What makes a good acupuncture student?

I’ve been training acupuncture students at various institutions for over fifteen years now and I think I’ve got a pretty good idea about the qualities to look for in a prospective acupuncture student.

People come to study acupuncture for all kinds of reasons. Some people such as nurses, massage therapists or reflexologists come to acupuncture to add to a pre-existing skill or therapy they already have.  Others are career-changers who may have been working in something like banking or IT and are looking for a fresh start in life, or mums looking to return to the work-place after time out for a family.  No matter who they are, all of these people are looking for a profession that they can be passionate and engaged about, has flexible working hours, and sees maturity and age as a benefit, not a hindrance.

A Chinese Doctor who taught me once pointed at my head and said, “Your patients will respect those grey hairs!”.  Most prospective students are coming to study because they (or someone close to them) have experienced some kind of life-changing experience through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  So what are these qualities that prospective acupuncture students need? The most important are an open and inquisitive mind, a desire to help others and vision of creating a new life for themselves.

Students at the City College of Acupuncture (CCA) don’t need to have any specialist knowledge before enrolling. We assume our students know nothing about not only Traditional Chinese Medicine, but also Western medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Or how to read a research paper. Or issues surrounding the therapeutic relationship. Or how to run a business. We teach all of those from scratch!
What we are looking for are people with inquisitive minds who are open to growth. In many ways we are teaching an accelerated self-development course!

Studying Chinese Medicine can be confusing….very confusing! It may involve giving up hard-held views and a willingness to embrace a new way of engaging with life, the universe and everything. People in the West tend to like definitive answers, they like things to be right or wrong. The answer to most questions about Chinese medicine is, “Well, that depends…”, and that can be infuriating!! But a willingness to immerse yourself in a new way of thinking can be incredibly rewarding. Ask any acupuncture student – they all become Chinese Medicine nerds!

Studying Chinese Medicine may challenge what you think you know about yourself, your place in life, and what ‘health’ really is. This may sound startling, but it is also very rewarding. It takes the blinkers off your eyes and enables you to understand why people talk and act the way they do.  Acupuncture isn’t an academic subject. It’s an unusual therapy that straddles aspects of both art and science. You don’t need to be a genius to master it, but you do need to have emotional intelligence.

One of the best practitioners I ever taught was a painter and decorator in his previous profession, but his dedication and willingness to embrace a new way of looking at the world made him a fantastic practitioner.

If you think you have these qualities and that you would like to have a new career that you can immerse yourself in and love, then retraining with us at CCA could be for you.

Paul Johnson, Senior Lecturer, The City College of Acupuncture