All the questions you should have asked…

It isn’t until you get to the end of studying Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that you really understand the questions you should have asked before you started training. Hindsight is a marvelous thing!

I thought it might be useful to help you clarify the questions that you should be asking of any Acupuncture course you are looking at, not only ours. You should always ask…

How can I tell if this is a good college?

This is one of the most important question you need to ask! Colleges that are accredited by the BAAB (British Acupuncture Accreditation Board) represent the ‘gold standard’ of traditional Acupuncture training in the UK. You can find much shorter and cheaper courses… but there will be a reason for that! If you were going to send your mother or loved one to an acupuncturist would you recommend going to one with degree-level training, or to one who has only studied for a couple of weekends? It’s a no-brainer really! If you are looking at a college accredited by a body different to the BAAB, check who runs that accrediting body; you may find that the ‘accrediting body’ is run by the same people that run the course!

Will you give me a thorough grounding in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

It is really important to not specialise too early. If you specialise too early you may limit what you can treat – and what you can go on to study later. Our ‘TCM Toolbox’ approach means that you learn a broad range of diagnostic techniques and treatment methods. This enables you to be able to treat pretty much any condition that might come in to your clinic.

Can I talk to your staff? Can I talk to your students? Can I sit in on a lesson?

Absolutely – come to one of our open days and you meet the staff. If there is a class running at the same time you can meet the students and have a chat to them about what studying with us is like. Some colleges use sales staff at open days – their main aim is to sell you the course, irrespective of whether it is the right course for you. We are happy for you to come and sit in on a class – just ask! If a college doesn’t let you do this there may be a reason…

Can your teachers actually teach?

Don’t laugh! This is a really important question. Are the teachers experienced? Do they have any teaching qualifications? Just because they are practitioners it doesn’t mean they are able to pass that knowledge on. Many of our staff have been teaching for nearly 20 years and have trained literally hundreds of acupuncturists. Fancy college premises can be misleading – just because somewhere looks great it doesn’t mean the teaching is of a high standard.

Do I have to study any additional therapies alongside Acupuncture?

No. We don’t make you study any add-ons like naturopathy or NLP. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an all-encompassing way of working. When fully understood, it contains all the diagnostic techniques you need to treat people on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. We will teach you dietary and lifestyle advice according to TCM principles – not something bolted on from the 21st century. Yang sheng – “Nourishing Life” – is central to our approach.

How soon do I start needling and learning practical skills?

Different colleges place different emphasis on practical skills. It is a good idea to find out how long you have to wait before you start to practice needling. Some courses don’t introduce practical work until just before you start treating in the teaching clinic! At CCA you put your first needle into someone at 10 weeks, and you get to grips with all the ancillary technical skills of moxibustion, cupping and gua sha at an early stage of the course so that when you go into clinic you are relaxed and confident in using them all.

Is there distance learning?

No – acupuncture is a practical skill and we feel it is best taught face-to-face. We have a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) which contains all of the course notes, Powerpoint and videos that you need to study. However, the videos are there to back up what you do in class – they aren’t a replacement for face-to-face learning.

Are there lots of essays to write?

Some courses give lots of homework. We feel that this isn’t appropriate at this level of study. There are some essays to write but we assess your progress in lots of different ways – practical exams for Anatomy and Point Location, workbooks and oral exams for Practitioner Development, continuous assessment for your work in Clinic. We try to keep written essays to a minimum.

Can I study and work part-time?

Will you be able to fit the course you want to study into your life? Will there still be down-time? We think it is very important that you get a realistic view of the amount of study that is required to become an acupuncturist. As you get more interested in the subject you will become a Chinese medicine geek – it will be all you want to read and talk about! We suggest that you can do our course and work up to three days a week – any more than that and you will wear yourself out. We make this quite clear at interview stage.

Can I use the college facilities outside of class-times?

You will find that your classmates become a great support network for you and you may want to meet them for study groups outside of class hours. Can the college you are looking at provide those facilities? CCA can – just make sure to check availability and book a room, and you can come in to study at the college and use all of its facilities.

Am I tied in to paying three years’ worth of fees?

Another really important question – check if you are being locked-in to paying for a course even if your circumstances change and you stop studying. Seriously, this can happen! At CCA you pay for what you study.

Do I need a degree to get into practice?

Some colleges will offer you two qualifications in Acupuncture – a degree and a Licentiate Diploma in Acupuncture (LicAc). A degree is an academic qualification – when you qualify and register with your local borough council, they aren’t concerned if you have this or not. What they are looking for is the LicAc – this is the qualification that proves you are a qualified practitioner.

How do you help me get into practice?

It is always good to find out how many graduates from a college actually make the jump to being a practitioner. We currently have 100% of our graduates in practice. How do we do that? By having a fantastic business module that makes sure that you understand everything from local council regulations, sharps box collection, marketing… everything that you need to get into practice. We expect you to have a business card and a website ready before you leave – you should have identified your target audience, decided on your price structure and be chomping at the bit to get started!

Does this college feel right for me?

Ultimately this is the most important question you should ask and the only person that can answer it is you. Everyone is different. Try to find the college that feels right for you, be that CCA or any other BAAB accredited college. You’re going to be spending the next three years of your life there!