I started creating my artwork and marketing materials to reach potential patients who had never tried acupuncture. I started with my midwest relatives in mind. Not all of them. Some of them would happily try acupuncture. A lot of them (and read A LOT because the families were big), would never try it. They have a niece, cousin, and grand-niece who practices acupuncture and can answer all their questions but they would never really grasp it. There was this attitude of, “There she goes again talking about that weird stuff she does.”
What I didn’t get until recently, nor do many acupuncturists, is that there are people for whom acupuncture is so far out of their experience and their life that they can’t even imagine it being for them. This wouldn’t matter except that there are a lot of them. Those same people are often getting a little older and have lots of chronic health problems that acupuncture could help.
Educating them about how acupuncture works, doesn’t work. After all, they know the basics of illegal drugs but that isn’t part of their experience either, really. They’re “normal” people. They are not a Hollywood star, an Asian immigrant, a university professor, a rich person, a well-traveled person. They are just themselves and they may not even know the kinds of questions you would ask an acupuncturist. They don’t know how to form a bond of trust with the medicine.
There is this story that says when the large ships that Columbus sailed to the New World on, the Natives couldn’t see them. It wasn’t that they were invisible, but the tribes had never seen anything like it so their brain didn’t even register these ships. I have no idea if this is true. However, as an acupuncturist, sometimes it feels like people are often blind to the successes of acupuncture because it’s too different for them.
So how to make that connection? Talking to people in their language is a good start. This means that they don’t have to learn anything new to understand that acupuncture can help them. It’s not about educating them to acupuncture, but habituating them to the idea. It’s about reaching them on an unconscious level. That’s what I seek to do with artwork. I’m a huge fan of having acupuncturists who see a broad cross-section of people having familiar touchstones in their offices, so that the office isn’t all about Asian beauty and Feng Shui. Not everyone is comfortable in that setting. Even one picture or a few magazines that speak a common language can go a long way to making the patient feel more at home.
It’s a tough line to walk to be who you are and embrace all that you are as a practitioner and still make that reach over to the person who has trouble accepting it. If the profession is to grow then more practitioners need to offer that helping hand, to show people that acupuncture isn’t just for other people but that it can be for them.