Although the qualifications for acupuncture practitioners are not yet standardized, even within the United States, there are certain qualities the best acupuncture practitioners usually share. These include appropriate training and credentialing, years of experience in the field, and specific experience treating common symptoms or diseases, especially the symptoms or disease for which treatment is being sought. The affordability of the acupuncture treatment may also be a consideration.
In the United States, 40 states require specific training in order to practice acupuncture. This usually includes a masters-level education and a written and practical examination that must be passed in order to obtain certification and a license to practice acupuncture. This is also true in the three Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. When choosing an acupuncture practitioner in states and provinces that regulate acupuncture in this way, the best acupuncture practitioners will have a full, active license.
In some areas of the United States, there is no governmental standard for acupuncture practice. In these cases, the best acupuncture practitioners will be credentialed through the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists (NCCA). Members of the NCCA will either have a degree in oriental medicine from an accredited school or will have spent four years working as an apprentice to a certified acupuncturist.
Another consideration when choosing the best acupuncture practitioner is the amount of experience the practitioner has. The number of years of practice is one indicator, but it’s also important to know the number of patient contacts per year, as well as the number of unique patients seen. A practitioner working in a slow practice or who is attempting to build their practice might have a year of experience equivalent to the patient contacts of six months spent in a practice that is much busier.
The best acupuncture practitioner for any given prospective patient is also experienced in treating the condition for which the patient is seeking care. Some acupuncture practitioners specialize in balancing the mind-body wellness continuum, others in addressing specific physical symptoms. Still other acupuncture practitioners have built practices around managing the health and wellness of people with certain diseases, such as cancer or heart disease.
Effective acupuncture often requires a number of treatments, so cost can become a significant factor in choosing the best acupuncture practitioner. While many insurance companies do cover some or all of the costs associated with acupuncture treatment, patients need to check carefully that the prospective acupuncture practitioner meets the requirements of the insurance company for reimbursement. In addition, some acupuncture practitioners offer a service known as community acupuncture, where care is provided in a group setting. Costs for this are often much lower than the cost for traditional individual treatment.