If you decide you want to study to become an acupuncturist you need to learn many concrete elements about the training such as topics of study, how long the course will take, how much the courses will cost, if financial aid is available, etc. Another important element to seek information on as you research schools is what type of philosophy each school you are looking at espouses. Be aware that there are two distinct philosophies when it comes to acupuncture and it is important for any prospective acupuncturist to know about each and to help a school based on its unique philosophy. Aim to choose a school whose philosophy is as close to your own as possible. The two different philosophies are the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)/ Eight Elements School and the Five Element School. Let us briefly take a look at both of these schools of thought.
The Five Element School takes a classic approach to the practice of acupuncture in that it emphasizes not just acupuncture but also counselling as an important element of the practice. The Five Element School is the less popular of the two philosophies and is only taught in a minority of schools in the United States where students can train to become acupuncturists.
Moving right along, the TCM/Eight Elements School is based on a form of diagnosis that has become standardized and has been in wide use in China ever since the start of communism. This is built on the basis of what are referred to as the “Eight Principles.” This school puts particular emphasis on herbal therapy in conjunction with the practice of acupuncture. To a large extent the difference between the Eight Element School and the Five Element School is philosophical but it is different nonetheless. Many criticize the Eight Element School for being devoid of the spiritual element that is inherent in the Five Element School. Both have their good and bad points and when taken together they both have important philosophies to teach students interested in learning about acupuncture.
Different universities across the country choose to teach one philosophy or a combination of both and it is generally up to the individual school. To use an example, Yo San University that is located in Marina Del Rey, CA specializes in Taoist Classical Medicine, which combines both the approaches of TCM/Eight Elements as well as the Five Elements School. As well they also include the Energetic Systems of Chinese medicine in their teachings and these are based on the I-Ching as well as the “Yellow Emperor’s Classic.” The co-founder of the university who is named Maoshing Ni contends that the approach makes it possible for future acupuncturists and healers to have a complete and integrated view as there is a connecting of all of the elements- the physical mixes with the spiritual and the healing energy.
It is so important to take the time to study both of these philosophies as you begin your acupuncture training. Philosophies may not seem that vital as you begin your training but the importance of them will become apparent the further along the road you get to becoming a trained and fully qualified acupuncturist.