Mentorship is valuable in every field. I encourage everyone that is studying acupuncture to find a mentor. I’ve had 2 main mentors since I started studying acupuncture. The first mentor I had was Jing Chen author and illustrator of An Anatomical Atlas of Chinese Acupuncture Points. While I was going to school, I spent 2 years working for him. I answered the phones, billed insurance, advertised, interviewed the patients, removed the needles, basically anything and everything I could do. Dr. Chen was also the most aggressive needler I’d seen up to that time. I remember he would use 3 or 4 inch 24 gauge needles to needle deeply into the sacral foramen for impotence. He would also use multiple needles at a single point, such as S 36. That was the first time I’d seen those types of things.
My second and most influential mentor, in terms of my treatment style, is Michael Turk author of Pain’s Healing Secret. Basically my present day treatment style is very similar to the way he treats. And my upcoming book is a compilation of the most commonly used points that he taught me.
“One mentor can be more informative than a college education and more valuable than a decade’s income.” Sean Stephenson
Acupuncture Training with a Mentor
The 3 main things you will learn from a mentor; treatment method, patient management, and clinical management.
You will learn the methods that your mentor has typically spent decades developing. You will see a plethora of conditions treated. You will see how these should typically progress, the typical success rate, the way treatment is modified with changing symptoms, etc.
You will learn how to talk and interact with patients. One small example; I remember assisting my mentor treating a patient who was face down and at some point he asked the patient if they wanted to say something. They did! I asked him later how the hell he knew they wanted to say something?! He told me that he watched their breathing. It is so obvious to me now when I’m with patients, but I don’t know how long it would have taken me to learn that on my own. But if you watch people breathing, before they speak they take a deeper breath than normal in preparation. So if you notice that pattern and see someone take that “preparatory breath” but then they don’t say anything you can reliably guess that they wanted to say or ask something but didn’t. These are the subtle types of things that a mentor can teach you.
Your mentor is a successful business owner with decades of experience. You can learn a proven method of scheduling, patient flow, handouts, patient education, maybe staff management, marketing etc. etc.
Mentorship; The Historical Method of Acupuncture Training
Acupuncture has been passed down from mentor to protege for millennia. I think everyone should have a mentor. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. I think it is best to do a 2 year apprenticeship with your mentor. But if you don’t do this while you are in school or recently graduated, the window of opportunity starts to close for that type of mentorship. If you have a practice, how can you leave for 2 years?
If you are in school, find a mentor and work for them doing whatever you can in their office. Most successful acupuncturists need assistants. Find one that needs you. If they pay you, that is best. But I would even consider volunteering some hours per week for the valuable experience you will gain.
If you are already in practice and can’t leave, you can still have a mentor! Find someone close you can visit often, or with our online world the possibilities are endless!
If you are recently graduated, seek out a mentor in the area you want to specialize in. Work and study with them. A great way is to assist them treating patients for some time to learn their methods, and then when you are ready, start to treat patients for them. Your mentor can get some “passive” income that way and you can gain valuable clinical experience on your mentor’s “dime.” Again I recommend spending 2 years with you mentor, there are some conditions that you only see once a year (some once a decade too or once a lifetime!). After the 2 years, maybe you can partner with your mentor, take over their practice, start a satellite clinic with them, or start out on your own private practice. But whichever way you decide, you’ll still have a mentor that you can call for advice on difficult patients or clinic issues.
Do you want a protege? Do you want a mentor? I’d like to add a section to my website to help people find a match! Send me an email.