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Returning to practice


Hi everyone.

I am posting on here because I have used this site a lot and really value the wealth of knowledge and experience of its users. I am hoping you can provide me with advice about returning to practice Acupuncture and Bodywork.

I graduated in 2004 with a BSC Hons Traditional Chinese Medicine. I practiced very briefly at the acupuncture clinic at the university, which, after 6 mnoths, ended as the number of patients decreased and I also relocated to Glastonbury. Whilst there I worked ina supermarket whilst trying to set up - I arranged to rent a room in Ying Yang health Centre where after paying a despoit, I was told the room would be refurbished and after several weeks the room was a bombsite and the owners of the company left the business. This affected my confidence and I also had no response to leaflets and business cards I had left inthe local area, yellow page listings etc. A few years later I moved to Oxford due to personal reasons. There, I attempted to keep my toe in and networked with an acupuncturist there who asked me to continue her practice whilst she went away. At he time my pesonal confidence was low and I declined her lovely offer (I am kicking myself now). Since then I have been drawn to and away from Acupuncture like a yoyo. In the last 5 years, I did a course in korean hand acupuncture, I have done some self study to refresh my skills, I have also been practising on friends and family. More recently I have been drawn to massage. I completed a massage module at university, which incorporated acupressure although the main techniques were swedish massage. I also copleted a short course at a community college in swedish massage. After a string of jobs in areas that I thought I was interested in, including careers advice, social work and welfare officer, arts and crafts workshop facilitiator. I am now assessing what it is that i want to really do with my career. I am planning no doing a massage diploma from september. I have now moved into my own house with a spare room which can be a therapy room. My partner is very supportive of my career choices and just wants me to be happy. My rough plan is to build a small practice from home whilst continuing to earn money in my full time job at a college (where i am a welfare adviser). Then as this grows, reduce my hours, or get another job that is part time to accomodate more patient appointments. As it grows, to re incorporate my acupuncture skills. I also see myself offering treatments (massage, acupuncture) to vulnerable people including carers, those with mental health issues etc, thus incorpoating my social work training. at he moment, the barriers are:

Confidence in my acupuncture skills and knowledge
Costs of insurance and membership for acupuncture
Ability to promote my business

I have enquired about refresher courses and the like only to be told that there is noly CPD courses. However, to become a member of most governing bodies I need to have been in practice for x amount of time prior to registering for membership. But I can't get into practice until I am confident. And I cant get confident until I refresh my skills and knowledge. I know self study is a huge part of this, but I feel I also need something more structured.

If anyone has any ideas, words of advice, wisdom and encouragement, please please respond.

Thank you so much in advance,

Big love



Hello Joanne,

The first part of this issue is to figure out what you really and truly want to do. Acupuncture is not just a job - for you to be successful it has to be your driving and burning passion to help people with Chinese Medicine. Generally you are looking at 8-36 months to build up a stable practice. So to get something started you should be in it for the long haul and be prepared for the slow times and the ups and downs until about years 3-5. If you make it that far, generally all will go smoothly if you maintain the passion after that.

How practice building works is simply word of mouth and results speak the loudest, but being nice and professional helps a bit too. Part of this, then, is having a professional place to practice and your house is not this place. You need a stable practice place in a professional environment to be taken seriously. If this means you need to take out business loans to ride out the first couple years or if you need to take a part-time job (more on that below) to make ends meet then so be it. Either way it will be a difficult journey initially with sacrifice, but worth it in the end if, and only if, this is your passion.

With regards to holding another job while trying to build your practice. Sometimes there are no other options so it is ok, but it&#39s not ideal. It will ultimately fragment your energy and is too easy to not put in the tremendous effort needed to start a practice and fall back on another income which is easier to come by. You have to be hungry, so to speak, and driven to make this happen and it likely won&#39t otherwise.

With regards to building your skills, the best would be to either join another practice or at the easiest find a successful practitioner in your area and ask them if you can follow them around for a half day once a week or something. Most would be flattered and helpful. Watch the techniques they use, but perhaps more importantly how they interact with the patients and what they talk about and how they talk about it - this will be extremely helpful. The techniques come with experience and you need lots of patients to get that experience, not by book learning. But patient interaction and business management you can learn form other practitioners and these are crucial aspects to success.

With regards to massage. If you want to be a massage therapist that is great... do that. But remember that tuina is a huge part of Chinese Medicine and swedish massage training is not tuina. If you want to incorporate tuina into your practice that is great and it will only help your practice and your results. We do some on every single patient and its a big part of our clinical success. So don&#39t think of them as two separate things.

I wish you the best in figuring all of this out. Its a very rewarding career for those that make it through the first few years. It&#39s tough, demanding and at times just exhausting, but if this is your passion there is nothing else you&#39d rather do. If it&#39s not your passion, you very likely won&#39t make it. So you should decide that part first and if you decide to build a practice, then let nothing stop you from that point on going forward. Don&#39t start piecemeal with the easy way. Get a professional office, pay rent on it, make it look nice, get more than one room (at least 2) and just make it happen. Don&#39t worry about the phone book and fancy ads, etc. they just waste money. Just get some patients in make them better and let them tell their friends. People need help and if it&#39s your passion you will be there to help them - it&#39s a wonderful medicine.

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