General FAQ

How does your school schedule work exactly? This module thing is kind of confusing.

POCA Tech has 4 types of instruction:

1. In-person classes. These happen in our classroom in Portland. Each student cohort meets for 4 days a month, 10 months of the year, for three years.  The modules take place Saturday through Tuesday, 9 am to 5 pm, so you will spend 28 hours a month in class or 280 hours a year, for three years. So for example, Cohort 1 meets from the first Saturday of the month through the following Tuesday, Cohort 2 meets from the second Saturday of the month through the following Tuesday, etc. 

2. Online classes. Ten modules are delivered via distance education, and do not require physical presence in Portland. These generally happen in the months of January and August, with a few more scattered throughout the three-year program. The catalog details when these occur.

3. Biomedical co-requisite classes. 420 hours of science. Many students take these before applying to POCA Tech; others take them concurrently during the first two years. You can take these at any accredited institution, including online.

4. Clinical training, which consists of 210 hours of Observation spread over 3 years, and 500 hours of Clinical Internship during the second/third year. This training is individually scheduled. At this time you must plan to move to Portland OR in order to do your clinical internship for at least 1 1/2 years. Exactly how long your clinical training takes will depend on a variety of factors, including your availability and the availability of clinic shifts.

Do people work at the same time as going to school?

Yes, almost all students do. The POCA Tech program is designed to allow people to keep working by condensing class time into four days a month and keeping the class schedule consistent over three years. That said, it’s VERY demanding to balance work, class time, homework, co-requisities, and clinical training.

Is this a 3 or a 4 year program?

The POCA Tech program is designed to be done in 3 years but you can take as long as 6. It all depends on how you balance the demands of completing the classroom work, the co-requisites and your clinical training with the demands of your life.

Can I transfer to POCA Tech from another acupuncture school?

No. All students have to start at the beginning of the program. POCA Tech cannot offer transfer credits for any acupuncture school classes except biomedical classes, provided that the acupuncture school was accredited.

Why do POCA acupuncturists call themselves punks?

The short answer is in this abstract for an article written for the Journal of Chinese Medicine, Making Buckets from Ming Vases:

Community acupuncture – as practiced by self-styled ‘acupunks’ – is a radically different vision and philosophy for the practice of acupuncture in the West. Patients are seen in a group setting, which allows for treatment to be conducted via a high-volume, low-cost sustainable business model. Spa settings and excessive Chinese medicine theory are unnecessary with such a model of treatment, as the needles do all the necessary work. This article describes the vision, aims and underlying philosophy of the community acupuncture movement.

The long answer is in our free ebook: Punking: the Praxis of Community Acupuncture.

Is POCA Tech accredited?


Will there be other campuses of POCA Tech at some point?

We would love that. We're working on it. At this time, the only campus is in Portland.

Now that POCA Tech is accredited, will you be offering a Master’s degree instead of a certificate?

No. We offer a certificate rather than a degree for philosophical reasons, and our philosophy hasn’t changed. The POCA Tech Master’s Certificate in Acupuncture is for all intents and purposes, as far as we know, equivalent to a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture because it meets the same ACAOM standards.

Now that POCA Tech is accredited, will you be offering federal financial aid?

No. POCA Tech has a commitment to try to keep program costs under $25,000, and oddly enough, offering federal financial aid would torpedo that plan. Significant administrative infrastructure is required to offer federal financial aid, and we’ve been advised by knowledgeable people that getting into the business of student loans could cause our tuition to double. So far, a number of POCA Tech students have managed to get through school with a combination of saving and working and payment plans in the vicinity of $500 a month; doubling our tuition would put an end to all that and require the majority of students to take out loans to go to POCA Tech.

It’s similar to the reason that the community acupuncture model is designed to run without insurance billing; once you get a third party involved, everything gets much more expensive, and you also end up dependent on that third party. In an effort to save people money, you can end up charging them more and sacrificing your own independence.

What form of acupuncture do you teach?  TCM, Classical, other?  

The purpose of our program is to teach students to handle a high volume of patients. There are a lot of people out there who need acupuncture; people are literally dying for lack of access to non-pharmaceutical pain management. There’s no one right way to do acupuncture, and one of the most important attributes for a practitioner in a high volume setting is flexibility. Therefore, what we teach is 10 different approaches to acupuncture: auricular, scalp, Miriam Lee’s Great 10, Eight Extraordinaries, Jingei, Balance Method, Master Tung, Dr. Tan’s 12 Magic, Korean 4-Point, and TCM. We want our graduates to cultivate flexibility and to have a range of options.

I really like the concept of community acupuncture, but come on, isn’t private room acupuncture actually better/more effective/more appropriate for complex problems?

There is no research that shows any type of acupuncture is better than any other type, either in general, or for certain types of problems. What research there is on acupuncture efficacy suggests that the most important factor is frequency of treatment. Some individuals may prefer to receive private room acupuncture; some individuals may prefer to receive community acupuncture; some individuals may get better results from specific kinds of acupuncture treatment (local, distal, long needle retention, short needle retention). Humans are very diverse, and there’s a big range of possible responses to acupuncture, from “no thanks” to “meh” to “utterly life changing”. This is true no matter what style of acupuncture you use. There are things you can’t provide in private room acupuncture that you can provide in community acupuncture, and vice versa. However, if you truly believe that community acupuncture is an inferior/reductive version of private room acupuncture, do not apply to POCA Tech; you will not be able to learn what this program is designed to teach.

