A simple guide to finding the best acupuncture training and building a successful practice
By AFEA member Gerad Kite
You want to be an acupuncturist?
Congratulations on a great choice!
Becoming an acupuncturist is an exciting and personally transformative challenge. It is also a big commitment personally, professionally and financially. We want to help you make the best choice by showing you our approach, Yellow Path online Five-Element acupuncture training, and the other options available in the UK and worldwide.
Yellow Path is a premium, high quality and unique style of training. If you want to stand out from the crowd, we work with you from entry level training right through to graduation, building your practice and post-graduate support. Our approach to acupuncture training stands alone from all the other training institutions for the following exciting reasons:
- A training true to the teachings of ancient China and passed to you in the original oral tradition
- High quality original filmed content covering our entire curriculum available 24/7
- Duration of training determined by you and your life situation
- Highly experienced and charismatic teachers bringing this magical tradition to life
- Weekly online Q&A Sessions
- Your own personal mentor
- A highly interactive clinical training supported by experienced practitioners
Let’s now step back and take a look at the four main styles of acupuncture training that are taught in the UK and worldwide.
- Five-Element Acupuncture (FEA)
At Yellow Path we teach the classical form of FEA. It is considered to the be the root of all traditional Chinese medicine. FEA comprises of acupuncture (the use of fine needles) and moxibustion (the burning of an herb), and is closely aligned with the teachings of the ancient text, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon. This style of practice maintains its focus on the importance of the ‘spirit’ as the active conduit for healing. Because of its spiritual history it was outlawed by the People’s Republic of China under the authority of Chairman Mao. Over the past two hundred years however, it had slowly made its way to the West and most notably taught by Professor J.R. Worsley who was one of my teachers. His teachings promoted the concept of a unique cause of disease (Causative Factor) that can be diagnosed and treated in each person.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM is part of traditional Chinese medicine. It also has its roots in classical acupuncture but rather than focus on the cause of disease it seeks to deal with presenting symptoms and syndromes. It also includes teachings from the Materia Medica that focusses on herbal treatment along with cupping therapy, gua sha, massage and various forms of exercise. In the 1950’s the practice of TCM was standardised and integrated with modern ideas about anatomy and pathology. The spiritual component was abolished and replaced with the more western approach of dealing with the presenting symptom of the patient. This style is practised all over China as well as many countries around the world.
- Integrated Chinese Medicine
This style of practice draws from TCM and Constitutional Five-Element acupuncture (a theory that we all have our own unique constitution) and supports the patient symptomatically as well as addressing the underlying ‘constitutional weakness’.
- Stems and Branches
Stems and Branches looks at the cycles and interactions that occur both internally and externally. These concepts are foundational in all styles of acupuncture but this style of practice looks at how these two aspects of the person combine and balance.
Although there are many crossovers with all of these styles of practice, they are in fact very different. The skills and experience required by the student and future practitioner will be specific to your own personal style and your patients’ needs.
You will notice from the listing above that there are different styles of acupuncture. The schools and their teaching styles differ, too. Most of them provide a wealth of information that needs to be understood and memorised, while others, like the training at Yellow Path, have much less cerebral learning and focus on the student heightening their senses and developing a greater sensitivity to other human beings. Both approaches are valid and reflect the style of acupuncture being taught.
Where is best for my study?
You need to first of all ask yourself the question; what feels right to me and then find the best fit. The beauty of acupuncture as a career/vocation is that you can approach it in many ways. If you enjoy research, education and scholarship, there are many opportunities within the profession. If however you welcome the opportunity to throw away the books and put your attention on what we are passing on to you, Yellow Path is your first choice! There is also of course, somewhere between the two!
It is always good to chat to a few people who have graduated from a school rather than rely on testimonials. Find acupuncturists online and they will normally state where they trained in their bio. They will happily tell you their experiences, both good and bad. The team at Yellow Path are always available to discuss your needs and interests in becoming a practitioner and offer the contact details of previous students’ experiences.
Types of Training
The Yellow Path training is unique and stands out amongst all other institutions because of its bold and current approach. Because of our difference and the large variety of courses on offer, it might prove confusing as you try to make the right choice.
We were quick to recognise that training in acupuncture is changing. That it would continue to change. We had to change! We immediately engaged a professional film crew to join us in the classroom and create beautiful and inspirational films to deliver our entire curriculum online. Moving from the classroom to your laptop needs to have the quality you will have become used to with the likes of Netflix and Masterclass. Yellow Path is the ‘master class’ of acupuncture training.
Let’s look further at Yellow Path’s approach to becoming a great acupuncturist and the other kinds of training available, their teaching styles and length of study.
