TCM: Five Under Five - Katrina Hanson


Five Under Five is where I ask Katrina Hanson, who has less than five years experience, five questions. Want to be featured? DM me on Instagram.

When and from where did you graduate?


I graduated from the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC), Berkeley in 2016. While in school, I interned at UCSF Benioff’s Mission Bay Children’s Hospital and the San Francisco Homeless Prenatal program, as well as AIMC’s teaching clinic, which allowed me to practice acupuncture in a variety of environments and with a broad spectrum of patients.

What brought you to Chinese medicine?


I came to acupuncture through a love of herbal medicine, sparked by my botanist father who taught me a deep appreciation for plants. I studied public health in college and joined a student group that organized herbal medicine workshops. After working as a caregiver for adults with developmental disabilities, a health educator, and a clinic receptionist, I realized that I wanted to be a practitioner, and for me this meant herbal medicine. I liked the Chinese Medicine diagnostic system, their holistic way of working with a person’s constitution and intricate balanced combinations of herbal medicines, so I started studying at AIMC. I had only had acupuncture once before starting acupuncture school and I didn’t really know if I liked it. I decided that if I didn’t like practicing acupuncture, I’d just study the herbs and skip the rest of the program, but I ended up loving it and I’m so glad I started this journey!

What did you learn most about yourself by learning Chinese medicine?


Growing up, I was often in a caretaker role in my family due to my dad’s health problems. Healing became part of my identity and part of deciding to go to acupuncture school was about wanting to help people more effectively. Through my journey to becoming an acupuncturist, I realized that, like most women in our society, I’d been taught to put others’ needs before my own and to ignore my own emotional and physical health issues. I already knew that LGBTQI and especially transgender folks also learn to avoid doctors because they’re afraid of being mistreated, pathologized, or judged. I learned that the most effective healing is what we give to ourselves, not what is done for us by practitioners. Now, my favorite part of my job is watching people regain ownership of their healing process, reconnect with their bodies, and make positive changes in their lives. I feel honored to be part of a medicine that allows people not just to be taken care of or fixed by others, but to take care of themselves and listen to their bodies. My practice is about healthcare for individuals, but it’s also about healing the system that tells us our well-being isn’t valued and that we shouldn’t prioritize our healing.

Looking back over these first years, what is one skill you feel your education didn’t give you that you wish you had learned?


I think most of us wish we had learned more business skills in school. I specifically wish we had learned more about how to talk to patients about treatment plans and fees. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are such amazing healing modalitites and we should be proud and excited to share the value of our services with patients, but when we don’t know how to do this effectively we can end up feeling or sounding ‘sales-ey.’ I’d like students to learn to talk about how to get the most effective care by following a treatment plan and know that their patients will feel grateful to receive and pay for their amazing services.

What has been your biggest challenge in regards to your practice - and what have you been doing to work through it?


Coming out and being a part of queer community brought my attention to the disparities in access to safe, inclusive healthcare for LGBTQ people and I went into AIMC’s acupuncture program with the intention of focusing in LGBTQ medicine. This continues to be a driving focus of my private practice and the majority of my patients are transgender, queer/LGB, and gender non-conforming, including teens and older adults. I use acupuncture to ease side effects of hormone therapy (such as acne and anxiety from testosterone or stomach problems from spironolactone), improve anxiety, depression, and some gender dysphoria, reduce post-surgical pain and swelling, speed healing, reduce neuropathy and improve sensation, reduce the appearance of scars (including adhesions and keloids), reduce hair loss and restore hair growth, and reduce pain from binding. The most challenging part of my practice is that there is such limited research in trans health, especially in acupuncture and other holisitic modalities. I have to do a lot of research on related areas, like menopause, PCOS, fertility, and other hormone-related issues, as well as research into western standards of care in trans health, and discuss with other pracititioners across the world who are also doing this work so that we can create the most effective treatments without experimenting on our patients. The great thing about Chinese Medicine is that even when we don’t have research available, we can always go back to constitutional treatments based on tongue and pulse diagnosis and know that we are effectively helping our patients.

Bonus: How can people find you online to support your journey?


@prismclinic on Instagram

In addition to maintaining a private practice, I also lead workshops for students, staff, and faculty at Bay Area acupuncture colleges on working with trans patients and approaches for creating an LGBTQI-inclusive practice.

Kenton Sefcik