Chinese medicine training – naturally outstanding

Follow the experiences of acupuncture students and graduates at LCTA and find out what it's really like to study Traditional Chinese Medicine

Archive for November, 2009


It’s like swimming in beautiful coral without being able to see below the surface and then putting on a snorkelling mask and suddenly realising what you have been missing!

At 67, Tony embarked on his first year at LCTA studying acupuncture.  Originally from the US, Tony spent most of his working life with the American overseas school system, teaching English and social studies.  Tony lived and worked as a teacher and school administrator in the Orient for 15 years, travelling extensively and teaching in the Philippines, Taiwan and Korea.

When he retired in 2004, he was also assistant headmaster at one of the European schools.

I have been fervently interested in the Orient for many years and have studied qi gong, tai chi and other martial arts.  I have also studied Chinese literature but because of my work and responsibilities, I have been unable to pursue my interest in any real depth until now.

Studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has finally given me the opportunity to tie all my previous studies together.  In fact, even in this first year of study, I discovered how TCM simply embellishes and enhances other areas of oriental theory and history, giving me a better insight into my previous studies.

When I retired, I realised that it was not in my nature to do nothing and so I began to research massage courses in the US.  I was actually about to enrol on a course when I came across LCTA in an internet search.  My wife told me to go to the College and find out more.  She told me that since I had always been interested in Oriental medicine and massage, I should see what was on offer.  When I went to a Presentation Day at the College, I immediately knew that that was where I wanted to be.

So now I am studying something that I had no background in or previous knowledge of and I am just a struggling freshman.  Learning acupuncture, anatomy and point location has been an exciting and wonderful experience.  I have never had to look at things in 3D, or reverse images in my head.  Most of my experience has been in the written word, rather than in practical applications and images.   It hasn’t been easy, in fact parts of the course have been very difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I would certainly choose this course again if I started over.

The whole experience is about personal completion for me.  Age is no barrier, my motivation is higher because I feel like there is not much time left and I feel good because at least I’m trying.  I feel like I am rounding off everything that I have done over the years – all the qi gong, tai chi and studying I did has come together because it’s all embodied in the Chinese classics and Chinese medicine plays such a great part in them.  I’d looked at the practical aspects of Daoism but had not explored Chinese medicine – I’d only really skimmed the surface in my reading.  I have bought many different Chinese medicine texts over the years but have never really understood them.  Now I have this wonderful opportunity to really learn and understand them in depth.

Studying Chinese medicine is a fulfilling and life-changing experience.  I understand myself better and see things from a different perspective.  TCM makes you view things on a different level; it gives you more of a rounded, 3D vision of life.  It has brought into reality things that were previously just theory to me.

The first year was absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for a better year despite the pressures of the work and the traveling.  My studies will enable me to use qi gong and tai chi in a more definitive way and I would like to specialise in treating older people.  If I never practise, I will still feel a huge sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment.  I really couldn’t have asked for a more revealing and more brilliant experience.

I have had only encouragement from my family, friends and colleagues and couldn’t have done this without my wife’s support.  Everyone at LCTA takes the studying very seriously and the teachers and curriculum are excellent.  My classmates are a tremendous group of people, age is no barrier and everything we accomplish, we do so together.  I didn’t expect to find such a great group of people when I began the course.  Everyone is there to learn and to help each other; it gives a whole new focus to life and friendship.

When I retired from my job as a teacher, I left happy.  I just realised one day that I didn’t want to do it any more.  TCM has taught me that you have to know when it’s time to leave; you shouldn’t leave with an arthritic soul. The irony is that had I stayed doing what I no longer wanted to do, I would have become ill.

The opportunity to study TCM is proving to be an unforgettable experience.  I feel incredibly lucky; not only am I surrounded by great teachers and classmates, but I have also been fortunate to have been taught qi gong and martial arts by masters who have had an enormous effect on me over the years.

Everybody finds their own path in life and although in some ways I wish I had done this earlier, I’m not sure I was ready for a transition like this.  I often tell my classmates that I envy their youth but what I really envy is the fact that they have 30 or 40 more years to study Chinese medicine.  When you enter the College, you enter another world in which everybody is intensely involved and concepts like Qi become realities.  TCM is a way of life rather than something you dip in and out of, it is an entity that becomes part of you and that’s what the school has become to me.  It’s another world with a high seriousness about it that I really love.


Learning through experience at the Teaching Clinic

Anna Bernard recently joined LCTA as Teaching Clinic Practice Manager.  Here she tells us a bit about herself and explains how the clinic works.