Yellow Path – Flexible Professional Training
We deliver the Five-Element acupuncture training in the master/apprentice model of teaching. This is done through original online filmed lectures available 24/7 and supported by weekly Q&A sessions and in-person classes. You can start training at any time and complete the four modules at your own pace. Each of the four modules can be completed in a minimum of three months and no longer than one year. You can take breaks between each module.
Three Year Degree Courses (BA/BSc)
These courses are structured to meet the academic requirements of a degree level training and provide either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc). They are an academic course of study as well as a professional training in the practice of acupuncture. They are considered to be a full-time course and cover Chinese Medicine, Western Sciences, Research, Clinical Skills, Professional Practice and Point Location.
Three Year Degree (level) Course
These courses have a very similar structure to the degree courses but are not linked with a degree awarding institution and therefore may be less academic.
Two Year Professional Training
These courses focus on a professional training and are delivered over two years and focus on acupuncture theory, clinical practice and the patient/practitioner relationship.
Things to consider
We all have different ways to learn. Some of us work well alone and find it easy to self-motivate. Others need more handholding and regular in-person classroom meetings. It is also clear that education is moving more and more online. It is worth asking what plans each institution has for the future so you know in advance how you will be learning.
At Yellow Path we let you decide the best way for you to learn. Not only do you have the entire curriculum at your fingertips, you can watch hundreds of hours of recorded Q&A sessions relating to each filmed part of the curriculum. Join live sessions to deepen your understanding. Discuss anything you choose with your personal mentor. As you build your own portfolio, our academic support will fact check your submissions ensuring you graduate with the ultimate professional text, your very own creation that will serve you for the rest of your working life.
Professional Training versus Academic Study
Acupuncture training is a professional training and the end game is that you qualify and start your own practice. Most university courses, no matter which subject you study, are not apprenticeships or preparing you for the workplace or to work alone. It is, therefore, essential that along with amassing lots of information and passing exams, you end up feeling excited and confident to work with your patients. Once again, I highly recommend you speak to graduates of the different training institutions and ask how well-equipped they felt to take their learning and skills into their life of practice.
Cost of Training
Training fees range anywhere from £10,000 to £26,000.
Yellow Path Five-Element acupuncture training is the least expensive Licentiate in Acupuncture (Lic.Ac) currently available. This is due to the low cost of delivering the bulk of lectures with our own original lecture material. We also have our own training clinic in central London and a fully-kitted acupuncture training site in the South of France,
The three-year degree courses are understandably the most expensive as they cover a lot of information and must meet the academic hours required for a degree level course.
Acupuncture is an ancient tradition and was passed down from master to student over thousands of years. This wealth of information and experience is what is described as a lineage. Even though you may choose to attend a degree level training or the standard three-year course, the study of acupuncture is rooted in ancient Chinese history and is dependent on the all-important relationship between the teacher/s and the student.
I am proud to say that the Yellow Path teaching team is passionate about passing on this system of medicine in the ancient oral tradition. All of our teachers and mentors are highly experienced in teaching and in practice.
Our approach to the training is to transmit this ancient wisdom in a format that meets the needs of the modern world. I was taught by great teachers who looked me in the eyes and physically directed me in how to engage with a patient and work with my needles. This intimate and close contact is essential for the transmission of centuries old knowledge and experience. Our films achieve this intimacy through their high quality and direct teaching style. You are not watching someone else’s classroom experience; you are being taught directly by us. Take a look at some of our free taster films.
It is essential you trust and value your teacher/s. Historically the student would search for his or her teacher and when found, ask to become a student. Equally, the path to mastery is to serve the needs of the student. It’s a subtle and beautiful relationship that values knowledge and experience in partnership with enthusiasm, humility and curiosity.
“When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready the teacher disappears”. Lao Tzu
Don’t be shy! Interview your future teachers. Speak to them before you sign on the dotted line to see if they are right for you! Equally they will decide if you are right for them.
Your Future Practice
Who do you want to help? Have you thought about your future practice and who your patients/clients might be? What might they need from you? Where will you practice? How much do you envisage/need to earn?
Patients come to us with lots of different needs. Some people are suffering with physical complaints and need you to reduce or remove their pain. Others will struggle with their mental health and need not only needles but a friendly ear to bend. Some need both! Increasingly, there are patients turning up with more existential woes, like a lack of purpose or drive; a broken heart!
It is important that you take time to imagine yourself in practice so that once again you can choose the most appropriate acupuncture training and role models to help you along the way.
For example, I was a psychotherapist before I trained in acupuncture which was born out of a huge curiosity in how people think and feel. I was not particularly interested in physical symptoms although I naturally wanted to help people out of any kind of suffering. I was lucky enough to land in a college that taught Five-Element acupuncture which focussed on developing my senses for diagnosis and the importance of the patient/practitioner relationship. Conversely, a colleague who was previously a professional athlete went on to train at a TCM college and now has a successful clinic treating physical pain!
