How To Find The Right Acupuncturist
So, you’ve decided to seek out an acupuncturist. Before you begin your search there are a few things that you should consider:
Unless you're living in the middle of nowhere, you should be able to find an acupuncture practitioner easily, it is very commonly practiced as a ‘side skill’ by medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, registered massage therapists, nurses, naturopaths, or any number of licensed health practitioners who, while they may not use the title of ‘acupuncturist’, are qualified to practice it. They may be qualified therapists, but some will use acupuncture as primary care, and they are likely to have trained for longer than others who use acupuncture as a supplement to whatever their specialty might be. You need to check how long the practitioner has been practicing acupuncture and how long their training was and what form it took. Do you really want someone who simply watched a "How to do Acupuncture" video to stick needles in you?
Whichever route you might decide to take, it is important to check that this individual is experienced and has at least received training and accreditation in line with the health regulations of your country’s government. In order to do this, there's bound to be an association responsible for training, licensing, and regulating acupuncturists. Of course you may find there's an overlap, unfortunately there can be more than one association in a given area (For example France has over eleven). That said, there will usually be a dominant one that is the largest, and there may be others that are equally capable of serving your needs.
For example, the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the largest of the voluntary self-regulating bodies for acupuncture in the UK and to become a member of the BAcC, candidates should have successfully completed a course accredited by the BAcC, or they need to satisfy the Admissions Committee, through written application and interview, that they have a level of training and competence equivalent to recent graduates of BAcC courses.
You will find others that are country specific. The United States and Canada both have national associations, but they also have ones that operate in each individual State/Province where the laws may be different to their neighbours.
In Canada in particular laws vary from province to province, and there will ALWAYS be a difference in the province of Quebec – reflecting a certain amount of autonomy that Canada’s Francophone population has from the other Anglophone provinces (to preserve cultural difference between the English and French speaking populations).
It can all get very confusing, but you simply need to do some research to find the one that applies to you.
Many places also have what is called a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner (TCM), who practices a broader spectrum of healing arts from China (e.g. Chinese Herbal Medicine). It is worth noting that the TCM’s in these different countries will typically have their own association, usually connected with institutions in China.
There is a difference: Western medical acupuncture is based on the nervous system. Chinese acupuncture takes a more holistic approach and is based on the theory that the body's health depends on life energy (known as qi or chi) moving smoothly through a series of channels (or meridians) in and around the body. This is another example of overlapping associations’ that train, license, certify and regulate Acupuncturists, but regardless, all must adhere to the same health regulations set out by that country's government.
So what you should do to find the right acupuncturist?
Ask yourself why you want one. For general health purposes find a qualified and registered acupuncturist. But if you are looking for something more specific, say acupuncture to complement a dental procedure, then seek out a dentist with the proper license.
Make sure your practitioner is licensed by an association that is recognized in the area you are in. They must be able to produce this information, so don’t be afraid to ask and do check anything they tell you. It's very easy to print off fancy-looking certificates.
Ask around. Acupuncture is a pretty main stream treatment nowadays, so friends and family may already have used it, or at least know someone who has. A recommendation from a trusted source is worth its weight in gold.
Talk to several practitioners. Shop around, and find the one that is the best fit for your needs. Don't base your decision on cost alone.