Anna Bernard

Anna tells us what happens in the LCTA Teaching Clinic


I’ve been a qualified acupuncturist for seven years.  I ran the Neal’s Yard therapy rooms five years ago and then left to focus on my own practice.  I worked with Zita West for a year and set up a vocal clinic specialising in singing and presenting for voiceovers which is the other thing that I do to earn a living.  Coming back into such a creative college environment is great; the student environment is fantastic, it’s the best environment to learn in.

In my role as Teaching Clinic Practice Manager I co-ordinate all of the student clinics across acupuncture, herbs and tui na.  I look after both the day-to-day and the strategic management of the clinic, looking at the patient experience and working out how we can give our students the best possible teaching.  This includes ensuring that we attract enough patients for our students to learn from, so I am looking at ways of branching out into the community.

The ideal patient is probably a difficult one: whether it’s a difficult case or just a difficult personality; for instance, a patient who turns up late, or one who doesn’t turn up at all, although it is nice to have a patient who they treat weekly for 12 weeks and see them get better – as this gives the students confidence.  But whilst they are a student it’s also good to have a difficult case so that they can experience as much as possible before they graduate and set up on their own.

The final year students have four clinic blocks lasting eight weeks each and the number of patients is built up slowly but surely so that in the first block they will treat one to two patients per week and by the fourth block, they will have a fairly solid clinic day.  We make sure that they have enough patients to be continually learning.

Part of the clinic day is a two-hour discussion as a group with the clinic supervisor.  There is a set amount that has to be taught in the clinic for each block and the discussion time is also used to discuss stuff that comes up with patients.  So if a student has an interesting case, they have the opportunity to discuss how best to deal with it and all the students have a chance to learn from it through discussion.

The Teaching Clinic gives the students a really valuable insight into what it is like to run a practice.  They get to experience the good and the bad days, the easy and the difficult patients and they learn how to deal with their personal issues – it’s a real journey.

This group of third years is incredible, they have been so good and all the supervisors are really pleased with their progress in this first clinic block.   They work fast and are focused, they’re a very strong group.  This is really exciting for me and you can really feel it in the clinic as well – people are coming back and booking in all the time.  Part of the requirement of the clinical year is that students see and retain a certain number of patients, so this cohort have got off to a great start.

There are clinics available every day apart from Wednesdays and if you don’t mind being observed, it’s a fantastic way to get treated.

For more information about the LCTA Teaching Clinic see the news and information section of the blog.

Being a mother and an acupuncture student

Many women find that their priorities change when they become mothers.  A job that may have been fulfilling and exciting when you were young, free and single, sometimes becomes less appealing or more difficult to manage with a family to care for.  Of course, there are a huge variety of careers that you can choose to train for, but it’s often difficult to fit studying around your children.

Louise recently graduated in acupuncture at LCTA.  She explains what it was like to juggle her studies with being a mother:


Louise Day

Louise studied acupuncture part-time

I was a beauty therapist for several years before I moved to a pharmaceutical company, where I spent six years as a sales team co-ordinator.  I missed the holistic environment that I had enjoyed as a therapist and so I began to look for something new that I could learn that would also provide me with opportunities to continue to develop.  I had had some acupuncture treatment myself and had looked into studying TCM a year or so before I started at LCTA, but I had not found a course I could manage alongside my full-time job.


When I first came across LCTA I was very excited to find a part-time course.  When I came for the Presentation Day I got a feeling that I was going to like Chinese medicine and now I know 100% that I made the right decision.  Even after looking after my little boy all day, I would often go upstairs and concentrate on my studies – Chinese medicine definitely keeps you interested!

I found out I was pregnant about three weeks before I started the course.  I’d been trying for a long time and had used acupuncture to conceive.  I was so motivated to study Chinese medicine that I decided it would be fine to do the course and have a baby and just got on with it.  Stanley was born about four weeks before the first year exams and I was back at College two and half weeks later.  I took my point location book to hospital with me because I knew I had my exams coming up.

Studying Chinese medicine alongside being a mum really worked for me.  I’m not someone who can sit and study for hours at a time – I have to do things visually, so I constantly looked for baby channels and acupuncture points on Stanley.

It was nice to have something to do with my brain and even nicer to know that before he turned two, I would be qualified and have a career that will fit in with my family life; that was one of the reasons why I did it – it was about work-life balance, not money.

I would like to work with other practitioners to begin with and perhaps later when I have more experience, I would like to practise from home.  Fertility is a field I have particular interest in and I believe that I will have the advantage as a practitioner of being able to relate to my patients from my own personal experience.  I would like to continue to add to my skills and I am considering studying Chinese herbal medicine as it can be used extremely effectively alongside acupuncture.

My advice to students is to not get stressed with the amount you have to learn during the first year.  It seems like you are never going to manage and then in the second year, it all clicks into place.  When you look at it, the Chinese way of doing things is actually very simple.