Today we’d like to introduce you to Justine Myers.
Justine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I would like to preface my story by saying that if it weren’t for some serendipitous events involving other people generously and openly sharing about their experiences with community acupuncture, Acupuncture Together probably wouldn’t exist. I also need to explain a bit about community acupuncture versus private room acupuncture, as I’m sure many readers may be unfamiliar with acupuncture in general and more specifically with these types of practices.
Back in the spring of 2007, just a few months before I was to graduate from acupuncture school, I decided to attend a presentation about community acupuncture by Diana DiGioia of Cape Cod Community Acupuncture. It was a drop-in format for any student who was interested, and it just happened to be between a couple of my classes so I went. I didn’t know much of anything about community acupuncture as it was a new practice model at the time, and Diana’s talk was so inspiring to me. There was a new organization called the Community Acupuncture Network (CAN), an online community of people practicing and interested in community acupuncture. Diana talked about her own practice and the fundamentals of CAN: of breaking down barriers of cost and making acupuncture accessible to as many people as possible. Community acupuncture consists of offering treatments in a group treatment room and a sliding scale typically within the range of $15-40 (at Acupuncture Together it’s $20-40). The average price range of private room treatments in the Boston area is $75-90 today (back in 2007 it was $60-75). By offering treatments in a group room the acupuncturist can work more efficiently and treat more patients per hour than in a private room setting, so a lower fee can be offered per visit than in a private room. There were a small number of community acupuncture clinics in the United States at the time, and just a couple in New England. When you consider that acupuncture works best when received frequently (most patients initially try acupuncture for a moderate to severe condition, so we suggest they initially receive treatment 2-3 times a week for 3-4 weeks), you can see that high pricing can make acupuncture inaccessible to many people. Even a weekly private treatment at the going rate was out of range for too many people. I never wanted to charge patients more than I could afford myself, and I wanted people to be able to get acupuncture as frequently as they needed in order to feel better, so this model made perfect sense to me.
I joined CAN and took a number of continuing education courses to learn about how to treat people in a group setting, which is different than what was taught in acupuncture school. Treating people in a group setting in recliners means people keep their clothes on so we don’t put needles in their backs, hips, etc. Rather than putting needles into someone’s low back to treat low back pain, I can needle points in their hands and ankles, but I needed to learn how to do so before beginning work in a community acupuncture setting. I learned as much as I could, and shortly after graduating I landed a part-time job at Manchester Acupuncture Studio, a community acupuncture clinic in Manchester, NH. That job was a great experience for me to work with patients and also get to know some systems for making a community acupuncture clinic run smoothly.
Before opening Acupuncture Together at the end of May, 2008, I worked briefly with a partner opening up another community acupuncture practice but our partnership didn’t work out. As a young entrepreneur I had envisioned a partnership of shared goals and efforts, but we weren’t working well together. I ended up leaving shortly after opening, while continuing work in Manchester and looking to start another community acupuncture practice on my own.
My first week at Acupuncture Together I gave 7 treatments and I worked alone for 2 years before hiring my first employee; in 2016 I worked with 2 other acupuncturists and 5 desk staff, and together we gave an average of 240 treatments per week. Since opening 9 years ago we’ve given over 80,000 affordable group acupuncture treatments! I feel so fortunate to have a fantastic team working together with me to help so many people. It’s such a joy knowing that what we do makes a real difference in people’s lives by reducing their pain and stress. Many of our patients tell us that they couldn’t afford acupuncture before finding Acupuncture Together, so I’m especially glad that we’ve been able to create this space in our community.
I continue to learn from and share with my colleagues and friends in the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) co-op. POCA is a co-op form of what was once CAN, with membership open to anyone – including patients and supporting organizations, not just acupuncturists. POCA’s goal is to make acupuncture available to as many people as possible and support those providing acupuncture to create stable and sustainable businesses and jobs.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The first couple years, as most small business owners would say, were the hardest. The first year and a half was very slow so that brought on feelings of uncertainty and disappointment. Learning to be an employer and manager has been a work in progress, and employee turnover is always a challenge although I would say I’ve been extremely lucky in finding excellent staff. I also took 2 maternity leaves (2013 and 2015), which from a managerial standpoint was difficult. I ended up having to hire some new acupuncturists before my first leave and then walk away and hope they would keep things running smoothly while I was out (thankfully they did). Last but not least, the horrendously snowy winter of 2015 was very bad for business (not just ours – I think all of Boston was severely impacted by the snow that winter).
Please tell us about Acupuncture Together.
Acupuncture Together is a community acupuncture clinic offering acupuncture in a group treatment room with a sliding scale of $20-40 (plus $15 on the first visit). Our patients pay whatever works for them, no questions asked. We try to make acupuncture as convenient as possible, so our office is open Monday through Saturday with evening hours until 6:45 on weeknights, and appointments are often available on short notice. Online scheduling is available and we also have friendly, helpful desk staff who can answer questions and help make appointments by phone. We’re a general practice and our acupuncturists are experienced in treating all kinds of health conditions, the most common ones being musculoskeletal pain (low back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, sciatica etc. whether related to arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, autoimmune diseases or other causes/diagnoses), stress, anxiety and PTSD, insomnia, infertility, headaches and migraines, allergies, pregnancy support, fibromyalgia and digestive conditions (IBS, IBD, heartburn, acid reflux etc.).
Acupuncture Together is a member of POCA, the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture co-op, and we’re dedicated to making acupuncture as accessible to as many people as we can locally – just as POCA is nationally. I don’t generally like to say I’m proud of anything related to my work because it would imply that I did it all by myself and I didn’t. My colleagues and friends in POCA and CAN have helped me out immensely and the staff who have worked with me throughout the years have all contributed to making Acupuncture Together a welcoming and inclusive space that our patients have come to trust and love. Last but not least, our enthusiastic patients have been supportive in spreading the word about our services to their friends and family. It is truly a collective effort.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I loved going to sleepover camp in the summer. I would dream about returning to camp the whole school year! I also loved going camping with my family. There’s nothing like being out in the woods, swimming in a lake, building a campfire and sleeping in a tent. I’m looking forward to doing the same with my 2 young children in a few years.
- Sliding scale of $35-55 for the first visit and $20-40 for acupuncture follow-ups.
- 10 treatment packages are offered on a sliding scale of $175-350 (add $15 when purchased on the first visit).
- Address: Acupuncture Together
2464 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 420
Cambridge, MA 02140
- Website: https://acupuncturetogether.com
- Phone: 617-499-9993
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AcupunctureTogether/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/acutogether
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/acupuncture-together-cambridge