So this morning I was at work and got a call from a new patient. After a few minutes she asked me a question that comes up once and a while. How good are you? I have to admit Its always been a tough question for me to answer. But it is a valid question. So I thought, how do you know the acupuncturist you are looking at going to is any good. I was surprised at how hard I found to answer this question, so I can only imagine how difficult it would be for someone who had never experienced acupuncture before. So I thought about the criteria I would look for if I was in the need of an acupuncturist.

So I put together some criteria that your acupuncturist should have in helping you make that all important decision.

– Qualified: This may seem very obvious but not all acupuncturists are trained equally. Most accredited acupuncture training programs in Ireland are at least 3 academic years in length. Within those there years, acupuncturists learn the physical body, psychological of the mind in both Eastern and Western Medicine. So ask about their training, where they did it and for how long. Unfortunately due to the lack of regulation in Ireland it is possible to set up practice with very minimum standards.

– Experienced: Its a good idea for your acupuncturist to have a few years under the belt. So dont be afraid to ask them how long they have been in practice. I absolutely understand that we have to start somewhere. But the longer your therapist has been in practice the more experience they will have to be able to help you.

– Specialised Training: Some acupuncturists choose to specialise in treating certain problems. If you have a well known condition like migraines, infertility, or arthritis, you may benefit from finding a specialist in that area. Specialisation isn’t necessary, though. Personally, I run a specialised practice, with an emphasis on fertility and pregnancy. The advantage for me is that all I see every day are couples trying to conceive, pregnancy and women about to have their babies. So very quickly you get very good in that specific area. And this is great for my fertility patients.

– Acupuncture’s popularity has grown over the past few years, so chances are you already know someone who has tried it. Seek out recommendations, especially from someone who has seen an acupuncturist for reasons similar to your own. If you can’t get a personal opinion or haven’t found the right match, the internet is also a great resource, especially if you are looking for an acupuncturist with a particular specialty. Although acupuncturists are trained as generalists, many acupuncturists, like GPs, move into a more specialised area to concentrate their skills. The one thing I will say on this though, is for your acupuncturist to be a true specialist in their area, at least 50% of their clients need to be in this area. In my own clinic its 100%, fertility is all I do. I kinda have OCD in it. 🙂 Which is great for you if you are wanting to get pregnant.

– Convenience: While some conditions can be treated in a single session, acupuncture is usually an ongoing therapy, which may require several weeks to many months of treatment. Therefore, your practitioner’s location and schedule are of primary importance, especially for time intensive therapies. For example, I usually see patients twice a month. We are also 3 minutes from the Cork fertility clinic and 5 minutes from the Cork University Hospital, so this is very convenient for our patients.

– Their clinic: Acupuncture facilities cover a wide spectrum, from simple and comfortable, to sterile and clinical, to grandiose and spa-like. What type of environment do you feel most comfortable in? Drop by the facility to see if it is a good match for your tastes. A personal visit is also a good way to get a sense of the clinic’s style and attitude. It is also worth noting that some acupuncturists work part time, so check to see what are their opening hours, are they open weekends, or can you have an evening appointment. Alot of part-time acupuncturists practice form their homes, so make sure you are comfortable with that.

So after talking and meeting with your new acupuncturist, do you feel comfortable with them. If you are not at ease with the practitioner, it will be difficult for you to openly discuss your personal details about your health and in fact your life, how you are feeling physically and how you are emotionally. You are going to be spening alot of time with your acupuncturist so do make sure they are right for your needs.

And Finally, Ask questions!

Always ask questions of the practitioner prior to, during, and after treatment. Knowledge is key in self care, so don’t hesitate to make inquiries. Any good practitioner will be more than willing to fully explain the answers to your questions in terms you can easily understand.