Way to practise: volunteering

04 April 2024 | Practice
Julia Davis
Member: London
I have run my own acupuncture practice for 30 years – working from home, in local complementary health clinics and for the NHS in GP surgeries. For most of this time I have also had supervision

The dialogue of supervision encouraged me to keep a check on whether I was feeling isolated in my work and continuing to sustain my best practice – both for my patients and for myself.

Why volunteer?

One of my main motivators to volunteer was to get out of my clinic – to work alongside other practitioners and be part of a team. In spite of my years in clinic, volunteering with World Medicine at a refugee acupuncture clinic has shown me a new and different way of working and practising acupuncture.

World Medicine (WM) are experienced at running and supporting projects in the UK and overseas – their volunteers deliver acupuncture to people who have been affected by disasters, displacement, trauma and poverty. It is good and necessary work.

Using the NADA protocol

Five years ago, I completed a two-day NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) course at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine (CICM), learning about the now widely used five-needle ear acupuncture protocol.

Julia Davies Article Pic

The NADA treatment model was originally developed in New York during the 1970s and proved to be beneficial in helping addicts during their recovery. Over time it became clear that the same treatment was also beneficial for people suffering from trauma, PTSD and mental and emotional symptoms such as anxiety, fear, anger and sadness.

I went on to join WM/NADA GB as a volunteer at the Grenfell Clinics in West London. For two and a half years the clinics saw hundreds of people affected by the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and we were able to focus on supporting people with PTSD, trauma recovery and managing their health. One of the main outcomes was helping people to relax.

Post pandemic WM now runs a clinic at the Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS) Centre in Wapping, East London. We provide a weekly acupuncture clinic for refugees, asylum seekers and staff working at the Centre.

How the clinic works

A quiet dedicated room is set up with a circle of eight chairs. [See safe practice note below.] Dallya, the JRS refugee activities coordinator, manages all the patient communications. Each clinic has two acupuncture volunteers and equipment is provided by WM. The clinic is scheduled for two and a half hours and runs for most weeks of the year.


Everyone remains quiet, and the shared experience has its own power and benefit

People using the JRS Centre are known as Friends. We arrive to find our list for the session – usually 12-14 Friends who are mainly asylum seekers and refugees but may also be staff from the Centre. JRS provide us with a volunteer Friend who supports us by managing the flow of Friends visiting the clinic, who can also access other services at the Centre such as a food bank.

Friends may have been in a detention centre, be living in a hostel or be homeless.  They are in limbo, always waiting for a phone call from the Home Office. Everyone really needs their acupuncture treatment.

There are usually between three and five Friends receiving NADA auricular acupuncture at any one time. The five points are used in each ear. Friends remain fully clothed during the session and may also receive a few distal acupuncture points.

The needles stay in for around 20 minutes – everyone remains quiet, and the shared experience has its own power and benefit. While we do take an initial case history and have a catch-up at each session, this is not a time for many words. Friends soon learn and experience that it is the treatment that does the talking.

Why I keep on doing it

I love coming to the JRS clinics. I get to work with a wide range of practitioners who have different training and clinic practices. I visit a very different area of London. Wapping has cobbled streets, tall old warehouses and there are old waterside pubs to take respite after the clinic. It’s so refreshing to relax, have some social time with a co-worker and watch the river at work.

Being part of a team who delivers acupuncture to refugees and asylum seekers is good work. It has also refreshed me, has become an essential part of my practice and helped to inform me in life.

You can do it too

World Medicine are looking for acupuncture volunteers to join us. Please look at the WM, JRS and NADA GB websites for more information and do get in touch – either with myself or directly with Najma at World Medicine.

World Medicine
Jesuit Refugee Service
Najma najma@worldmedicine.org.uk
Julia jls.davis@btinternet.com

Safe practice note

Hannah Bowie-Carlin: BAcC member & safe practice manager
Whether giving treatment on chairs or couches, the same guidelines apply, as follows:
‘Treatment room furniture must be clean and in good repair. Any furniture which is used for treatment must have smooth, impervious surfaces and be easily cleanable. If treatment is offered to a patient while they are seated, for example, it is important to use chairs which are neither upholstered nor cushioned. All couches must be cleaned at the beginning and end of a session with appropriate disinfectant wipes and any couch covers that are used must be washed as per the guidance on cleaning equipment. All couches must be smooth, impermeable surfaces that can be wiped between treatments. If you wish to use soft fabric couch covers, these must be fully covered with couch roll, and no part of the patient must touch the cover, otherwise this must be a new clean cover between each patient.’
You can find the above and further information in the BAcC’s The Guide to Safe Practice for Acupuncture