Picking an acupuncturist might be confusing. Unless you have a referral to one from a friend or family member that’s been to one, you’re stuck looking on the internet or, if you’re not internet savvy, using the Yellow Pages. Hopefully, this article will help you to know what to look for and what questions you might want to ask as you begin your search.
Personally, I practice acupuncture in California and all practitioners here must pass the state boards from the California Acupuncture Board. Upon passing, the practitioner is given the title Licensed Acupuncturist, abbreviated L.Ac. We use this title after our name, as in John Smith, L.Ac. In order to take the exam, the practitioner must graduate from an accredited acupuncture school. Currently this is a master’s program (the longest masters program in the nation), but many schools are turning towards doctoral programs. The master’s degree may differ by title from school to school. Degrees might be master of science in acupuncture, master of science in traditional Oriental medicine, master of science in Chinese medicine, and others. While the title of the master isn’t important, it is important that the practitioner be licensed in the state. So, make sure to look for the L.Ac title when doing your search.
As I mentioned, many schools are turning to the doctoral program. Since this will soon be the only option, like chiropractors and pharmacists, schools are offering additional doctoral programs for practitioners that have already been practicing with their master degree. Once again, these titles differ from school to school. Options are Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (DACM), Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM), Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) or Doctor of Acupuncture (DAc).
I do want to mention, that some schools, in the 1980’s, were known to hand out a degree giving the title Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) to graduates with only approximately 1200 hours of education and no undergraduate degree. As time passed, the amount of schooling was increased and undergraduate prerequisites were required. Knowing this, don’t be afraid to ask the practitioner how many hours of training they had in school.
The education received by acupuncturists is very complete and offers much more than just Chinese medicine. Today’s graduates are getting an actual master of science degree. Each student takes a full year of anatomy classes. Students also take classes in physiology, chemistry, physics, biology, 2 pathology classes, 2 clinical differentiation and diagnosis classes. During schooling, students are taking classes every semester in Chinese medicine theory, single herb training, herbal formulas, acupuncture points and acupuncture technique. Students also spend time in clinic every semester working with patients. The first few semester involves observing, the next few in assisting and finally the student works as an intern. All of these are done under the direct supervision of a licensed acupuncturist.