Monday, March 19, 2012

What is the Training/Education Level of Your Acupuncturist?

"How do I choose an Acupuncturist?"  Or, "How do I know my Acupuncturist is trained?" 

Ever wondered but have yet to ask? 

Please ask.  Right now, in the United States the term "acupuncturist" is used generally and does not always mean someone who has received a master's or doctorate level education from an accredited institution in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine AND passed their National Board exam.  Why?  Politics and scope of practice issues vary state to state.  That is why there is a national board exam given by a national certification agency (NCCAOM*) and accreditation of acupuncture education programs is regulated by the U.S. Department of Education through the ACAOM. [Please write in the comments section if you have more questions than the scope of this blog post.]

There are several levels of education of acupuncturists. There are detox specialists, medical acupuncturists, and Licensed Acupuncturists/East Asian Medicine Practitioners who have a masters or doctorate degree in the medicine. For a more thorough explanation, please see the list from the CCAOM (Council of Colleges on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). Please ask your acupuncturist what training in acupuncture they have received and ask to see their license or training certificate before you receive a treatment.

From CCAOM site "Know Your Acupuncturist":

Acupuncture Training hours
Description of Title or Certificate
3 - 4 years graduate school
(1500-2000+ hours)
"Licensed Acupuncturist" or "East Asian Medicine Practitioner"
Received a master's or doctorate in study of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine from an accredited program** AND passed the National Board Exam.
300 hours or less
"Medical Acupuncturist" or “medical acupuncture”
An MD, osteopathic physician, naturopathic physician, or chiropractor who takes a continuing education course in acupuncture pain relief procedures only.
100 hours or less
"Detox Specialists" in the United States.
They are limited to using 5 needles or less in each ear. Ear/Auricular acupuncture only.

For more detailed information, check out the CCAOM's "Know Your Acupuncturist" page.

How to find an Acupuncturist near you?
If you want an Acupuncturist who is nationally board certified and has graduated from a nationally accredited acupuncture program, go to "Find a Practitioner" on the NCCAOM website and search using your zip code or names of towns in your area.  In Washington state, you can go to the Washington State Department of Health Professions database, "find a health care provider" and search by name or "credential".  In Washington state, this is called "Acupuncture/East Asian Medicine Practitioner License".  This can be useful if you find someone in your phonebook or online and you want to check their credentials to make sure they have an active license or national certification.  If this does not work for you, just ask your acupuncturist to see their national certificate or state license.  If they have it, they will keep or post the physical license or certificate somewhere in their office.

If you are looking for a Military Stress Recovery Project clinic, check out the list (sorted alphabetically by state) on Acupuncturists without Borders' website.

*NCCAOM = National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the national board exam providers for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine National Board exams in the U.S.A.

**accredited program. Acupuncture program must be accredited by the ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), which has been given the directive from the U.S. Department of Education as the only accrediting body for training of Acupuncturists.  The only accredited programs for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are Master's degree and Doctoral Degree programs.

National Bodies governing in some part the education, accreditation, and certification of Acupuncturists: 
  • NCCAOM--National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  National board exam.
  • CCAOM--Council of Colleges on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  Administers the Clean Needle  Technique (CNT) course, a national needle safety course acupuncture graduate students take before being allowed to needle patients in student clinics under supervision.
  • ACAOM--the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  The body charged by the U.S. Department of Education on accrediting acupuncture education programs.
  • AAAOM--political body, like the AMA (American Medical Association).  Primarily deals with scope of practice and state and federal legislation regarding the practice of acupuncture in the U.S.

--Megan Kingsley Gale, L.Ac./EAMP (MSAOM), Dipl. O.M.
Licensed Acupuncturist/East Asian Medicine Practitioner
(Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)
Nationally Board Certified Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)

Related posts:
What are the National Standards for Practicing Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
What is the Minimum Education to Practice Acupuncture safely in the United States?

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