Call me crazy, but I think your health care provider, regardless of what type of health care you choose, should be someone you feel totally comfortable with, who listens to you and gives you the quality time, compassion and service that you and your body deserve. Beyond that, it’s obviously important to choose a health care provider who is qualified for the job- this is especially true when you choose an Acupuncturist.
Acupuncture works! There’s no doubt about that. But the experience you have with Acupuncture will depend very much on the Acupuncture provider that you choose. If you’re considering Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine therapy, this means that you should be seeing a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.).
Not all Acupuncturists are created equal. There is an very big and very important difference between a “Licensed Acupuncturist” and a physician or other health care provider who is a “Certified Acupuncturist” or some equivalent.
Certification is significantly less rigorous in terms of its requirements to insert needles. It is basically an easier way for some health care providers to call themselves Acupuncturists. In many cases, they become “certified acupuncturists” with only 300 hours of classroom training, much of which consists of watching videos. There are usually no certification exams, and in many cases 0 hours of clinical experience. This level of training is simply not adequate for understanding the vast complexity of the Traditional Chinese Medicine system.
A Licensed Acupuncturist, on the other hand, has been through rigorous training. Before an Acupuncturist can become licensed, most states require that they graduate from a state accredited school of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, including between 3 and 5 years of graduate level education in both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and have achieved at least a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAOM or equivalent). This includes approximately 3000 classroom hours and 1000-2000 hours of supervised clinical internship. They are also required to successfully pass a number of difficult written and practical examinations including National Board Exams (NCCAOM) and continue to fulfill rigorous requirements, including many hours of continuing education, to maintain licensure.
Chinese medicine is an extremely complex science that is literally thousands of years old. With over a thousand herbs and over 361 Acupuncture points, learning the philosophy of the medicine how to use the tools effectively takes years of dedication and experience.
Make sure that the Acupuncturist you choose is both state Licensed, has graduated from a nationally accredited school of Oriental Medicine and is certified by the NCCAOM. In the states that do not require licensing yet, be sure to choose an Acupuncturist who is certified specifically by the NCCAOM (National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists)- this organization only certifies members who have a degree in Oriental Medicine from an accredited school and have passed both written and practical examinations.
Credentials to look for:
The provider should have the following initials after their name…
- L.Ac (Licensed Acupuncturist)- this one’s a must
- MAOM (Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine). Could be also MSOM (Master of Science in Oriental Medicine) or MTOM (Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine)- indicates their degree and is also a must
- Dipl. OM (Diplomate in Oriental Medicine)- National Board Certification by the NCCAOM- look for this one especially in states that do not require licensure
- DOM (Doctor of Oriental Medicine), OMD (Oriental Medical Doctor) or DTCM (Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine)- optional, could be in addition to the above qualifications
- ABT (Asian Bodywork Therapist)- optional, could be in addition to the above qualifications
Others by region:
- Ac.D- Acupuncture Doctor (Canada)
- A.P.- Acupuncture Physician (Florida)
- D.A. or D.Ac.- Doctor of Acupuncture (Rhode Island)
- R.A. or R.Ac.- Registered Acupuncturist (Pennsylvania)
- TCMD- Traditional Chinese Medical Doctor (Canada)
Questions you should ask your potential Acupuncturist:
- Where was he or she trained?
- How long was his or her education process?
- How long has he or she been in practice?
- What experience does he or she have in treating your specific condition?
- What is his or her treatment style and what does it entail? Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can include a number of different treatment styles. There is no significant evidence that one style is more effective than another, but you should know what you’re getting into. Also, it is my personal belief that since there are not two bodies on the entire planet that are exactly alike, there is no “one true style to rule them all.” It’s about finding the style that works best for you and your body. (And that applies to Acupuncture styles as well as all forms of health care in general)
Other tips and things to consider when selecting an Acupuncturist:
- Does the Acupuncturist make promises about your treatment before they’ve even seen you? TCM is a highly effective in treating a very wide range of conditions, but a responsible Acupuncture practitioner knows that every person is truly unique and should be considered as such. If the practitioner sounds hopeful about your case, that’s a good thing, but they should indicate that a thorough examination will be necessary before any definitive prognosis is given.
- Do they take time to get to know you and make you comfortable?
- Do you feel comfortable with and genuinely cared for by the Acupuncturist?
- Do they seem open to questions? Do they take time to explain what they’re doing? Always ask questions before, during and after treatments if you have any. Knowledge is key in natural, preventative self-care so don’t hesitate to seek more information. A good Acupuncture practitioner is always looking to improve the public’s knowledge of Oriental Medicine and is always willing to explain the answers to your questions in terms that you can easily understand.
One final note- please note that in this article, I am not wishing to “diss” all providers of Acupuncture services who are not necessarily Licensed Acupuncturists. There are certainly well-trained medical acupuncturists, Chiropractors, DO’s and other health care providers who have the experience and training necessary to provide effective acupuncture treatments. Many providers who initially become certified go on to pursue continued Acupuncture education and some even go on to become licensed. From my experience, though, I understand that it takes a significant life-dedication to the medicine to fully grasp the philosophy and application of TCM and be able to provide you with the greatest possible gift of whole-person healing.
Acupuncturist directory listings:
This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Austin Acupuncturist, Melanie Irvine, L.Ac., MAOM, owner Turning Point Wellness. For more info about how Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and natural nutrition can help you achieve vibrant health and well-being. Feel free to visit my website, www.TurningPointAcupuncture.net for more details and direct contact information.