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Home > Newsletters > July 2004 >

So You've Decided To Become An Acupuncturist…

You've decided to take a somewhat unusual step and learn the ancient art of acupuncture, a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that's rapidly taking hold here in the West. This decision, however, is only the first of many you will have to make in the coming years as you prepare yourself for this challenging endeavor. One of the most important questions you will face is where to look for the knowledge and practice you'll need to be what your patients need – a caring and competent doctor, fully versed in all aspects of TCM.

You won't find them listed in the standard guides to the country's best colleges, but there are actually 48 accredited TCM universities in the United States – a baffling array for someone looking to enter what is already a very different way of looking at the world.

So here are some things to keep in mind when you're deciding where to study:

First of all, make sure any schools you are considering are fully accredited or have candidacy status. Accredited schools have passed through a rigorous process of self-study and peer review through the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM www.acaom.org) and meet national standards. Not only does this help ensure that you'll get a quality education, but nearly all U.S. states require practitioners to have a degree from an accredited program to be licensed. Accredited schools can also offer students financial aid from the federal government.

Decide what kind of degree you want to try for. Graduate with an acupuncture degree and you'll be able to practice that art; a degree in Oriental medicine will leave you trained in herbal medicine as well as acupuncture, but take up to a year longer to complete. Be sure to research the licensing regulations for the state you plan to practice in – some states require licensed acupuncturists to also have herbal training.  See statelaws.

Find out about the school's philosophy. TCM, like Western medicine, does not have a single way of approaching healing. In the U.S., there are two main approaches: the TCM/Eight Elements School and Five Element School.

The Five Element School uses a classic approach, emphasizing acupuncture and counseling. It is taught in a minority of schools in this country.

TCM/Eight Elements School is based on the "Eight Principles” method of diagnosis that's been standardized and widely used in China since Communism. It emphasizes herbal therapy with acupuncture as an adjunct. Again, the difference is largely philosophical. Critics of the Eight Element School, for example, say that without the Five Element's emphasis on spirituality and counseling treatment can become formulaic.

There are also individual universities with their own philosophies. Yo San University in Marina Del Rey, CA, for example, teaches Taoist Classical Medicine, using both the Five Elements and TCM/Eight Elements approaches plus Energetic Systems of Chinese medicine, which are based on the "Yellow Emperor's Classic” and the I-Ching. Maoshing Ni, co-founder of the school, says this approach allows healers to work in the most integrated way possible, using spirituality and healing energy along with physical treatments.
Learning more about these approaches and deciding which one is the best fit for you can help make sure you're getting what you want out of your education.

Make sure you understand the work involved in becoming an acupuncturist. Like Western medical schools, TCM schools require an intense commitment from their students. Programs range from three to four years long and can be very academically rigorous. Students who sign up expecting to coast through their training often drop out early on because they're not prepared for the challenge. Remember, you're basically becoming a doctor, and the training is not all that different.


For more information about acupuncture schools:
Search schools - http://acufinder.com/schools/default.aspt
Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine - http://www.acaom.org/
Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine - http://www.ccaom.org/
National Certification Commision for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) - http://www.nccaom.org/
American Association of Oriental Medicine - www.aaom.org
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance - www.aomalliance.org

 

This Month's Articles

July 2004
Volume 2, Number 5

Treatment of Withdrawal Symptoms With Acupuncture

So You've Decided to Become an Acupuncturist...

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor

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