By Rosy Hawkins, 2016 Graduate
Studying acupuncture at CCA was probably the most rewarding experience of my life to date. I count myself lucky in having experienced a many wonderful and varied chapters in life, but this opportunity really tops most.
Class numbers at CCA are kept small which means your student-teacher ratio is kept low, which trust me, is ideal. Not just because the acupuncture points themselves are so small and require such accuracy, but also so that questions can be asked and answered in what feels a safe environment. Learning this unique and beautiful approach to medicine is not just about understanding theory, nor diagnosing… half of the experience is about you developing as the practitioner. Learning in a small group means you can feel vulnerable as you explore all aspects of your personality, as these will be revealed through the subjects covered and through your development of the therapeutic relationship.
Exploring the therapeutic relationship was for me, just as interesting as learning about Chinese medicine. There were rich challenges in getting to understand myself better – what is my relationship with self? What are my triggers? How will I handle talking about certain subjects? Will I get upset? All these triggers and mirrors you have to confront in order to define where you end and the patient begins. Empathy vs sympathy, compassion vs pity… these are the kind of dynamics that need exploring in the classroom so that when you come to practice you have your boundaries in place, your armour on and you know how to leave work at work and step back into your life outside. Once out in the world where your patients are paying and have a choice whether they see you or someone else, your delivery, presence and style speaks volumes and really defines the type of patients you will attract.
I was lucky enough to interview the day after my final lecture for a position to practice at Neal’s Yard therapy rooms in Covent Garden. Fortunately it was successful and I’ve been practicing there since. While that might seem like I landed on my feet, I would say that all the students from my year are all doing very well and playing to our strengths. By the end of the three years we were very different practitioners to one another and the places we have set up practice and the conditions we are seeing also reflect that diversity. There is no one practitioner for everybody, nor is acupuncture the right treatment for every ailment! This is important to remember.
Do not be put off studying acupuncture by thinking you can’t imagine working at the end of it. I had doubts about making it a career right up until my final semester, by an large due to self-doubt. However with the help of a certain teacher and module called Practitioner Qualifying Development, which gets you drawing up a business plan, I began to focus the idealistic dream into a tangible reality. I live in London and there are indeed practitioners everywhere… but what you will find is most other practitioners are warm and happy to offer advise and even refer patient’s, and that the ones who aren’t, will unlikely come into contact with you.
One of my greatest challenges in student clinic and now in practice, is in managing expectations, both the patient’s and my own. This is a constant process for me. Sometimes improvements of symptoms are slow, sometimes patients seem to get worse before they get better, but when you have someone’s life turn around for the better after only a few (sometimes one) treatment, it really is the most fulfilling feeling that cannot be likened to anything I’ve ever experienced.
I urge you to explore your curiosity in this subject. You will think you have a strong sense of what it entails at the start, but i promise it will unfold with surprising depth and challenges along the way… and that is where the greatest gifts reside!
Rosy Hawkins, 2016 Graduate