Choosing a practitioner that is right for you can make all the difference in the outcome of your treatment. A personal recommendation is one of the best ways to find a practitioner. I recommend calling and speaking with several practitioners. Find one with whom you are comfortable, and who has experience and success treating your particular problem. The Resources page lists several good places for referrals. Licensure varies from state to state. In New Jersey, a Licensed Acupuncturist must have:
1. A 4-year bachelor’s degree with a heavy emphasis on the biological sciences.
2. Graduated from an accredited acupuncture school.
3. Achieved NCCAOM national board certification.
4. Passed the licensing exam administered by the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners.
The following information should also be useful in choosing an acupuncturist:
Type of Acupuncturist
There are two types of practitioners with regard to licensure. One category is a licensed acupuncturist. This is someone who has gone to school specifically for acupuncture and Chinese medicine. They have completed an extensive training program, practice some traditional style of acupuncture, are nationally board certified in acupuncture, and are licensed by their state board of medicine to practice acupuncture. In New Jersey, look for the letters C.A. or L.Ac. to designate this type of practitioner. The other category is a medical acupuncturist. This is a MD or DO who has taken an abbreviated training program, practices a more limited style of medical acupuncture, and is generally not nationally or state board certified.
Style of Acupuncture
There are many styles of acupuncture practice. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the most common term encountered, and represents a modern and somewhat Westernized approach to Chinese medicine. Classical Chinese Medicine is an older style of treatment that is more reflective of Chinese medicine’s origins. There are many terms such as Traditional Acupuncture, Five Element Acupuncture, Japanese Acupuncture, Korean Acupuncture, Vietnamese Acupuncture, etc. It is best to discuss this when you are interviewing acupuncturists.
• Most acupuncture training programs that lead to national board and state certification are at least 3000 hours and 3 years long. Refer to the Resources section for a list of accredited schools, and ask the practitioner you are interviewing what school he or she went to.
• In recent years some schools have developed doctorate level programs and degrees. These have no impact upon state licensure and scope of practice. As this training tends to follow more of a Western biomedical criteria, most schools have opted not to offer such training.
• Medical acupuncture programs are typically less than 200 hours in length, and do not qualify a practitioner for NCCAOM national board or state certification.
• Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM) and Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM) are the only designations for acupuncturists nationally certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This is the professional certifying body for Chinese medicine in the United States.
• Dipl. C.H. (NCCAOM) and Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM) are the only designations for Chinese herbologists nationally certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
• L.Ac. is the only designation for acupuncturists licensed by the state board of medical examiners in New Jersey. This license was formerly C.A.
• MD’s and DO’s are legally allowed to practice in New Jersey without either of these credentials. Their board certification is typically in some other area of medical specialty.
At the present time, almost all of the treatment settings for acupuncture occur in private offices. Clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, extended care facilities, etc. are all places where acupuncture will eventually be integrated into the medical care system offered. For now, there are 4 primary types of office settings you will find:
• A private practice in acupuncture. There may be one or more practitioners, but acupuncture is the primary therapy and treatment is personal and individualized.
• A community acupuncture practice. In this setting people are generally treated in a communal room while reclining in a chair. Costs are typically lower, and usually there is no time for discussion of diet, herbs, or other factors.
• A pain clinic, with a medical director overseeing treatment using acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy. These facilities primarily treat people involved in motor vehicle accidents, and bill through insurance.
• A doctor’s office, where some percentage of the patients are treated with acupuncture.