How to Pick the Right Acupuncturist for You
So you’re ready to set up your first acupuncture appointment because you:
Know that acupuncture can help you become pain free, stress less, and get you back to feeling like your vibrant, energetic self;
Love that it’s a natural form of healing that works with your body - no medication needed;
Know it is effective and safe, having been used all around the world for thousands of years.
But now that you’re ready to jump in, how do you find the right acupuncturist for you? Ultimately, it all comes down to how you connect with a person. However, there are a few factors that I would consider when making your decision before booking an appointment with an acupuncturist.
How far will you travel?
First things first. In order to pick an acupuncturist, you need to gather your list of prospective acupuncturists that are in your area. Determine how far geographically you’re willing to drive (at least once, if not twice a week) for appointments. Consistency is key with acupuncture treatments, so even if you really like someone but he/she is 40 miles away, really consider if that’s a commitment that you want to make.
Simple Web Search by Town
If you don’t want to drive more than 30 minutes for each visit, only search for acupuncturists within a 25 mile radius of your home or work. A simple Google or web search with “acupuncture and the name of your town” or surrounding towns should start you on the right track.
Ask for Referrals!
Of course, word of mouth is a great way to gather a list of potential acupuncturists. Ask friends, neighbors or colleagues if they have tried acupuncture or if they know of anyone who has and ask for a referral. Ask your doctor too. I have several doctors who refer to me and even if yours doesn’t, it is great for them to hear that you’re going to try it! Referrals from someone you trust gives that added stamp of approval and can start you off on the right foot.
Look at the Acupuncturist’s Credentials
Once you have your list of potential acupuncturists, you want to check their credentials. (You can view mine here).
Any acupuncturist you consider should be licensed by the state government. In Massachusetts, in order to practice acupuncture, you must be licensed by the state’s Board of Medicine. (Check other state’s requirements here). Massachusetts acupuncture license requirements include:
Being at least 18 years of age and of good moral character,
Demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the English language
Being nationally certified in either Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, or Chinese Herbology (for applicants as of Jan. 1, 2009)
Completing and passing the CCAOM Clean Needle Technique course
Holding an undergraduate education and meeting undergraduate sciences and lab requirements.
Graduating from an acupuncture school approved by the Committee on Acupuncture and meeting the basic herbology requirement.
In addition to state license, you can check to see if any acupuncturists on your list are nationally certified. National certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is awarded after passing 3 board exams (4 for herbalists) and shows an added level of competency. As stated above only those acupuncturists requesting license in MA in 2009 or later are required to be nationally certified by the NCCAOM however this is an important credential to look for here in Massachusetts and other states.
Look at Areas of Specialization
Just as some doctors specialize in specific conditions or populations, some acupuncturists may do the same. Popular acupuncture specialties include fertility, sports medicine and pediatrics however a majority of acupuncturists are considered general practitioners.
If you’re looking for a specific specialty or have questions about your specific condition, I always encourage people to pick up the phone and call. I’m always happy to share what I treat most or answer questions about a specific health concern when I get a call from a prospective patient.
Some acupuncturists may also list the style of acupuncture they studied and use (Japanese, Chinese, 5-Element, etc). But if you haven’t studied acupuncture, you probably won’t know the difference between these styles. What is important to know however is that every style has its own method of diagnosis and treatment so if one style doesn’t quite mesh with you, try a different acupuncturist who may practice another!
Additionally, some acupuncturists have further study in Chinese herbal medicine. If licensed, they can prescribe Chinese herbs. Not all acupuncturists are herbalists so if you’re specifically looking for herbs, you’ll want to look for this specialization.
Observe Your Gut Reactions
As with anything, you want to go with your gut reactions when finally selecting an acupuncturist to work with. For example,
What vibe are you getting from their web site? What is it saying or showing you?
What does their office look like?
How does he/she speak to you over the phone or through email?
Can you schedule a consult or check out their space prior to making an appointment?
All of these first impressions should factor into whether or not you want to select someone for your care.
Choosing a practitioner for your care shouldn’t be too stressful but you want to make the best choice for you. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be off to a great start! If you still have questions about whether acupuncture can help you, take my free, 2 minute quiz to get the immediate clarity you need before booking. Start the quiz here.