12 tips for choosing your acupuncturist

Choosing an acupuncturist, or any healthcare provider, is an important part of your healing and wellness process. It’s all too often that we are quick to trust “the expert” more than we trust ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. A good acupuncturist is looking to empower you to own your wellness and that’s what we are all about at Third Space Wellness. In fact, from the rich conversations we have on a regular basis with many different healthcare providers and wellness industry people, that’s where the real healing happens – when someone begins to understand themselves and their disease process, and when they take ownership of it. That’s why the relationship that you have with your provider matters so much – we want to partner you on your journey to greater health and wellbeing. That’s where the magic happens.

So, how do you choose? Whether they are popping acupuncture needles into you, writing a prescription for your medication or performing your surgery, here are some things we think will help you find your confidence in selecting the right healthcare provider, and specifically a good acupuncturist:

#1 Maintains Proper Credentials! Chinese medicine practitioners like acupuncturists are regulated by the states we practice in. Each U.S. state (except for 6) has it’s own licensure requirements in place taking into account training, education, ethical standards and more. At any time, your practitioner should be willing and able to show you their license or license number and the state will have this on record. Note that other medical providers like medical doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors require additional special training in order to use acupuncture techniques and acupuncture needles as part of your treatment plan. They too should be willing and able to show you these training and certification proofs.

#2 Carries Malpractice Insurance: Chinese medicine practitioners who practice acupuncture pay some of the lowest malpractice insurance premiums in the country amongst healthcare providers. This is because of the low occurrence of injuries or harm incurred by patients from acupuncture. While we can choose not to carry this coverage, it is a benefit for both parties, patient and practitioner alike, to carry malpractice insurance.

#3 Keeps a Clean, Safe Treatment Room: In the United States, Acupuncturists are mandated to use sterile one-time-use needles, so this is what should be used. The treatment room should be clean with a properly covered and/or cleaned treatment table, including any pillows. Standard medical cleanliness practices apply: clean hands, no dirty grimy rooms, no vomit or blood on surfaces, no strewn needles. We use sharps containers for used needles and biohazard collection when needed. Our materials are kept tidily on sturdy carts, shelving or tables and items like cleaning alcohol and cotton balls are properly stored.

#1 – 3 covers the bottom-line basics. Now let’s talk about the less obvious and yet incredibly important aspects of what makes an excellent choice for you:

#4 Spends Ample Time: In our rush-rush world, it’s hard to have quality time with someone where your health is concerned. Often a visit to your healthcare provider is a 15-minute interaction – “just the facts ma’am” style. With your acupuncturist your visit will likely be about 1 hour in length. At first your practitioner will spend more time talking with you. They will also help identify practices and actions and for optimum self-care. You might have needles in for just a few minutes or for quite a while and your practitioner may or may not stay in the room with you. You shouldn’t feel rushed by your acupuncturist – show up on time and make the most of your appointment. That time is held for you.

#5 Listens Fully and Carefully: We’re not just listening to your report about your symptoms, we are listening deeply for what you are sharing, what you are not sharing and how you sound when you tell us about it all. We are listening so that we can hear for what’s underneath your symptoms or disease process. We do this with our ears as you speak, our eyes when we see you and look at your tongue and our hands when we feel your pulses or your acupuncture points. We want to get to the root. We are listening for opportunities to ask you important questions that will help you illuminate some of the roots of the imbalance – empowerment! Which leads us right into…

#6 Asks You Questions: Interesting ones too! We are going to ask you many things about yourself and your whole life. With your answers we can put puzzle pieces together to create a whole picture of what’s going right and what’s out-of-whack so that we can help you discover your own direction to healing. Some of the questions may even sound strange to you like why are we asking you how you express your creativity when you are telling us about your migraines – trust us, it could have everything to do with those pesky and devastating headaches! You are a whole person so we need to look at the whole you to figure out how to help. Whether we ask you about your poop or your love life, roll with it and participate – we are asking so we can help you and to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

#7 Answers Your Questions: It’s not a one-sided gig, this questions thing. Your acupuncturist should be patient and available to answer questions that you have too. You can feel comfortable asking about anything from our training, safety practices, how acupuncture works and why we are putting a needle near your elbow, and even for tips about how to help yourself better – whatever you are curious about. Note that some acupuncturists have studied in different cultures and traditions where questions are answered with questions or even with simple “this is why” answers. If this is the influence of your practitioner and they answer your questions similarly there is no harm with that. As long as you feel that they have your best interest at heart then you are good to go!

#8 Calls You On Your Bullshit, Respectfully: Healthcare practitioners have got to have a good BS indicator so we can help you get moving on getting well. Sometimes patients fib on purpose because they think they will be punished or embarrassed for sharing with us that they didn’t get any more sleep, smoked a bunch of cigarettes or ate fast food 3x a day for a week. Other times patients do not even realize they are fibbing – it could be that they’ve been fibbing along in life for so long they don’t even realize it, like when your practitioner asks, “how are you?” and you say, “great” instead of “I’ve had the worst 10 years of my life.” Still other times these fibs occur because it’s been easier to stuff things away then deal with any pain and suffering. We are not here to judge – really. We want you to feel safe telling us what’s true about your life, this will help us help you better. So we may call you out on something, respectfully, if we think it’s going to help your healing process.

