This year the acupuncture volunteers at VincentCare’s Ozanam House and Quin House have provided 720 acupuncture sessions to clients who are experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of homeless and recovering from addiction.
Acupuncture assists in allowing blood and oxygen to flow through the body, making people more relaxed and feel better, increases physical movement, and in the case of VincentCare clients be better positioned to focus on recovery.
Raeng saw an ad looking for volunteer acupuncturists at Ozanam House. “I was interested and eventually met the team and we had a chat about what is offered to clients. I was keen to get a group session up and running at Quin House. It’s quite rare to do acupuncture in group sessions so I described what I do at my job at St Vincent's Hospital where I work in the De Paul’s withdrawal unit.“
“We set up in the living space at Quin House, where people are seated together in the one room. Clients don’t need to disrobe, the acupuncture points are mainly on the hands and feet and everyone can see everyone else getting treated and hear the advice everyone else is getting,” she says.
Acupuncture treatment is usually conducted in private rooms where the patient can be alone. “In this setting though the group sessions are really useful,” Raeng explains. “For example, if I talk to one person about breathing, I know everyone in the room will be listening so they are acquiring knowledge without being told specifically. Some people might not want to be told directly so it’s a subtle way to get ideas across. It’s an interesting dynamic in a setting where people may not usually be open to acupuncture. Some may say they will come and just watch, but when they see people looking really calm and having a good experience, then they’ll often try it.”
“We work on whatever the guys want to work on at Quin House. Sleep is a big one, but we also work on physical pain, mental health, digestive issues and a range of other complaints”.
“All I can do is look at what is presenting in front of me, we use a holistic approach to balance their body functions as alcohol and drugs change the dynamic of the body. I often talk about yoga or the nutritionist, as they are also available at Quin House and I will try and link it to the treatment discussions where possible to try and show them the other avenues they can access. For example, to focus on the breath work taught in yoga when anxious is a very useful tool."
“I find that people can be a bit nervous at first, they may never have thought of trying acupuncture. I think trying something new, especially something as potentially foreign as acupuncture can be a really good step in creating new habits, and may help someone consider ‘what else can I try that is healthy for me?”
“One of the newer clients was very hesitant to try and he said he didn’t believe in acupuncture; I love the sceptics! He eventually came in to have a look and see what was going on. He looked at me like he’d give it a go and we decided to work on his sleep because if you get good sleep everything else can start to fall into place. Once the needles were in I saw him go into a restful zone. The next week he said he had the best night’s sleep, he now comes every week and he says he will never miss his acupuncture.”