Everyone deserves healthcare and respect.
Ongoing Acupuncture at
Angeline's Women's Shelter
Acupuncture is a powerful healing tool for all communities. That’s why, in 2010, I started providing acupuncture services for the homeless community through the Alternative Healthcare Access Campaign. After our introduction through that program, my colleague, Dina Gosse, L.Ac and I started offering bimonthly sessions at our local shelter. The shift filled up quickly and remained busy over the 7 years, so in 2017, Dr. Lillian Lee and I shifted to offering weekly sessions at Angeline’s Day Center for Women in Belltown.
The Sum of Collective Healing
Acupuncture is an incredibly efficient medicine, which makes it an optimal treatment to provide in shelters. We are able to treat many people in the same space and at the same time, for stress, pain, and a variety of other conditions.
At Angeline’s, we use a small room and stagger our appointments.
When we have patients in all three chairs receiving acupuncture at the same time, we see the effect of healing harmonics: The sum of their collective healing is greater than individual healing. The relaxed vibration in the room is palpable.
Making Health Care More Accessible
I believe that everyone deserves health care, which is why we provide these services. Health is a dynamic thing and all people are on their own journey. My hope for the women in the shelter is for them to feel connected to their own healing potential, to reduce pain, to relieve the intense stress they constantly live under, and to honor them as fellow humans.
We keep our treatments simple yet powerful. Our role is not to be their sole health care provider — we support other healthcare treatments. For example, reducing pain is worth it to that patient, even if the ever-changing conditions in her life may add complexity to the healing process. Mental-Emotional support seems to be the most effective aspect of these treatments. Patients report feeling significantly more relaxed and clear-headed after their acupuncture sessions. It feels good to relax your nervous system. Getting out of fight and flight is important for health. Also, the more you do it, it trains your body how that feels. It creates new patterns in the body.
Empowering Women With Tools Like Meditation
My favorite part of working with these women is when a returning patient tells me a positive story about something in her life that happened since her last visit. For example, one woman told me she followed the guided meditation techniques I taught her to stay grounded and centered. She recalled having a clearer mind to problem solve a difficult situation. She reported not getting swept up in emotion and that was a different response for her. I love hearing the empowerment in women’s voices as they practice these powerful tools. It’s like they uncovered a superpower that can and will deeply support them through tough times. All they need is breath.
Most of the time, our shifts are rather relaxed. Women simply come in and share their symptoms, pain, or health goals. Occasionally, big emotions come up during the treatments. We don’t need to know details of their personal stories (unless they need to share them). We simply sit with them and let it flow. At the end of the treatment or at the next visit, those patients often report a huge shift in pain levels, some internal struggle, or recurrent emotional memory. It is powerful stuff. I love holding space for people to move through things; it’s an honor.
I would like to see our society focus more love and attention on our endlessly growing homeless population. These women (and men) are not different from you and me, other than some unfortunate traumas and hard times. The stigma of mental illness and drug addictions affects all classes of people, not just homeless people. Trauma needs to be healed across the board. Everyone deserves health care and respect. These healing tools could be supportive on a much bigger scale if used.