Acupuncture Learning Center

​How to Choose the Best Acupuncturist, and the Right One for You

The Things to Look For and Watch Out For When Finding an Acupuncturist

by Dr. Derek Kirkham

Seeing a new acupuncturist, especially for the first time, can be a little awkward.

You don’t know what to expect.

And even before you make the appointment, you aren’t sure you know how to pick the right one or how to know if the acupuncturist is good.

Of course, no two acupuncturists are going to be the same, and it’s important to go to one who will be perfect for you.

It helps to do your research to make the best choice. This will result in a much better experience as you venture in acupuncture. Luckily for you, we will be going over every possible question you might have in finding the right acupuncturist to help ease the transition in this ancient medical practice.

What Makes a Good Acupuncturist?

There are 3 essential factors that every reputable acupuncturist has:

  1. It’s important that your acupuncturist has proper credentials. Each state in the US has certain requirements that include education, training, and a proper certificate to practice acupuncture. Any acupuncture practice should be able to provide its license and license numbers and will be up to date with continuing education.
  2. It’s vital that your acupuncturist has proper insurance. In case anything goes wrong during the procedure, it’s important that you are both covered for liability reasons.
  3. It’s critical that your acupuncturist has a healthy and clean treatment room. Not only are acupuncturists in the US supposed to use sterilized needles, but practitioners are obliged to have clean hands as well as fresh blankets and pillows for customer use. All equipment should be on carts or tables, with a clean floor for the client to walk on.

What are Some Red Flags to Look Out For?

If your new acupuncturist does any of the following, get out immediately!

  • Has a dirty treatment room
  • Tells you how many visits you will need before asking you about your medical history and providing a diagnosis
  • Rushes treatment
  • Doesn’t answer any of your questions
  • Refuses to show you their credentials, if you ask

Where to Find Your New Acupuncturist

There are two mains ways that you can find your new acupuncturist:

1. Get a Recommendation

Chances are you know somebody who has tried acupuncture in the past. Ask where they went to receive treatment. This is an especially good idea if the treatment was for the same type of condition you are experiencing. Your doctor may also be able to provide a good recommendation.

2. Search Online

If you are unable to find a personal recommendation, the next place to look is the internet. Check review websites like Yelp to find highly rated and popular acupuncture practices. Doing a quick Google search can also help you to find a practitioner who specializes in your condition. This will also allow you to view the websites of potential practices and read about basic services and information.

What Kind of Treatment Are You Looking For?

Many people are unaware that there are many different types of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese acupuncture, Japanese style, 5 Element acupuncture, scalp acupuncture, and more. There are certain styles that are more effective for certain conditions, or that will align more with the kind of approach you are looking for.

If you want to address more emotional and spiritual imbalances while treating your physical conditions, you might want to try a 5 Element acupuncture approach. Or there’s Auricular, or ear acupuncture, which is known to be good for addiction, smoking cessation, and weight loss.

Some acupuncturists can treat all types of conditions whereas some specialize in certain conditions, focusing their practice on getting getting really good at a particular area of expertise.

You may consider seeking out a specialist if you have a serious health condition. It would also be a good idea to go to a specialist if you are pregnant or soon expecting to be.

Before you settle on an acupuncturist, ask what their specialties are, which style of acupuncture they use, and what they have the most experience with.

In addition to acupuncture, there are a number of other treatments that your practitioner may offer. Many of these treatments also fall under the category of Chinese medicine. Some of these treatments include heat therapy, bodywork, cupping, food therapy, and herbalist services. Speak with your acupuncture office to see what, if any, other services they offer.

What Kind of Vibe Appeals to You?

Every practitioner is different – from the more Eastern esoteric feel to the staunchly straightforward and medical… and everything in between.

Find a practitioner that feels like your kind of place!

It will greatly affect your experience.

With the right approach and feel, your chosen practitioner can make you feel at ease and confident. A good place to start is looking at their website and social media. You may be able to get a feel for how they think and what their practice feels like.

