Lauren Barrett joined my practice about a year ago, and I am absolutely thrilled to work with her and share my practice with her. Lauren is one of the most compassionate, kind, and gifted healers I know. We have a very similar educational background and healing philosophy, but Lauren also brings expertise in and a passion for visual arts to her approach to traditional Chinese medicine. Fascinated by the body’s innate ability to heal, she practices to facilitate that process of healing in others through a holistic and integrative approach. Lauren incorporates many modalities, including acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, cupping, Gua sha, and is certified in Aroma-acupoint therapy. She regularly works with women’s health and fertility, gastrointestinal problems, emotional conditions, such as stress, anxiety and depression, and acute/chronic pain conditions. Lauren is committed to providing a supportive, comfortable, and empowering space.
Lauren answered a few of my questions so you all could get to know her a little better–perhaps before your next acupuncture appointment with her!
Jen Becker: Tell me about your background and how you came to acupuncture and traditional Chinese healing techniques
Lauren Barrett: Growing up, my parents were both a chiropractor and a nutritionist and integrative health care has always been an important part of my life. In my personal healing journey, I found there was a lack of complete care available in allopathic medicine when it came to supporting women’s health. I grew up in a family of four women and was eager to find a holistic approach to caring for ourselves, which led me to further study both the Western and Eastern sides of women’s health. I was drawn to the holistic and thorough nature of Chinese Medicine and its view of a person, mind and body as an interconnected whole. While I was studying visual arts and psychology, I was introduced to Acupuncture and found that this medicine married my love and interest in art and psychology with science and medicine. I have always been inspired by the wisdom of our bodies, minds, and of nature, and I love how Chinese medicine truly honors and works with this.
What I found most intriguing about Acupuncture was how it can make people feel at home in their bodies. Experiencing this in the treatment room truly inspires me.
JB: As you mentioned, you studied visual art and psychology—how do those fields inform your healing practice?
LB: My practice as an artist helps me to look at cases and treatments creatively and critically. It also helps to cultivate my intuition and curiosity. For myself, the holistic thinking involved in art making translates well to the theory and thinking involved in Chinese Medicine as well as the investigative curiosity that inspires a desire for deeper understanding in both medicine and art. Studying psychology provided me with an understanding of how our minds work and the importance of our emotions and mental health. I believe that both of these together created a foundation of skills and knowledge that support my work as a practitioner.
JB: What’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have about acupuncture and eastern healing?
LB: One of the biggest misconceptions that I have come across is that if there isn’t relief in one session, the treatment didn’t work. Depending on how long the patient has had the condition, it may take a series of treatments to start seeing results. Unlike common interventions like pharmaceuticals that address symptoms, acupuncture aims to address the root of the conditions rather than the symptoms alone, or what we refer to as the branches. Acupuncture sessions have a cumulative effect and build on each other with time. I often communicate to my patients and those asking about acupuncture that healing work takes time and patience, requires a commitment from both the practitioner and the patient, and that it is not linear.
JB: What’s one of the most common issues you deal with as a practitioner?
LB: One of the most common issues I see in New York is stress and anxiety and the many different ways that they can manifest in the body. In a city where production and ‘go go go’ is the expectation and reality, our bodies usually end up signaling for help. Although that looks a little different now during the pandemic, there are still lasting as well as new presentations of chronic stress and anxiety that are present. Commonly, I see this show up as trouble sleeping, GI disturbance, irregular menstrual cycles, chronic muscle pain and tension, skin conditions and many other ways. I also specialize in women’s health and reproductive care and regularly support women either struggling with irregular, painful cycles, PCOS, endometriosis, or trying to conceive either naturally or through ART.
JB: How have you been staying sane, positive, and balanced during COVID-19 and the social upheaval of the last few months? Any tips?
The last few months have been trying, to say the least. The most foundational practice has been taking care of my basic needs like staying hydrated and eating nourishing foods, getting decent sleep, and practicing mindful movement, that way I have the resources I need to go about my day. Besides that, I have found a lot of solace in connecting with nature whether through walks or hikes, caring for my house plants, or growing new ones. Listening to music or singing and creating art have been helpful too. Sometimes I like to put on a song that matches how I am feeling and then close my eyes and dance/move along however my body needs and let whatever comes up, come. Art therapy has also played a big role in my sanity and peace of mind. A few others are reevaluating what being productive looks like, boundaries with social media, news and screen time, connecting with friends and loved one, practicing being gently with myself, and offering help to the community in the ways I am able.
Tips I recommend to anyone struggling or looking to stay balanced is to take care of your basic needs and then find practices that feel right to you and make you feel connected to yourself and other and help you to process what this experience is bringing up for you, whether that’s art making, being in nature, baking, learning something new, etc. Virtually working with a therapist is a great way to process difficult experiences and support mental health always, and especially in these times.
I speak on this from a place of privilege and acknowledge that for far too many people, this time has threatened their ability to meet basic needs such as access to food, housing, and healthcare. If you are in a position to provide help to the community, offer support by researching groups in your are and donating resources to those in need if you are able.
JB: Do you practice any other forms of healing other than acupuncture?
LB: I do! I also practice Reiki and am currently Reiki II certified. Reiki is another type of energy therapy that works with our energetic system. Similar to acupuncture, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes deep relaxation to help the body self-heal.
JB: What does self care mean to you? Do you have a self care routine?
LB: I love the topic of self-care and it has become something sacred to me over the last year. I covered a lot of this in the earlier question! For me, self-care is putting practices into place that honor my health and wellbeing, protect my peace and joy, and make room for self-expression. Sometimes that can be simply staying hydrated and doing things to make my life easier like packing a nutritious lunch the night before an early day or wearing comfortable shoes when I know I have a long day on my feet. Other times it might be more difficult and look like practicing setting boundaries with family and friends, taking time to regularly rest, addressing uncomfortable feelings and situations, and doing things simply because they bring me joy or help to process and explore emotions like listening to music, singing, painting, drawing, and being in nature.
Lately, I have been shaping my self care practices around my menstrual cycle which is something I may also discuss with my menstruating patients. I adjust from week to week and as the day goes on, but just about every day I move my body in a way that it feels like it needs, wake up with enough time to sip on a cup of tea or coffee before looking t my phone or work, go for a walk outdoors and admire something green and alive, and connect with someone I love, whether that’s a quick text, an hour long phone convo, or in person, and getting to sleep around the same time each night. I also acknowledge that I am an imperfect human and that these practices might not always happen.
JB: What books are currently on your nightstand?
LB: I’m always floating from book to book, these are the books I’m currently circulating between!
The Tao of Trauma: A Practitioner’s Guide for Integrating Five Element Theory and Trauma Treatment I picked this up to take a deeper dive into trauma from a Five Element theory lens.
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver. I borrowed this lovely book from the NY Public Library in March before lockdown and have been grateful to have these beautiful poems and essays of life and nature with me through this tough time.
Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer. Lloyd is a psychoanalyst who writes on the powers of the human mind, science and skepticism.
JB: Who is someone that you really admire and inspires you in your healing practice?
LB: It’s tough to pick just one! Lately I have been studying and learning about my ancestors, specifically the women that I come from. I am inspired by all of the women who came before me, who raised me, and who continue to teach me in this lifetime.
JB: What is the thing you have missed most being under lockdown?
LB: It’s hard to say what I miss the most. This has been a time of great loss and grieving. One of the simpler but equally potent things I miss are big hugs with friends and family and sharing meals together. I love embraces with loved ones and sitting around a table with good food and good company. For now, soaking up distanced time with loved ones in the park!