What to Expect on a First Visit


You’ve been thinking about coming in for an evaluation and treatment and decide to schedule an appointment.  You are delighted to realize that convenient online scheduling is available with a click. Finding an appointment time that works with your schedule is easy and available 24 hours a day.  You decide to download the new patient forms and fill them out at home and have them ready for your first visit with Dr. Stephens.

You were thinking about driving downtown and are glad to know that there is 90-120 minute parking all around the building and an inexpensive Smart Park two blocks north of the office (on 10th, between Yamhill and Morrison).  But when you realize that the office is about one block from both the streetcar and the MAX line, and just a few blocks up from the bus mall, you decide to relax and come on public transit.

When you arrive, he greets you personally and you realize that Dr. Stephens usually runs on time for his appointments, which you appreciate.  You present your insurance card along with your forms, take a seat and peruse a magazine while he reviews your intake.  You notice the large display of Chinese herbs behind the front desk and realize that he is an herbalist in addition to being a well-recommended acupuncturist.  After a few minutes, he escorts you back to one of his treatment rooms.  The spacious room with large windows, Asian art, and beautiful views of Portland pleasantly surprises you.  His warm manner puts you at ease.  

He asks you about your chief concerns and also about many other aspects of your health and well-being.  He explains that sometimes seemingly unrelated problems or minor complaints are often tied together in the diagnostic understanding of Oriental medicine. After answering his questions and him answering any questions of yours, he may suggest that in order to do an exam of your areas of concern that you change into a gown.  He leaves the room to allow you to change and to wash his hands.  

When he returns, he invites you to lie on your back on the treatment table and relax.  One of the first things that he may do is to feel your pulse at your wrists.  He seems to take a long time doing it and he examines the pulse at both wrists.  When you seem puzzled, he explains that he is doing Chinese pulse diagnosis, which evaluates the pulse in several positions on both wrists in order to get a sense of how your system is functioning, beyond just the rate of your heartbeat.  Then he may ask you to stick out your tongue for another traditional examination.  He notes the color, conformation, and coating, which give him additional clues as to your overall health.  Next, he often touches your abdomen or back for areas of tension or discomfort.  Many of these areas also give him clues into your overall health and insights into your particular concerns.  Then he may look at or touch any particular physical sites of concern to help him evaluate them.

Putting all of this information together, it weaves a pattern for him of just what may be at the root of what is bothering you.  Or in the case of someone coming in for a well-care visit, it will inform him of the areas that are slightly out of balance that he can address to give you the tune-up that will help you to keep feeling your best.  

He will then let you know that he is ready to begin the treatment phase of your visit. You tell him that you are feeling a little apprehensive and he reassures you that he has worked with all sorts of people and can tailor the treatment to your comfort. He furthermore lets you know that the acupuncture needles are very thin, like a hair, and shaped differently than a hypodermic needle, and so do not hurt like them, and that most people are pleasantly surprised at how easy the insertion of them is.

He begins and you are surprised how easy it is.  After he has completed putting them in, he will usually suggest you rest with them in for several minutes.  He makes sure you are comfortable and then says he is going to let you rest and relax and let the acupuncture do its work.  And while at first you think the idea of relaxing with needles sounds preposterous, you are quite surprised by the growing sense of relaxation that starts to wash over you as you comfortably lie on the treatment table.  It’s one of the most unexpected but most enjoyable aspects of receiving acupuncture.  Some patients refer to their treatments as “mini-vacations” and find that they are useful for any kind of chronic stress they are suffering under, because of this wonderful effect.  

You seem to drift off and before long Dr. Stephens reenters the room and removes the acupuncture needles and lets you know that you are done.  Sometimes he may suggest a Chinese herbal formula to augment the effects of your treatment. He leaves you to get dressed and then meet him at the front desk to arrange payment and schedule your next appointment.

He lets you know that you may or may not feel immediately better after the first treatment to some degree.  Many people do experience positive changes after their first treatment but if you don’t, it is not indicative of it not working.  Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is a process; it’s like a re-education for your system that can take a while to generate the change that you want.   

You leave feeling relaxed, centered, and pleased that you sought out Dr. Stephens’ help.  You’re glad to know that you can always call him if you have questions or concerns about your treatment. You look forward to your next appointment and are glad you took this step toward feeling your best.