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a manaking used in acupuncture training coursesIf you are thinking of becoming an acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, then there are a few things you need to know.

Firstly, the UK's national health service recognises that acupuncture can indeed have several benefits for the public. For instance, acupuncture for helping to relieve pain has been documented as largely successful in people. The Oriental therapy is now often recommended by doctors and physiotherapists for chronic pain sufferers who have found that traditional pain relief has been insufficient in helping them. This is great news for the profession and anyone looking begins a career in acupuncture.

Acupuncture Training

Acupuncture training requirements in the UK are quite strict. Acupuncturists are expected to have studied a course which is accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB). The requirements for accreditation are also fairly stringent. The reason for this is to ensure a high standard of practitioners and to help better to protect the general public from practitioners who may otherwise be unsuitable and unfit to practice.

For a training institution to be accredited, the course must include at least 400 hours of practical experience in a clinical setting, and students must have an understanding of Chinese medicine theory, as well as physiology, anatomy, and medical science. So on the whole, the training at UK institutions, in general, is at a high level.

Training in Clinical Practice

Training in acupuncture does not just include training in the placement and use of needles; it also includes clinical observation and practice, diligent study of Chinese philosophy, Chinese and Western Pathology, Western anatomy, physiology, and training in the area of handling patients and understanding their needs as well as their ailments.

While acupuncturists are trained to diagnose symptoms and pathology from a perspective of a Chinese medicine perspective, they are not trained in the use of prescriptive medications. Often, their patients will ask their practitioners for advice on medical matters. Therefore, it is important that acupuncturists understand what they are allowed to say, what not to say, and how to refer patients back to a General Practitioner if necessary.

When you attend an open day at a credible training institution, they should also brief you on this criteria to give you the complete picture before you take the important step of signing up for a course. Arriving at the conclusion that the course is not for you half way through your studies is not ideal.

Most colleges will provide ample information about their courses to attendees of open days. However, it can be very helpful to gather as much information as possible about each course before traveling to visit the institutions.

Following the training institutions in social media can not only be an effective way to gain an overall flavour of the college and the type for course that they are offering, but also to receive information on their up and coming open days and events. The International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM) for example, provide information about their acupuncture courses on Twitter.

British Acupuncture Council

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the primary governing body of acupuncture practitioners in the UK. While a student is undergoing their studies in acupuncture, they can become a student member of the BAcC, and this gives them access to guidance and advice on how to set up a practice once they have completed their qualification.

Furthermore, the BAcC also provides continual support for acupuncturists once they are qualified along with other benefits of membership.

A High Barrier to Entry

To be considered a fully qualified acupuncturist in the UK, you must complete a course that is equivalent to at least a three-year degree. The acupuncture training requirements in UK practices are not to be underestimated. It can be quite expensive to fund the course, but it is worthwhile if it is what you want to pursue.

Some two-year diploma courses are recognised by the BAcC, although these are intensive degrees which typically require the student to have an understanding of western medicine and biology before they begin. These diplomas are ideal for physiotherapists, personal trainers, nurses and others who are looking to cross-train and add acupuncture to their repertoire. Such students already have the maturity and sensitivity required to support patients.

Just like chiropractic treatment, acupuncture has a place in western medicine and those who understand both its effectiveness and its limitations can do a lot of good. The 'gold standard' for acupuncture training is quite clearly the three-year course, because of the sheer number of hours of actual clinical observation and practice that the student must go through to complete the course.

On top of completing a three-year degree in acupuncture, being a member of the BAcC will also contribute considerable credibility and also support to practitioners once they are qualified and practicing in the real world.

ICOMThe International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM) is one of the oldest acupuncture training institutions in the western world. Founded in 1972, ICOM is the first acupuncture college in the United Kingdom and has so far enjoyed more than 40 years of success in training acupuncturists.

ICOM was founded by the late Dr Van Buren, who subsequently went on to establish branches of the college in Holland, Israel and Australia. With it’s unique teaching style of integrated Chinese systems of acupuncture, ICOM has turned out some of the most well respected acupuncturists of the 20th and 21st century.

Due to the thoroughness of the training provided at ICOM and the depth of knowledge received by the students, ICOM graduates commonly enjoy busy practices and fruitful careers once they graduate.

ICOM is a Classically based acupuncture training college that teaches all the main styles of the practice. This includes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Elements, Classical acupuncture and Stems and Branches theory. This integrated knowledge helps to make well rounded and highly knowledgeable acupuncturists.

What is ICOM known for?

icomBesides being the oldest acupuncture training facility in the UK, ICOM is also the only place in the western world that teaches an ancient system of Chinese philosophy known as Stems and Branches.

Stems and Branches, also known as Wu Yun Liu Qi theory, is a fascinating system of Chinese philosophy that provides an in-depth and unique picture of the movements and cycles of energetics of the patient and their relationship to the external environment.

With this unique understanding of the individual, a Stems and Branches acupuncturist can become aware of the deeper nature of their patients and therefore, discover constitutional imbalances that can be a precursor to disease. With this knowledge, the practitioner is able to treat the patient at their root, helping to correct any imbalances and therefore, heal the ailment at a deeper level.