Again, it’s not quite as binary as that but every training institution or teacher has its own emphasis of style and intention.
The Secret to Success
Many of us in the acupuncture profession jumped ship from previous careers because of feeling unfulfilled. Some of us turned to acupuncture training on the back of a personal health crisis that was resolved through acupuncture when all else failed. Some found the philosophy enthralling and ended up practising.
We are aware that being a good student will not necessarily translate into building a strong practice. At Yellow Path, we give you the confidence and tools to set up in business, help you feel confident and know we are here to support you as you start to work alone.
Clinical and commercial success requires more than education and good will. Experience and further training are two parts of the puzzle but both are totally dependent on getting the word out to prospective patients. They need to know who you are and what you do so that they can be helped and you can craft your art.
Ultimately you are selling a service. People are in the habit of researching for the best quality and the most affordable of any given product or service. Acupuncture is no different and in spite of its profile being greatly raised in the past 50 years, there’s still a long way to go before it becomes part of mainstream medicine.
So, what is the secret for success?
The Yellow Path training is designed to infuse you with passion but you will need to find and share your own passion to build your new career. If you’re not excited about what you are learning and practising, no one else will be. Human beings are story tellers and we all love a story. Speak to existing acupuncturists and patients and ask about their success stories. Share these with everyone you meet and build the buzz.
There’s a lot to learn, digest and assimilate and none of this comes without hard and consistent work. You cannot fall back on intuition or simply being nice to people! The work of an acupuncturist is forensic, sensitive and dynamic and all of these qualities require application, humility and patience
Be sure to make a five-year plan. Include all the suggestions I have made about choosing the right style of practice and the best training for you. Also, think ahead and visualise what you will need, how you will market yourself and even down to where you will practice. All plans are made to be broken but start somewhere and see where it leads.
Once you start practising, patients will not fall from the sky. If you haven’t prepared in advance and your patient list is empty, not only will you start to lose faith in yourself, your skills will start to fade.
Love it or loathe it, social media is here to stay and it is a wonderful way to communicate your journey from acupuncture student to practitioner. Case studies are always of interest to people and if they can relate to what you are showing them, they will be your sales agents.
- Two Things to Do Each Day
- Do something to improve your acupuncture skills. It might be reading something, exploring the natural world, sitting on a park bench watching people go by or practising taking the Chinese pulses. It doesn’t matter but do it every day.
- Do something to promote your future practice. Post something on social media. Write a blog about your learning journey. Call a friend you heard was needing help and ask how you can help. Make a list of 20 things you could do and rotate them.
What the World Needs Now
Acupuncture is an ancient tradition and a living tradition. It’s well equipped to deal with today’s problems just as it did for the problems of 3000 years ago. It’s worth noticing the kind of problems you personally experience, those of your family, your friends and your community and how you as a new practitioner can make a real difference. You need to think about what people are in need of now, and in the future.
Our lives have changed
One of my teachers used to talk about the changes he’d witnessed in his lifetime. Born before the Second World War and living in a small community, he saw that material needs and comforts were lacking. A lack of heat in winter, food shortages and for some, inadequate shelter. Yet people were happy and felt alive. He described children playing in the streets and neighbours communicating and being part of an active community. He saw a wealth of spirit in spite of the material poverty.
Today we have the opposite. The general trend in the West, is a competitive and somewhat alienating environment that offers plenty materially but leaves many people feeling empty and alone.
Why people get sick
Why do people develop physical symptoms in spite of their materially comfortable lives? Why do we have more internally created diseases than ever before? Mysterious cancers, autoimmune conditions, organ failure, medically undiagnosed symptoms and a growing problem with mental health fills our hospitals. Why?
Historically, Chinese medicine acknowledged and emphasised the role of the spirit in the maintenance of peoples’ health and well-being. They understood that being connected to nature and having the capacity to experience a rich and vibrant inner and outer life was an integral part of being well. In the West our attention has been diverted to our material needs and our thinking minds. We value success through intellect and property at the cost of the spirit.
We find ourselves at a time in history when a mental health crisis timebomb is about to explode. Obesity and a growing number of internally created diseases are on the rise. It’s certainly time to divert our attention back to ourselves and respond to what nature is telling us to do.
Ancient wisdom for modern times
Acupuncture is a system of medicines and a way of life that has stood the test of time. It taps into a home truth. We are as much a part of nature as a flowing river, a desert landscape or a school of whales. If we do not adhere to Nature’s laws and live our life as she dictates, we will undeniably find ourselves slipping into further decline. This ancient system of medicine is more relevant and valuable than ever before. By entering into the role of the acupuncture practitioner you are making a massive contribution to not only your own sense of happiness and wellbeing but also your patients and the world at large.
I hope you have found this useful and if you have any further questions, please explore our site and do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you great success with your new career and hope you will consider joining us at Yellow Path.