Please describe the racial demographics of the faculty and the student body.

During the Spring 2019 semester, there were 8 permanent faculty members and supervisors and 34 students enrolled. Of the faculty and supervisors, 8 of the 8 (100%) identify as white. Of the students, 28 of the 34 (82%) identify as white, and 6 of the 34 (18%) identify as a race other than white or as multi-racial.

Is POCA Tech a “social justice” school?

As we noted on this page, POCA Tech is a technical school which offers a Master’s level certificate rather than a Master’s degree. POCA Tech is not just a cheaper way to go to acupuncture school; it’s designed for people who want to do a very specific job in a very specific context. This job might or might not line up with prospective students’ idea of “social justice”, which can mean different things to different people. POCA Tech isn’t trying to be a social justice school, it’s trying to be an acupuncture school that serves the needs of the POCA Cooperative.

So when we talk about social justice, solidarity, and Liberation Acupuncture at POCA Tech, what do we mean?

Liberation Acupuncture affirms that the value of acupuncture is in its practical usefulness to people who are suffering. Or, as Ignacio Martín-Baró wrote, "True practice has primacy over true theory”, or what you do is more important than what you say. Liberation Acupuncture requires people willing to do the difficult, demanding job of providing acupuncture to lots of people who otherwise couldn’t afford it; the POCA Cooperative needs a workforce. Our goal at POCA Tech isn’t to do a good job of teaching social justice, it’s to do a good job of preparing students to work in POCA clinics -- those aren’t, actually, the same thing.

POCA Tech’s curriculum includes topics like the social determinants of health and the effects of structural violence because we think students need a basic grasp of those issues in order for them to do a good job of treating the people who walk through the door of a community acupuncture clinic. Some of the most marginalized people in the healthcare system are people dealing with chronic conditions and particularly chronic/persistent pain.  Community acupuncture clinics are designed with their needs in mind and POCA Tech spends a lot of energy preparing students to treat those people.

We also think it’s important for students who are studying the “tech” of community acupuncture to understand who is originally responsible for developing that technology: the Young Lords and the Black Panthers, the laypeople behind the occupation of Lincoln Hospital. If it weren’t for their work, the concept of community acupuncture -- the idea of using acupuncture to meet the needs of a marginalized community -- wouldn’t exist. Community acupuncture was designed as an expression of solidarity, not charity.

That said, POCA Tech is still about training students to do a specific job in a specific context. People who are good at that job might be political or apolitical, conservative or progressive, libertarian or anarchist. Someone who identifies as an activist might be happy at POCA Tech, or they might not. You don’t have to espouse any particular political ideology to apply to POCA Tech. If your politics lead you to want to treat a lot of people who need acupuncture, that’s wonderful. If you’re not political at all and you just want to treat a lot of people who need acupuncture and who don’t have a lot of money, that’s fine with us too. (Just please don’t argue with us about where the concept of community acupuncture came from, or that structural violence exists and affects our patients.) Mostly we care that you get the concept of mutualism. Our goal is to prepare you to make access to acupuncture a real thing for a lot of people, not just a lofty ideal. If that’s the hard, unglamorous, un-theoretical work you want to do, POCA Tech might be the right school for you.

About Away Clinics

What’s the Away Clinics project?

It’s a pilot project that’s under review by ACAOM. On a limited basis, POCA Tech is being permitted to offer a portion of clinical internship at qualifying POCA clinics outside of Portland OR.

Where are those Away Clinics?

We have the green light for two Away Clinics: Providence Community Acupuncture in Providence, RI and Wasatch Community Acupuncture in Salt Lake City, UT. We expect to begin clinical internship training for approved students at both these clinics in 2019.

Wow, that’s great, when can we add more locations?

When we demonstrate that the pilot locations comply with ACAOM requirements and ACAOM approves us to expand. We have to see how the project goes in RI and UT first. We would love to add more locations when the time is right and more clinics are ready.

I’m a prospective student and I want to do this! I can find clinical preceptors in my home state!

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works with acupuncture education. Students can’t go out and find their own preceptors by themselves; there’s a significant process involved. First, POCA Tech has to get an educational license in the state in question. Second, there has to be a qualifying acupuncturist (at least 5 years’ experience) available, who is also willing to come to Portland to be trained as a supervisor. Third, the clinic -- which must be a member clinic of the POCA Cooperative -- has to apply and be approved by POCA Tech as an internship site. And finally, ACAOM will have to approve any expansion of the pilot project beyond RI and UT.

Where can I get updates on the Away Clinics project? (If I send you emails every 10 minutes, will that make the process go faster?)

We post announcements about Away Clinics on the POCA forums, in this designated thread. If anything significant happens, we promise we’ll post something there right away. But at this point there is nothing anybody can do, not even sending us emails every 10 minutes, to make things go any faster. Please keep an eye on that forum thread. We’re a small school with a small staff and when prospective students keep themselves informed by reading the forums, it saves us a lot of time. And if you have follow up questions about this FAQ, please post them there! Thanks.