#9 Takes the “Whole You” Into Account: What’s really awesome about Chinese medicine is that we are looking at you, your life and your symptoms or illness as one big picture. We don’t see you as back pain, heart disease or tummy trouble. We see a whole person. All of you matters – your symptoms from head to toe, your lifestyle, your career, your relationships – all of it. We do our best to lead a thorough intake to learn these things, and we leave plenty of room along the way for continuing to get to know you – and more importantly for you to get to know yourself. If you are seeing an acupuncturist and they are not interested in more than one symptom, we’d be a bit weary.

#10 Is Honest: We may have a good sense of how things will begin to improve, or how long it might take for you to notice that you are feeling better, though we are not fortune tellers or magicians. Healing takes time and patience is necessary. If you’ve been in pain and agony for a while, it’s likely going to take some time before things improve. If we think you need additional support from another practitioner or modality, we will make the appropriate recommendation.

#11 Doesn’t Take Responsibility for Your Wellness: You are your own best expert, hence, a good acupuncturist will not be taking responsibility for how well you get. It’s hard for us sometimes, we are invested in your wellbeing and we care deeply. And, at the end of the day, you and nature have a dance to choreograph if things are going to improve. We cannot fix you though we can partner with you to uncover the mysteries about your illness and pain, or to make the most of crappy circumstances. We can and will use our medicine help you and encourage optimum healing. It’s a lot like tuning a piano and – we are listening, tuning and balancing– but how well you play, now that’s up to you. Final segue…

#12 Encourages You to Better Wellness and Self-Care: Your wellbeing and the state of your health are actually as unique to you as snowflakes are from one another. In order for us to get you moving to wellness, it’s going to take self-care. We are going to look at everything from sleep, diet, and exercise to how much fun you are having, and more. We will make recommendations for you to take action on what we anticipate will help you based on what is happening with your unique symptoms, circumstances and what we find from our examinations. Humans are not machines made of replaceable parts, we get one body in this life and you play the starring role in your wellness journey.


11 Responses to “12 tips for choosing your acupuncturist”

  1. Do I really need to listen to my doctor? Yes, and... - Third Space Wellness

    […] a really tough subject, I admit. A few months ago I shared a post about tips for choosing your acupuncturist and while I am mostly focused on acupuncturists here, it really does apply for the healthcare […]

  2. Georgia B

    I totally agree that a good acupuncturist will also care about other ways your caring for yourself! Good health comes from a combination of efforts on all levels. I feel like too many people don’t realize that just one health-based activity won’t fix everything, but that it’s taking care of yourself in all aspects of your life. You should be seeing an acupuncturist and exercising and eating healthy and getting enough sleep–not just picking and choosing one or two out of those options.

    • tsw_admin

      Yes! We love that you appreciate exercise, food, and sleep as important pieces to the puzzle of wellness.

  3. Luke Smith

    I can definitely see how important it would be to use an acupuncturist who maintains proper credentials. It makes a lot of sense to me to ask a practitioner to show you their license/license number and check it with the state before using them. I’m sure that any professional practitioner would have no problem at all acquiescing to this request.

  4. Olivia Nelson

    I agree that a good acupuncturist keeps a clean and safe treatment room. IT would probably say a lot about a business if their place is clean and well kept. I’m looking for someone to help me with some acupuncture treatment so I’ll have to find someone who keeps a clean and safe treatment room.

    • tsw_admin

      Hi Olivia,
      Thanks for your comment! We welcome anyone to stop by and take a look at our space, too, in their process of finding the right acupuncturist!

  5. Marcus Coons

    I had no idea that acupuncturists were mandated to use one-time0use needled when treating you. It makes sense that taking the time to choose an acupuncturist that obeys these rules can not only help you get a great session but also avoid potential decreases from entering your bodies. My brother and his wife were planning on booking a session with an acupuncturist, so I’ll share your page with them for more help.

  6. Finn Stewart

    My doctor recently told me I had high blood pressure and I have been wanting to find some natural ways to lower it. Thanks for mentioning that an acupuncturist should ask lots of questions. I have high blood pressure but who knows what other maladies I might have that could benefit from acupuncture. I’ll be sure to listen and hope for lots of questions when I’m looking for a good acupuncturist.

  7. Ashley Maxwell

    I like how you said that you should choose an acupuncturist that has been trained and is educated in their field. I like how you said that not all doctors can do this; you need to have received special training. My sister and I are considering getting acupuncture done for the first time, so we are looking into professionals that have experience and knowledge about what they are doing.

  8. Caden Dahl

    I’ve been thinking about trying this out for some time now but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Now as you mentioned, it would be a good idea to find someone who spends a good amount of time doing the procedure. You don’t want to have someone rush through everything as I believe with that, you wouldn’t get the full effect of it.

  9. Daphne Gilpin

    Thanks for explaining that good acupuncturists will ask lots of questions so they can piece together important details about us and our lives. Lately I’ve been having a lot of pain in my neck, and I’ve been interested in trying acupuncture because I’ve heard it can help. I’m glad I read your article because now I know what qualities to look for as I start talking to local acupuncturists!


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