From Diplomat to Natural Care Center Acupuncture Intern – One Student’s Story
In this interview, Liana Brooks-Rubin shares her life-changing journey from managing refugee programs in Africa and the Middle East to treating acupuncture patients in Tai Sophia’s student teaching clinic.
MUIH: What drew you to study acupuncture at Tai Sophia?
Liana Brooks-Rubin: My journey to Tai Sophia was a long and winding one. My first career was as a diplomat and humanitarian in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, where I managed assistance programs and helped develop policies related to refugees and conflict victims all over the Middle East and South Asia.
This was my dream job in many ways and it worked well until my husband and I started a family. With two young children at home, I found it more and more difficult to sustain the travel and intensity of this work and, at the same time, I began developing symptoms related (I later learned) to the depletion of my resources, specifically extreme fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia.
My OB/GYN recommended that I try acupuncture to address these issues and I benefitted immediately. My symptoms improved and, more importantly, I started to look very carefully into how I had created and was sustaining a lifestyle that was no longer working for me or my family.
This active process of self-examination, along with a deepening of my long-time yoga and meditation practice, eventually led me to quit my job and brought me to Tai Sophia, where I first dipped my toes into the water in November 2009 at a Redefining Health weekend. I returned home from this weekend knowing that studying acupuncture at Tai Sophia was the next step on my journey and, since then, I have not looked back.
As a graduate student intern at the Natural Care Center, what do you enjoy most about working with clients? I love being present for the self-realizations and transformations, big and small, that take place in my clients each time I see them. And I love the self-realizations and transformations that occur in me each time I treat clients. I am grateful to be both a witness to and a catalyst for these transformations, which have led my clients to an enhanced sense of balance, well-being, and alignment with their true selves, as well as a reduction of their symptoms, including chronic pain, insomnia, migraine headaches, anxiety, and the common cold. And finally, I love that every time I work in the Natural Care Center, I learn something new from my partners, supervisors, and clients about Acupuncture, Chinese medicine more broadly, and the simple wisdom of living in harmony with both our inner nature and what’s occurring outside of us in our external environments.
How do clients benefit from a team care approach, in which they are cared for by a faculty supervisor and a graduate student intern?
Our clients benefit from a team care approach because in every treatment several hearts and minds come together in order to collectively design an appropriate, beneficial, and individualized treatment plan for the client. By “treatment plan,” I mean a decision about which acupuncture points to place needles in. More generally, I refer to the thoughtful discussions between student practitioner, student partner, and faculty supervisor that inform broader long-term treatment goals, lifestyle coaching, dietary recommendations, and other ways to support our clients. Many clients say that the best part about coming to the Natural Care Center is having multiple people in one space wholly committed to their health and well-being. Most of my clients report that they are not accustomed to the level of attention, love, and care they receive in the Natural Care Center and this aspect of their experience usually is an integral part of their healing process.
What are the top 3 questions clients ask you during treatment and what are your responses?
1) “How does acupuncture work?”
Much like the way rivers flow through the terrain of the landscape, subtle energy flows through our body guided by our anatomical structures. In our bodies, these ‘rivers’ are called meridians that connect into an interrelated whole all aspects of ourselves, from the physical to the mental and spiritual. Through the insertion of very thin needles into points along the meridians, acupuncture treats imbalances in our system that typically are created by one or more of the following factors: physical trauma, poor diet, stress, emotional difficulties, or toxins in the environment.
2) “Can acupuncture help alleviate my physical symptoms (e.g., back pains, headaches)?”
In a word, yes. And yet, this is not the only possible benefit of acupuncture. Acupuncture is one of the most ancient forms of healing known to humankind and is considered a complete medical system that is holistic, safe, and effective. When I use the word “healing,” it is shorthand for my belief in every person’s natural and innate capacity to move from imbalance to balance or from dis-ease to greater ease. Along the way, the healing process can result in the alleviation of symptoms or simply in a growing awareness that we need to make changes in our lives.
My intention with each and every treatment is to help clients identify which specific habits, thought patterns, or lifestyle choices might have given rise to and/or be exacerbating their symptom(s) and, in so doing, to facilitate greater understanding of themselves. The selection of acupuncture points is designed to reinforce this intention; the needles are used to remind clients what they already know innately about achieving and maintaining greater harmony within themselves and between themselves and their external environments. Most recipients of acupuncture (myself included) have experienced not only an amelioration of the condition(s) for which we initially sought acupuncture, but also greater awareness of what it would mean to live in alignment with our deepest selves and which obstacles (self-created and otherwise) we need to identify and do something about if we are to manifest our full potential.
3) “How often should I come in for treatments?”
We usually tell clients that they should come weekly for the first 4-5 weeks for general clearing and balancing treatments, which are necessary before we start to work on a deeper, more individualized level to address their constitution, as well as their specific imbalances and symptoms. After the initial few treatments, how often clients come in depends upon their reason(s) for seeking treatment and also depends upon whether they make other changes in lifestyle (e.g., diet, relationships, work situations, etc.) to support their acupuncture treatments. Some clients continue to see our team every week as part of their regular self-care routines, while others come less frequently for “tune-ups,” or as needed to support specific issues as they arise.
Liana Brooks-Rubin can be reached at and 301-655-4139.
Learn more about the Natural Care Center’s team care and private care services in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine, and Nutrition.