Saturday, April 5, 2008

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Lost in Translation

There is a great deal of confusion as to what to call what we do. We are called "acupuncturists" but acupuncture is only one modality utilized in our medicine. Herbal medicine, massage, nutrition, moxibustion, gua sha, cupping to name a few therapies, evolved together over centuries into what today constitutes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The term TCM is also problematic.

TCM, Oriental Medicine(OM), Chinese Medicine, and Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM) are often used interchangeably. The medicine originated in China and was exported over the years to neighboring countries which modified and developed their own styles. Currently Traditional Chinese Medicine is what is emphasized in most American acupuncture schools with Japanese and Korean styles being also very popular.

At our clinic, we received the foundation of our training at a lineage-based, Chinese owned school. However, our current needling style is influenced by Japanese acupuncture. The term Oriental Medicine has often been used to give credit to other traditions based on TCM that evolved in the counties surrounding China that are often used by American practitioners. However, currently many are trying to change the term to the more politically correct Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM).We choose to use the term TCM, though it continues to be a problematic term, because it is the most popular and commonly understood term for our medicine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What Schooling is Required to Practice Acupuncture?

This varies a great deal by state and the titles are confusing. In the state of California, where I practice, 3,000 hours at an accredited school are required as well as passing a rigorous state board exam. The school I attended in California required 3,600 hours to graduate and I was awarded a Masters in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The curriculum includes Traditional Chinese Medical theory, extensive courses on Chinese Herbs, Acupuncture, Western Science classes, Qigong, and more. From the state I have the title Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.). This is a bit confusing as we do a great deal more than acupuncture, including suggest herbs.

A professional doctorate is just recently being offered. It requires an additional 2,500 hours and a Capstone project. Completing the program awards you the title of Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and allows an acupuncturist to legally call himself/herself "Dr."

The titles become confusing as acupuncturists migrate from state to state and bring with them their old titles. In New Mexico, for example, the title for a licensed acupuncturist is Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM), even though the licensing requirements are comparable to the Masters' requirements in California. For specific information on licensing requirements in your state look at