Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on centuries old philosophies and principles that use acupuncture and herbs to help treat and heal a variety of health conditions.Today, there are thousands of TCM practitioners (alternatively known as a Chinese Medicine Doctor) around the world who are trained to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. However, unless you get a personal recommendation, it can be overwhelming and intimidating trying to find a TCM doctor who can help you with your health concern. I am here to help make it easier! Whether you are looking for an acupuncturist to optimize your fertility or someone to help you find relief from pain, here are some tips on how to find a TCM practitioner.
While a practitioner can have Board certification in Acupuncture, and/or Chinese Herbology, I recommend that you make sure your Chinese Medicine Doctor is licensed and board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbs. To become a licensed and board certified acupuncturist, the TCM doctor will have completed a 3-4 year full-time master’s degree, which includes thousands of hours of supervised hands-on clinical training, and passed national or state board exams.
While this means that the TCM practitioner is qualified and experienced in acupuncture, it is preferable to find a TCM practitioner who is also certified in Chinese Herbology. There are basic, essential herbal formulas that many acupuncturists work with. However, without the training that a Board certification in Chinese herbs represents, acupuncturists are not able to bring the true efficacy (and safety) of Chinese herbal medicine to their patients.
It’s worth noting that doctors, dentists, chiropractors and physical therapists are also able to perform a limited form of “needle therapy” with just 300 hours of training. Because they are practicing under their other medical licenses, they are not required to meet the standards for acupuncture licensing; the service they offer is an adjunct. This means they can take a very abbreviated training and they don’t need to maintain their skills with continuing education. Essentially, this would be the equivalent to getting dental work done by an acupuncturist who’d studied dentistry on the side at home.
An easy way to find out if a practitioner is fully licensed is to reference the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website (NCCAOM) which lists licensed practitioners from across the U.S. A current NCCAOM certification is also an indication that your practitioner is keeping up with the Continuing Medical Education requirements.
In addition to being certified to practice acupuncture and prescribe Chinese herbs, a good TCM practitioner should be trained in cupping, moxa, massage, nutritional support and even modalities like Shonishin, a type of pediatric needle-free acupuncture.
Understand the different acupuncture practices
There are two main types of acupuncture practices with different experiences, so make sure you understand the difference and pick the one that you resonate with the most.
The first type of acupuncture practice is the traditional “private practice.” This is how my practice works. Each TCM practitioner sees one patient at a time in a private room with plenty of time to talk and develop a treatment strategy.
The second type of acupuncture practice is called “community acupuncture” where patients are treated in a group setting. This is a cheaper option, but it does mean you’ll be treated in a communal treatment space with less personal attention.
Privacy and personal attention may or may not matter to you depending on what you are being treated for. For instance, if you are dealing with a complex gynecological problem, a private practice will give you the discretion and time you may need to discuss your symptoms confidentially and work with your practitioner towards a treatment plan. On the other hand, if you have a simple injury such as a sore elbow, privacy may not be particularly important, so a group-style community clinic may be able to help you cheaply and effectively.
Make sure the TCM practitioner is accessible and communicative
When you consult with a TCM practitioner, you need someone that you can put your faith in. Someone who listens to you, helps explain their treatment plan, and can even converse with your doctor if necessary. You should feel comfortable speaking with the TCM practitioner and that you are getting the attention you need.
At the center where I practice, Yinova, we not only try to make Chinese medical concepts accessible to our patients, but we also “speak doctor,” helping explain complex medical terms and treatments that your conventional doctor may be considering. We really try to give you the time, resources, and power to take control of your health and feel better.
Make sure you get the same attention and care wherever you go.
Take your time and do some research prior to consulting with a Chinese Medicine Doctor. Once you find someone who is properly qualified and who is attentive and proactive with your care, I know you will feel the benefits.
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