At Roxborough Community Acupuncture, lead practitioner Dave Schiman has made the Chinese healing art of inserting tiny needles into energetic pressure points affordable for his neighbors.
Tucked away on the second floor of a chiropractic practice straddling the border between Roxborough and Manayunk, the community acupuncture clinic welcomes patients with soft music, warm lighting, friendly volunteers and a payment scale that slides from $15 to $40.
During his formative years as a private practitioner, Schiman saw too many clients turned away from the healing potential of acupuncture because treatment prices were high – often costing clients $80 or $90 per session out-of-pocket. As a result, patients would either avoid giving acupuncture a try at all, or would spread treatments out too much and undermine the full potential benefit.
“When I heard about the community acupuncture movement,” Schiman said, “ it just made so much sense to me.”
Using this model, patients are scheduled every 15 minutes for a diagnostic meeting with one of the clinic’s certified practitioners and then receive treatment in a communal setting.
“In the medical system, we can often feel alone,” Schiman explained.
The group environment allows patients to feel a shared sense of circumstance and purpose that Schiman believes contributes to successful healing.
“A lot of the symptoms are coming from stress or from pent up emotions,” he said. “I have had some people – police officers – who have been through trauma, who sleep better here than at home.”
In contrast to the paperwork-and-medication intensive style of contemporary Western medicine, staff practitioner Melissa McConnell observes that her patients appreciate being heard.
“There is a beauty of not rushing, of just being with that patient and listening,” said McConnell.
The efficiency of the community model enables Schiman to charge such low fees. He estimates that he now sees four or five times as many patients – between 80 and 100 individuals – as a typical private practice weekly. To ease the pressure of such high volume, Schiman has volunteers who help run the clinic, further contributing to the neighborhood focus of the practice.
“This is the one place in my life where it is always peaceful, it’s always quiet,” said volunteer Alyson S., who preferred to not be fully identified. “Everything is fixed, all the pieces are back together. It’s the most relaxing, amazing feeling.”
– Text and images by Victoria Marchiony and Alison Vayne.