Lessons Learned in Clinic Theatre (Part I)

Healing TraumaThis summer I started my journey as a clinical intern. The school that I attend has a really amazing student clinic where patients can schedule appointments that are affordable, and qualitative. Each patient gets a full 90 minutes, which includes an intake, herbal consultation, and acupuncture treatment.

In order to be an intern, I had to take nearly 100 credits over the last two years– many days and nights have been spent agonizing over tests and grades. Getting here, at one point, felt impossible. Now that I’m halfway finished with the program, I’d like to offer some insight on a particular class that’s been one of the most helpful along the way. I hope this will prove helpful for anyone and everyone interested in holistic health.Before I started this graduate program, I poured over the student handbook for months in advance. The photographs and descriptions of each class really got me pumped as I prepared for a huge life change to move across the country. Most acupuncture schools have a course where students get to observe, and apply their skills before heading into their internships. Come to find out, many of them refer to this as Clinic Theatre. Now, as a long-time theatre practitioner, I geeked-out about this opportunity! To combine holistic health and the arts is basically my thing, so you can imagine how excited I was to start :)

At my school, there are three levels of clinic theatre. I’ve gone through the first two, and will share what I’ve learned so far. Clinic Theatre 1 was all about observation, and listening. It was a time when we really got to polish the four essential TCM diagnostic skills, which involve looking, listening, asking, and tongue/pulse “reading”. Our instructor gently introduced us to the clinical stage, so to speak. The placement of seemingly mundane objects like chairs, blankets, gowns, heat lamps, a medical kit, and treatment table was, in fact, very intentional. These objects were like props which helped to set the scene, tell the story, and provide a visual timeline.

When you start clinic theatre, there is little participation as an audience member– but there is much to gain from witnessing a dialogue between the patient and the practitioner. Once they rap for a bit the tables turn, and the instructor turns to ask if there are any questions for the patient. Then the whole thing becomes more interactive, or as we theatre nerds like to call “applicable”. It’s a strategy that Augusto Boal utilized and developed in the creation of Theatre of the Oppressed. By turning the tide from an exclusive one-dimensional observation to an inclusive multi-dimensional experience, it shifts the perceptions of the actors (read: patient and practitioner), and the audience/spectators (read: students)– they merge, and in this unity both become more open to the possibility of creating real-time collaborative solutions.

Thanks for reading! It’s been so helpful to reflect on classes that I’ve taken. I find that it keeps me inspired, providing just the motivation I need ;) I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. I’m off now to read about Chinese nutrition!

In solidarity,




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