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Freedom Center is a sponsor group in MindFreedom International. This newspaper article is about how Freedom Center, which is run by and for psychiatric survivors, offers acupuncture as an alternative to the traditional mental health system.

Easy access to acupuncture, Freedom Center in Northampton offers free treatments

Date Published:

Mar 08, 2006 03:00 AM


Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette

WHEN 28-year-old Jenafer Andren of Northampton began acupuncturetreatments, she wasn’t convinced that sticking needles in her earscould help her with insomnia.

Andren hadn’t been able to sleep for longer than 45 minutes at astretch in over two years, she says. She’d be awake for anywhere from20 minutes to three hours between naps, she says, sometimes sleeping aslittle as two hours a night.

Andren says she’d tried everything:sleeping pills, psychotherapy, sleep clinics at Baystate MedicalCenter, holistic treatments. Nothing worked.

But then came the needles.

A friend recommended she try acupuncture and told her about a freeweekly clinic offered by the Freedom Center, a Northampton-based mentalhealth advocacy group.

Andren says the night following her firstsession she slept for three full hours without waking once. ‘It wasunheard of,’ she says.

She continued to go to the clinicregularly for three months, and then began adding a private weeklysession with the acupuncturist Barbara Weinberg of Leverett. Now shesays she is able to sleep for as many as seven hours at a time. ‘Idon’t have to take naps anymore, I don’t have meltdowns, where I’m sotired I start crying. My overall health is so much better,’ says Andren.

A group approach

The clinic, which is open to the public, takes place every Monday on Center Street in Northampton.

Mollie Hurter, 21, of Easthampton, the volunteer programs organizer atthe Freedom Center, started it last summer after trying acupunctureherself. She says she noticed feeling less depressed and anxious andexperiencing fewer mood swings after the treatments. She says theacupuncture also helped regulate her menstrual cycles.

So, whenshe learned about an inexpensive and easy-to-administer form ofacupuncture suited to groups sessions, she decided to make it availableat the Freedom Center.

The National Acupuncture DetoxificationAssociation (NADA) Protocol was developed through the Lincoln RecoveryCenter in New York City to aid those recovering from drug addiction,says Hurter. It has since been found to ease anxiety, depression,insomnia and severe emotional states as well. It entails stimulatingonly five acupuncture points in the outer ear.

One of theFreedom Center’s goals, says Hurter, is to provide people dealing withserious emotional problems, which can vary from depression and anxietyto schizophrenia, with inexpensive, easily accessible alternatives totraditional psychiatric treatments such as psychiatric drugs.Acupuncture – particularly the NADA Protocol – fits into this mission,says Hurter.

‘The Freedom Center makes it a policy to provideall free services,’ says Hurter. ‘We understand that people come fromdrastically different economic backgrounds, and that often individualswho are the most hurt in the psychiatric system are the people withoutmoney.’

The Freedom Center pays acupuncturist Weinberg withmoney it receives through grants and donations from organizations andindividuals, says Hurter.

Breathe in, breathe out

Comingto the clinic for the first time, newcomers might think they’ve walkedinto a group meditation. The room is silent except for the soft hiss ofdeep breathing and the low murmur of Weinberg’s voice. Fourteen peoplesit in folding chairs set up in a circle so that Weinberg can walkbehind each person to administer the treatment unobtrusively.

‘Breathe in,’ she tells Rachel Hall, 22, of Easthampton. ‘Breathe out.’On each exhale, Weinberg carefully inserts a small stainless-steelneedle into Hall’s right outer ear.

The needles are placed infive acupuncture points, known as the Sympathetic, Shen Men, Kidney,Liver and Lung. Each acupuncture point, says Weinberg, corresponds to adifferent physical effect. The Shen Men, for example, is meant to causea feeling of relaxation, she says.

Weinberg repeats the procedure on the left ear. Then she moves on to the next person.

The needles remain in place for 25 to 35 minutes, during which timeWeinberg asks the people to remain silent. She encourages them tobreathe deeply, close their eyes and focus their energy inward.

She tells them to release tension and stress with each exhale, and usethe time to help their qi (pronounced ‘chi’), which she defines as asort of life force, move through them.

According to Chinesephilosophy and medical views, says Weinberg, qi travels throughchannels in the body as blood does through veins, sometimes approachingthe surface of the skin at certain key points. Acupuncture, saysWeinberg, stimulates the qi at these points, helping it to move throughthe body. When qi does not move, says Weinberg, a variety of physicaland emotional problems, such as aches and pains, anxiety and insomnia,occur.

Ancient procedure

According to the National Centerfor Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)based in Bethesda,Md., acupuncture, which originated in China, is one of the oldest, mostcommonly used medical procedures in the world. The most frequentlypracticed acupuncture technique, according to the Web site, involvespenetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that aremanipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

Regularsat the Freedom Center clinic in Northampton give the treatment highmarks. Like Hurter, Carrie Gilbert of Easthampton says she foundsymptoms of anxiety and depression eased after just a few days of thefirst treatment.

Keely Malone of Easthampton says she was ableto quit smoking after attempting unsuccessfully 10 times in the pastyear, though she admits she needed the treatment more than once a weekto do so.

The NADA Protocol has also helped people cope withvarious forms of psychiatric problems without medication, says FreedomCenter co-founder Will Hall. ‘I don’t want to give the impression thatacupuncture is a magic bullet,’ says Hall, ‘but it does support thenatural healing process of the body.’

Hall was diagnosed withschizophrenia in 1992, and says he has been able to treat his conditionsuccessfully with a blend of holistic alternatives such as diet,acupuncture and yoga.

Although Hall has had whole- bodyacupuncture, he says he also noticed immediate positive effects fromthe NADA Protocol, which he tried for the first time at the FreedomCenter clinic. ‘I was really blown away because it was reallypowerful,’ says Hall, who adds that the treatments calmed him, makinghim less prone to symptoms of schizophrenia.

Restrictive policy

Finding acupuncturists in Massachusetts to administer the NADA Protocol, however, is not easy, says Hurter.

In some states, including New York, Connecticut and Vermont, it islegal for people without acupuncture licenses to administer theprotocol as long as they are supervised by a licensed acupuncturist. InMassachusetts, however, only a licensed acupuncturist can do so.

As a result, says Hurter, relatively few people here have access to the treatment.

‘This is a problem,’ says Hurter, who along with Hall became certifiedto administer the NADA Protocol through the Lincoln Recovery Center inJanuary 2006.

‘If we lived in New York we could treat people,but because we’re in Massachusetts we can’t. And people miss out,because it isn’t really profitable for licensed acupuncturists to doNADA Protocol,’ Hurter says.

Because of this Hurter isdetermined to continue the clinic. She is working to open a second onein Springfield, which will be geared toward helping people addicted tostreet drugs.


The FreedomCenter clinic, which is free and open to the public, meets at 4:15 p.m.every Monday at 43 Center St., Room 202, Northampton..

Moreinformation is available by going to the Freedom Center Web site,, or calling the Freedom Center at 582-9948.

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