NADA 5-Point Ear Protocol Training

Cultural Relativity

Cultural Relativity

NADA provides treatment for a large number of special populations, including people in prisons; parolees; probationers; pregnant women; women and their children; HIV/AIDS; mental health clients; people with ADD or ADHD; Drug Courts; people in Atlanta, Georgia, with sickle cell anemia; people of color; LGBT+; traumatized responders and victims; Irish mothers of sons locked into heroin; Philippine street girls; Brazilian homeless children; and Italian, German, Norwegian, and Danish mental health hospital workers and patients.


These are only a few of the numerous populations of people using acudetox. Breaking down client populations this way is helpful when searching for funding, since foundations have specific target groups in different years.

The NADA Protocol is designed to train two different groups: people who work in addiction and have no background in Traditional Chinese Medicine and people who work in Traditional Chinese Medicine and have no background in addiction. To each the other’s world is foreign and a bit scary, with language and customs that are weird at best.

Most acupuncturists don’t work in community medicine. They follow the cultural norms of America’s middle class medical model: one person in a room with full attention from the practitioner even if only for ten to twenty minutes at a time and at significant expense. A couple of licensed acupuncturists in Portland, Oregon who grew up in a blue collar home rebelled against this model and created a whole new business model called community acupuncture. Lisa Rohleder, one of the cofounders, wrote a book about it called Acupuncture Is Like Noodles. She and her husband started a movement that involves hundreds of people across the country offering low cost acupuncture on a sliding scale from $15 to $40 with no financial questions asked, in large rooms with multiple easy chairs and an attitude of tolerance for family groups coming in together because that’s the culture she and he grew up with. She speaks about the pride felt by working poor who want to pay for their treatments and resent being offered free care. They call themselves acupunks and they revel in being revolutionary. You can learn more about their work at

Sensitivity to socioeconomic dynamics is just part of what we need to be aware of when working as an ADS/EPT. It is easy for us to unconsciously express classism, racism, sexism, ageism, and other insensitive isms without realizing it. Yet words can hurt. One of my dearest friends of over 40 years was telling me about her shopping expedition and said someone had tried to ‘jew’ her down. I was aghast, and told her how shocked I was that she was using that expression. She and I love each other but it was such an oft-heard expression in her community in Chicago she hadn’t perceived the words as derogatory to Jews.

Until someone pointed it out to me, I hadn’t realized my using the expression “I was gypped” was derogatory to Gypsies and of course even the word Gypsy is no longer politically correct as they are properly called Roma or Romani. Squaw is no longer acceptable for a female Native American. It is as derogatory a description as spic for a Spanish speaking person or dago for an Italian-speaking person.

When I was researching my book on preventing birth defects✳︎ I was made aware of the derogatory way we identify people with disabilities and with diseases. I no longer call anyone a “diabetic” but rather “a person with diabetes.” It’s an attitude that comes into conflict with the premise of Alcoholics Anonymous, which forces attendees at meetings to identify themselves as an alcoholic basically for the rest of their lives. That works for some people, and for those for which it doesn’t there are alternatives to AA, which we will learn about later in this course.

When it comes to race, cultural relativity is important and poignantly a matter of life and death. The number of black American males incarcerated is a scandal. People of means get good lawyers and people of means are the legislators who create subtle differences in legal definitions of what constitutes a crime and the punishment for it, so that a person who uses powdered cocaine for decades has had a different outcome to an arrest than a person who used crack cocaine.  Only now legislatures are beginning to change that definition to make the punishment more equitably fit the crime.

The killing of unarmed black youths is unconscionable. And that is the logical end of an ugly spectrum of assaults on people of color that begins with minor insults due to the unconscious racism of a white dominated culture.

Continuously experienced insults and slights, the subtle and not so subtle behaviors of others separate, isolate, and restrict people of color in dozens of different ways economically, socially, and politically in spite of a black President. Social scientists call these experiences microaggressions and they are so common an experience it is no wonder black Americans have high rates of hypertension.

Black Americans develop high blood pressure younger than other groups and have more complications leading to heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and dementia. You might say it is genetic but blacks worldwide have similar rates to whites except not in the US. Here 41% of blacks have hypertension compared to only 27% of whites.

Hypertension is just one manifestation of our racially charged society. In one of my classes a student, male, black, in his 20s, shared that he developed an ulcer from the stress of constantly being exposed to racism even in his supposedly liberal northern city. Women moved away from him and grabbed tighter to their purses as he passed them on the street or in a department store. People sitting in their cars at the curb locked the car as he walked by. These are examples of the microaggression social scientists are talking about.

(Slide 155) One of the most contentious and difficult concepts to accept is “white privilege.” It has to do with being a fish in a bowl of water so you don’t really know water. It’s expecting skin colored bandages to match your skin and so much more.

Here is the personal experience of one woman and her daughter and sister-in-law at a Safeway Market:

There are some more interesting and entertaining snippets on the Internet that deal with the issue of cultural relativity. Let’s look next at a classic from the one and only Muhammed Ali:

We are also going to look at a couple more presentations on YouTube that help us whites see ourselves through the eyes of people of color:

If you have time look at Tim Wise giving one of his popular speeches on white privilege. Since his speeches are at least an hour and sometimes longer so please set aside one evening listening to this or another entire presentation:

✵The Healthy Baby Book: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Birth Defects and Other Long-Term Medical Problems Before, During, and After Pregnancy, Berkley, 1992