Arica Olson describes her path to a career as an acupuncturist and masseuse as a nearly accidental one, and not by (injury) accident.
Olson earned a bachelor's and master's degree in English literature and taught for several years in Minneapolis, Minn., and New York City before switching gears in her mid-30s to become a practitioner of East Asian medicine.
"I still love writing and I still love reading (but) teaching for me had come to its conclusion in a way," Olson says, from the office of Violet Flame Medicine at 321 N. Sequim Ave.
Violet Flame Medicine offers private and group treatments incorporating acupuncture, moxibustion and therapeutic massage. Herbal prescriptions, self-care consultations and Shonishin (pediatric acupuncture) appointments are also available.
"From a Chinese medicine perspective, when your energy is clean, it flows easily," Olson says.
"People tend to shy away from (Eastern medicine practice); it sounds ephemeral," she says, as if it's not physical medicine.
"But it's a disservice to the medicine. It's not a mystical thing. There's a source of energy that's all around us."
In 2015, after four years of didactic and clinical training, Olson received a master's of science degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine from Bastyr University.
Since then, she's worked in a variety of settings, from a nursing/rehabilitation home to an HIV clinic in Seattle, to a cancer care clinic in Everett and others.
"I've seen a range in populations," she says.
Olson also worked as a massage therapist in Kirkland and received training in Swedish/deep tissue massage, Tuina, Shiatsu, Thai yoga massage and lomilomi (Hawaiian massage).
In June 0f 2017, she decided to make the move to the Olympic Peninsula and open up her own practice in Sequim.
"I knew I wanted to have a practice (but) there are a lot of acupuncturists," Olson recalls. "I like a more rural environment and I wanted a little more room. I just had an instinct that it was a good place to come."
Olson offers both private, one-on-one acupuncture, moxibustion and/or massage, or group acupuncture in a four-person shared space at the North Sequim Avenue office.
"Acupuncture uses filiform needles to penetrate special nodes (areas of lower electrical resistance) and access (a) distinct vascular network in order to direct the electrical current traveling through there; this is how it affects our energy," Olson notes on her website at www
Less familiar for the layperson, Olson notes, is moxibustion. This treatment accesses a similar vascular network by burning mugwort over nodes. Burning mugwort has been found to emit infrared rays that are healing and deeply penetrate the body compared to other forms of heat, she says.
Olson says she primarily performs direct, non-scarring moxibustion with top-quality Japanese moxa (mugwort), placing a bamboo tube over burning moxa cones to both create greater comfort and protection for the patient as well as increase the heat penetration and therapeutic effects.
Olson says she typically sees clients who have sleeping issues, back pain, chronic illnesses or menstrual issues, among other symptoms.
What people generally tend to want to know, Olson, is how long it will take to resolve their injury issues. She works with each client to develop a treatment plan and a course of action. Olson notes that in Chinese medicine practices a group of 10 treatments close together often solves a problem, while others need treatment over a course of months. Some of her clients come in once in a while as a practice of maintenance.
Olson also helps clients to develop their own good personal practices at home.
But the treatments aren't just a physical "fix it," Olson says. East Asian medicine is a lot like a partnership, she says, where the client and practitioner work together to solve issues and examine how to manage their personal energy.
Like a lot of Westerners, the Minnesota native says she was skeptical about Eastern medicine until she began her studies several years ago. While she learned the technical aspects and research behind acupuncture, Olson says she's still learning about something a little more elusive: managing personal energy.
"I spent time with students in the program and had some treatments, and I became fascinated with (acupuncture). It was definitely a transition for me," she says.
"It has been a profound change for me. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true.
"I want to share that with people."