The decision to secure credentials from her local VA hospital to provide acupuncture services was an easy—and personal—one for Shannon Ackley. She and her husband, who owns a Modern Acupuncture clinic together in Glendale, Arizona, have many relatives who served in the armed forces.
“For us, it’s a way—while we didn’t serve individually—it’s a way for us to give back and give thanks to those who did and make their lives better, just like they’ve done for us,” said Ackley, who is also Modern Acupuncture’s director of operations. “I think that’s a pretty true statement across the board for most of our franchisees that have gone through the process to work with veterans.”
Modern Acupuncture clinics around the country have been working with local VA organizations to earn credentials to treat veterans with acupuncture for stress and physical pain. Ackley’s location started treating patients in January 2021.
“We have a lot of older veterans that are just dealing with the health issues that come from the different experiences they’ve had,” Ackley said. “So, this was an opportunity for us, as a group, to be able to provide services that help them live a better life and make their lives better.”
Acupunctureists who’ve received the certification have seen the impacts of acupuncture for physical pain and stress, which are two of the most commonly treated problems using acupuncture, Ackley said.
“From a veteran’s perspective, conditions like PTSD, and anxiety and sleep issues—all of those fall under that stress category,” she said. “Because what acupuncture does for stress is it basically moves the body into the parasympathetic state, which is your rest and digest state. So, it helps your body process anxiety and different mental stressors that hit you.”
She’s seen the impact acupuncture can have on a veteran’s quality of life.
“We have veterans that, even after they are no longer receiving visits through the VA hospital, that have continued to come in for care on their own,” Ackley said.
Doggie daycare franchise Dogtopia also uses its expertise to help veterans. The Dogtopia Foundation funds service dog training so the dogs can support veterans. The foundation partners with several nonprofits, including K9s For Warriors, Paws with a Cause, Paws Assisting Veterans and Mutts with a Mission.
The foundation worked with the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine to research the impacts of service dogs when paired with veterans. The three-year study found that when service dogs aid veterans, their mental health improves, and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression can be lessened.
“Right now, the VA funds service dogs for veterans that have physical disabilities, but not fors that have invisible disabilities like PTSD,” Dogtopia Executive Director Liz Myers said. “So, in the eyes of the VA, there is not enough quantifiable evidence.” That’s why Maggie O’Haire, the doctor who led this study, wanted to do the research.
Veterans most often ask their service dogs to calm them when anxiety is heightened, or they ask the dogs to initiate social interaction. Overall, the study found, the pairings worked best with dogs who were calmer, and with pairs who had a stronger relationship between the vet and their dog.
“We’ve talked to so many veterans who have service dogs, and what they tell us is that service dogs benefit their lives and make life worth living, and it brings them back into society in so many ways,” Myers said.
Dogtopia hopes the study provides enough evidence to prompt more VA funding for service dogs that support mental health, rather than just physical health.
Click here to read about junk hauling franchise JDog Brands partnered with Irreverent Warriors to help put a stop to veteran suicide.