More and more medical professionals, including medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, nurses, physician’s assistants, dentists and naturopaths, are practicing acupuncture without the equivalent training of an acupuncturist. Before seeing an acupuncturist, make sure that he/she is licensed in the state and has extensive training. There are many types of licenses and credentials in this field.
Before you dive into the technical qualifications of an acupuncturist, don’t forget that when choosing a practitioner, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable with him/her, your questions are answered thoroughly and the time is taken to address your specific needs. Do take advantage of free consultations as this gives you a chance to “interview” the practitioner before you make your decision.
Here’s some information to decipher the “Alphabet Soup” of acronyms related to the field of Oriental Medicine and details on the credentials an Oriental Medical professional should have.
This is a common designation for a practitioner who provides Acupuncture and/or Chinese Herbal Medicine as part of the Oriental Medical practice. L.Ac. is a title given by the state upon fulfilling certain requirements – i.e. completing a program from an accredited school, passing the National board exams, etc. Each state has its own regulations and it is important to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirement of practitioners.
Instead of L.Ac., some states may issue equivalent titles such as Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) or Certified Acupuncturist.
Most Licensed Acupuncturists have graduated from an accredited training program in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Oriental Medicine (OM) and have passed the necessary exams. There are a number of states that do not regulate the practice of or who can perform acupuncture, and thus, practitioners who may not have the proper credentials may still practice acupuncture.
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) administers certification tests specifically for practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Oriental Medicine. Prior to 2005, practitioners received the Dipl. Ac. and/or Dipl. C.H. titles separately upon passing the respective sections of this exam.
As of 2005, the exam now offers 5 modules: Foundational Theory, Acupuncture, Point Location, Chinese Herbology and Biomedicine. If practitioners choose to only practice Acupuncture (and not Chinese Herbology), the 3 modules specific to Acupuncture (Foundational Theory, Acupuncture, and Point Location), as well as the Biomedicine module, must be passed in order to receive the title of “Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.).”
If practitioners choose to only practice Chinese Herbology, or to practice this in conjunction with Acupuncture, the single Chinese Herbology module must be passed.
As mentioned above, some states do not regulate the practice of or who can perform acupuncture, and thus, practitioners who may not have the proper credentials may still practice acupuncture in these states. Further, Herbal Medicine is an integral part of TCM training programs in most states. Here, state regulations also vary: some states require a practitioner to only have a Dipl. Ac. (and not the Dipl. C.H.) and still be able to practice both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology.
The Diplomate in Oriental Medicine is the newest title issued by the NCCAOM. As mentioned above, in 2005 the NCCAOM began issuing the title of “Diplomate in Oriental Medicine” to those who passed all 5 modules: Foundational Theory, Acupuncture, Point Location, Chinese Herbology, and Biomedicine.
Prior to 2005, this title was not offered to practitioners and separate titles of Dipl. Ac. and Dipl. C.H. were given. One particular title is not necessarily better than the other. As always, it is important to do the proper research in choosing a practitioner and to ensure that one’s credentials parallel the services provided.
Becoming an acupuncturist entails completing a 3 to 4 year graduate program from a school accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Upon completion, there are various versions of the same “Master” title that is issued, such as MAOM (Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), MSOM (Master of Science of Oriental Medicine), or MTCM (Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine), to name a few.
Some accredited schools will issue a graduate level Diploma of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine instead of a Masters Degree following the completion of a similar program.
*Please note that there are some organizations that will offer a Diploma to current medical professionals (physicians, chiropractors, nurses, dentists, etc) after only completing 100 hours of Acupuncture training! These “courses,” or sometimes called “weekend courses,” allow a medical professional to include Acupuncture in their practice. Obviously, one hundred hours is not comparable to the training an individual receives from a 4-year (approximately 3000 hours) program from an accredited school!
This is the primary National certifying entity for Acupuncturists, Chinese Herbalists, and Asian Body-worker therapists in the United States. NCCAOM certification signifies that the practitioner has met nationally recognized standards of competence and safety. The NCCAOM not only gives Board exams, which must be passed in order to receive certification, but also requires practitioners to acquire 60 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) [also known as Professional Development Activity (PDAs)] for recertification every four years.
This entity was established to advance acupuncture and Oriental Medicine by promoting educational excellence within the field. You may frequently see the CCAOM as awarding Clean Needle Technique (CNT) Certification to practitioners. Typically, a student at a TCM school must pass the CNT exam&mdas;in order to prove understanding and proficiency of safety standards in the application, storage, and disposal of acupuncture needles — before practicing as an intern in the Student Clinic. This exam is required in order to receive NCCAOM Diplomate Certification.
This is a professional membership organization representing instructors, practitioners, schools & programs, and students of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT). In order to become a member, one must complete the necessary coursework in a particular style of Asian bodywork, as well as foundational Oriental Medical training.