itself, an open space can also allow for energies to freely flow between all living things in the space, encouraging group healing. Healing/talking circles are deeply rooted in the traditional practices of indigenous people. First-Time Parents Groups increasingly acknowledge the value of social interaction and social inclusion for first time parents, with research supporting why the Government has funded the group program since 1994. Numerous studies into Alcoholics Anonymous established long ago, that individuals seeking help for alcohol problems, the group involvement is associated with short and long term decreases in alcohol consumption, and overall better outcomes on alcohol-related, psychological and social measures.
So consider a community you belong to. A community not restricted to just a geographical location but rather a group of people connected by a common interest. Some examples might include a community of artists, a community of new parents, a school community, a community of choir singers or a yoga community. Consider how you feel when you engage with this community and the benefits to your health and wellbeing. Chances are you probably feel very connected, included and understood when you are with the group. It is this feeling of connection, inclusion and understanding that we harness in community acupuncture.
Providing health care to those who can’t afford it is such an important and generous service. Good on you Jane. Mirror neurons are such a cool aspect of human and animal psychology . I hadn’t considered their role in helping people heal before, very interesting idea.