According to this theory, the Qi from our parents and the Qi present in the external environment at the moment of our birth determines our own unique energetic make-up. From this, each person has constitutional strengths and weaknesses, which need to be considered at different stages of our lives.

Stems and Branches philosophy also pays close attention to the cycles and movements of the universe. One such movement is the 60 year cycle through which, our lives are said to be interwoven with these movements. Some time periods we will find relatively smooth whereas others will present more challenging times and sometimes illness.

In clinical practice, Stems and Branches philosophy lends us a deeper understanding and interpretation of the energetics of the patient as well as their physiology and gives us insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their being. From this we are able to comprise a more suitable treatment strategy to assist our patients with their ailments.

A unique approach to student learning

ICOM’s undergraduate acupuncture training courses are both academic and practical, providing the student with a good depth of understanding as well as the time, space and support to apply what they learn in a practical manor.

The main training programme at the college is a BSc (Hons) Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which takes place over three years for full-time students and five years for those wishing to undertake the course on a part-time basis.

ICOM offers a uniquely integrated approach to both acupuncture and learning, which enables the college to mould it’s students into the best practitioner they can possibly be. This training begins with a solid foundation in the theory of Chinese medicine as well as western anatomy, physiology, pathology and extensive diagnostic training.

Once this grounding is acquired, the students are then given extensive practical training, applying their skills with real patients that attend the busy on site student clinic. During this time students are trained in small groups to further enhance their learning. Once they reach a level of competence, they are then one on one with their patients under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. At this stage, the students are then also taught more complex aspects and techniques of Chinese medicine. Having this experience allows the students to see first hand the effects of acupuncture and gauge the results of the treatments they give when they see their patients returning for follow up treatments.

ICOM is affiliated with the University of Greenwich and is partnered with the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) through the British Accreditation Board (BAAB). You can also follow ICOM acupuncture college on Facebook here.

acupuncture booksThere are numerous options for you to consider if you are thinking of taking an undergraduate acupuncture course in the UK. However, there are several things to bear in mind before making your final decision.

What You Need To Consider When Choosing An Undergraduate Acupuncture Course

There are several important factors to consider when looking at course options and institutions:

  • Type Of Course - Is the course a degree or a diploma course?
  • What style of acupuncture is taught by your chosen institution?
  • How much of the course is classroom based and how much is taught practically?
  • Is the course accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB)?

Visiting the BAAB website is the best way to find a list of institutions that offer accredited acupuncture colleges together with information about the types of course they provide and their content. Here we outline some of the UK's best institutions for studying acupuncture.

International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM)
ICOM is the oldest institution in the UK for studying acupuncture. Based in East Grinstead, they offer a BSc (Hons) course over 3 years full time or 5 years part-time that is fully accredited by the BAAB. The college ensures that all styles of acupuncture are taught, however there is an emphasis on traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture training at ICOM is given in small groups to guarantee a high level of personal attention and support. Graduates leave the college fully trained and experienced in both the theoretical and practical skills of acupuncture. Students receive both academic and practical experience, with an internship being an integral part of the final year.

Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA)
Based in York, the Northern College of Acupuncture offers a BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course that can be studied full or part time. As the only Northern training institution, their teaching methods are based in Chinese medicine and are a combination of class based study, home learning and practical experience. Students learn about the theory and philosophy of acupuncture as well as how it ties in with Western medicine. They also receive a grounding in business and marketing skills.

College of Integrated Chinese Medicine (CICM)
CICM, based in Reading, offers a BAAB accredited BSC (Hons) course that is based on a unique style of acupuncture that combines Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture with traditional Chinese Medicine. The full time course can be studied during weekdays or weekends over three years, and offers a year of clinical practice in the third year that consolidates all learning. The course is equally divided between practical experience and academic study.

London's Southbank University
Offering a three year full time BSc (Hons) BAAB accredited course, students will be taught by both Chinese and UK practitioners. Throughout the course, students will study in the classroom and receive practical hands-on experience in the university's training clinic with the opportunity to undertake an extended clinical placement.

University of Westminster
Offering a 3 year full time BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course, the University of Westminster offers students practical learning in their on site acupuncture clinic where they focus on Chinese medicine. Students undertake an NHS clinical placement and undertake practical training throughout all three years of the course as well as undertaking classroom academic teaching.

College of Naturopathic Medicine
This London based college offers a BAAB accredited diploma course with 400 hours of practical clinical experience for an excellent grounding in acupuncture. The course is taught part-time at weekends and is completed within 3 to 5 years. Acupuncture at this college is taught in conjunction with other naturopathic subjects such as nutrition, homeopathy and iridology.

Lincoln College
Offering a BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course over three years of full time study, Lincoln College offers a programme during which students combine academic and practical study to develop a rounded understanding of acupuncture. Students study the theory of Chinese medicine and participate in clinical observation as well as undertaking practical experience.

The Acupuncture Academy
Based in Leamington Spa, the Acupuncture Academy offers a three year Professional Licentiate in Acupuncture that is accredited by the BAAB. Based on the Five Element tradition, their course also covers traditional Chinese Medicine. The course comprises class based study, e-learning from home and a six month clinical practice for one day a week during the third year.