In Marketplace

Milwaukee Community Acupuncture founders Olive Crane and Amy Severinsen. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska)

In Marketplace

Unlike private practitioners, community acupuncturists treat in a group setting, allowing them to see a higher volume of patients in a day and lower the costs. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska)

Milwaukee Community Acupuncture makes treatments affordable

If you're trying to get in shape, going to the gym once isn't going to do much for your cause. Even monthly visits might not get you the results you're looking for.

Getting healthy is something we need to work at regularly in order to benefit, and herein lies the problem that Amy Severinsen and Olive Crane, two Milwaukee acupuncture practitioners, see with the common model of acupuncture clinics in the United States.

The high price tag often prohibits people from getting ongoing treatments, which is really the key to the needles' success. It's a system that's far from ideal, they say, which is why they're helping to change it.

They open Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, 2915 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., on Sept. 1 to be among the first to offer daily community-style acupuncture to Milwaukeeans. Unlike private practitioners, community acupuncturists treat in a group setting, allowing them to see a higher volume of patients in a day and lower the costs.

Acupuncture originates in China, where to this day, community-style acupuncture remains accessible and affordable to almost everyone. But in the States, it's been translated to long, private sessions that charge -- and charge a lot -- by the hour.

"I've been in business for three years now and one of the problems with it is that I know I couldn't personally afford my own service, and my friends and my family couldn't afford it unless I reduce my rates a lot for them," says Severinsen.

"People usually need frequent treatments to cure whatever it is that's going on, and at $60 or $70 or $100 per treatment, it becomes unaffordable out of pocket. When I found out there was another way to set up a clinic where people could pay less, it just made a lot of sense and it made me really motivated."

Severinsen and Crane, who both graduated from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago, modeled their business after Lisa Rohleder's Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, Ore., the first community acupuncture clinic in the country.

Like Rohleder, they will treat patients in recliners in a large room and charge on a sliding scale of $15-$40. Each person sets his or her own price based on what they can afford to pay each week.

"When I got acupuncture treatments before starting school, my practitioner saw me on a sliding scale and there's no way I would have been able to afford it otherwise," says Crane. "I always thought that was important, because it's what got me interested in the field."

When she graduated in May 2009, Crane spent a month in China studying the practice.

"I realized that the way they practice there is really similar to the community acupuncture model here. I really liked how it felt. Everyone was in a room together and there was this collective healing energy that I was really impressed with."

The idea of collective healing is a big part of community acupuncture and the bonding that results, they say, is far more beneficial to our health than the extra privacy of a personal session.

"A big concern that both of us had was that we'd be reducing the quality of care we're giving someone because we're not able to check in with them and talk with them as much," says Severinsen. "But what I've found in my private practice is that all the talking really cuts into their treatment time and what's most beneficial is sitting there with the needles in, not the talking time."

Milwaukee Community Acupuncture is open six days a week: Monday and Wednesday, 4-8 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and Friday and Saturday noon-4 p.m.


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