Read reviews and look for what appeals to you most.

And then try them out. You’ll never know for sure until you book your first appointment. If they accept insurance, it won’t even be on your dime!

When you find the right one, you’ll know it. Don’t be afraid to try a few and see who most gels with your personality and expectations.

Choosing the Best Acupuncturist for Your Needs

Aside from the basic qualifications that every acupuncturist should meet that we listed above, there are a few other things you should consider when selecting your new specialist. Look for someone who:

1. Asks and Answers Questions

An acupuncturist who asks questions is a good acupuncturist. This allows them to get to the root of your problems and provide you with a good session. Questions also allow them to point you in the right direction on your own wellness and healing journey.

Search for someone who will answer your questions as well. You should be able to feel comfortable asking questions about anything from qualifications to advice. Your acupuncturist should be patient and able to answer any one of your questions.

2. Listens Deeply

Find a practitioner who listens to your symptoms, concerns, and anything else you have to say. This allows them to tailor your treatment to your needs and provide you with the best possible visit every time.

3. Spends Plenty of Time on You

The last thing you want is an acupuncture session that feels rushed. Whether your session is spent talking or with the needles, you should have your acupuncturist’s full attention. With a good practitioner, even a 30 minute session can feel satisfying and fulfilling.

4. Is Upfront About Treatment Plans and Costs

There is nothing worse than enjoying a relaxing acupuncture treatment, getting home, and seeing a surprise charge on your bill. It will completely negate the relaxing treatment you just had. Make sure you discuss at length the exact cost of each visit and follow-up visit. You also want to talk about your treatment plan and create one that works for you.

5. Is Convenient

The location of the practice and the hours of operation are sometimes just as important as the acupuncturist. This is especially true if you have time intensive therapies.

Look for a practitioner that is easy to get to and probably close to your home. Also take note of the operation hours as many acupuncturists have limited hours. If you work full-time, this can be a real hassle.

Make sure you pay attention to the small details as well. Is there parking? Is there an elevator or are they on the first floor? All of these things should contribute to your decision.

How Much Should an Acupuncturist Cost?

Your treatment cost will vary based on a few different factors. The price is often dependent on the style of acupuncture, the experience of the specialist, and where you are located. Make sure you ask for the prices up front before you make any commitment.

For lucky ones in places where their health insurance covers acupuncture treatments (like the state of Washington) you may not have to worry about cost at all! Just go in and have it covered by insurance… just be sure to check first with the practitioner and your insurance company!

Even though it may covered, there may only be a certain number of sessions allowed. Or you may need to pay a certain amount out of pocket for each session.

You will need to check with your insurance company to see if they cover this type of treatment and if so, ask your acupuncturist if they accept your insurance.

Here are a few questions you should ask your health insurance provider before making any decisions.

  • Is acupuncture covered?
  • What is the deductible?
  • How much can be reimbursed for each visit?
  • Is there a limited number of trips that are covered?

Are you Afraid of Needles?

Never fear! Even those who are afraid of needles can enjoy the benefits of acupuncture. A good acupuncturist can quell those fears and provide a relaxing treatment despite the original anxiety.

Search for a specialist who is:

  • Understanding of your fears and inhibitions
  • Calm and can establish a relaxing environment
  • Attentive and listens to your needs and will stop treatment if you ask
  • Able to explain the whole process in detail and make it clear that acupuncture needles are different from other needles and cause no pain

If you are still afraid, there may be hope for you yet!

According to a recent study, poke-free acupuncture may be just as effective as regular acupuncture. In this process, also known as sham acupuncture, blunt needles are used and they do not puncture the skin at all.

In fact, there are many acupuncture practices that don’t use needles at all and can be an excellent alternative.

Choose an Acupuncturist Confidently

You are ready to start choosing an acupuncturist you can be confident in.

Now that you know how to choose an acupuncturist, brush up on the types of acupuncture to further choose the right approach for you.

If you’re in Seattle, give me a call. If not, find a local acupuncturist that fits your needs. You won’t regret it!

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