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 The first year

From CID to TCM – former detective studies acupuncture

Mark Whitham is a 45-year old acupuncture student in his first year at LCTA.  He lives in Kings Langley in Hertfordshire.  This is the first time he has studied anything relating to Chinese Medicine.  Here he tells us about his change of career and his experience as a first year student at the College.

What did you do before you started the course?

I am still working full-time whilst I study. I have been a London Police Officer for nearly 27 years. I finished on a murder team a couple of years ago and at the moment I am teaching on the National CID Course in a development programme for Detectives.

What made you decide to retrain?

I retire in three years and I wanted to do something that interested me.  I also wanted to top up my pension.

How did you find LCTA?

I searched online.

What were the main factors that influenced your choice of College?

It’s small, friendly, local and it runs a full-time weekend degree course that I don’t think is offered anywhere else; it’s the only way people like me who work all week can actually do a full-time degree.

What is your favourite subject on the course?

I enjoy it all but I love the Chinese Medicine Theory and Point Location in particular.

How are you finding the course?

Challenging but I love it.  It’s a whole new world and it feels worthwhile. I know I need to do more reading though!

What are your fellow students like?

We have a great group, we are diverse in nationality, backgrounds and careers but we have all gelled really well and are pulling together and helping each other.

What do you think of the LCTA staff and tutors?

The staff are all helpful and the tutors are for the most part excellent, they teach with real enthusiasm and passion for the subject.  They are all experienced acupuncturists and most do herbs as well.

What do you like most about the course?

Learning something new that is both enjoyable and worthwhile whilst simultaneously providing a career at the end.

Is it what you expected it to be?

No it is much more difficult!

Is there anything you would change?

No I love it.

What are you most looking forward to this year in your studies?

Getting through Year One and knowing I have risen to the challenge of passing the exams and getting the assignments done to a good standard.

Will you be taking any other courses?  If so, why?

No not at the moment – no money or time and four children, full-time work, builders in, one child who lives on the coast so I have enough on my plate………..although later I will do herbs.

Do you know what kind of practice you want to have when you qualify?

There is less pressure on me as I will have a decent pension but I would like to work at an NHS GP or perhaps a private spa – I have also considered working from home as I have a big garden that would easily accommodate a log cabin treatment room – so I’m not sure.  Ideas will come to me over the three years.

What is it like to be a student at LCTA?

It’s been a breath of fresh air for me.  The last time I was a student was 30 years ago so it’s got my grey matter churning again and I am really enjoying it.

There are other benefits of being a student that you forget about: 10% off in many shops and I have got £100 a month off my Council Tax.  Not to mention motivation, feeling re-energised and Acupuncture treatment for any illness you may have {it works!}.


Acupuncture training is hard work but worth it. I just love it!

Charlie originally studied photography but left university when she was pregnant with her first child.

She suffered with anorexia and after a variety of treatments including anti-depressants, hospitalisation and cognitive behavioural therapy she decided to try acupuncture.

Her acupuncturist succeeded in helping her to overcome the anorexia and she is now in her first year of the BSc in Acupuncture at LCTA.  Here she tells us about her experiences:

I thought about studying acupuncture a lot when I was being treated.  To me, acupuncture was something really special as it had succeeded in helping me where nothing else had.  I had done so many other therapies that hadn’t worked and know that conventional medicine didn’t hold the answer for me.  I believed in it so strongly because of my own experiences of both Anorexia and Depression and I just really wanted to show other people how good it is.

I also really wanted to be able to help other people to get better.  I had such a caring acupuncturist and I wanted to be like him – he was so helpful and so fantastic, I looked forward to seeing him each week because he made me feel so much better.  When I qualify, I think I would like to look at treating Anorexia but I’m also interested in infertility and I would love to learn how to treat children.

I started at LCTA in September 2009.  I went to look at a couple of colleges but preferred LCTA when I found it online because the other colleges I looked at only covered the Five Elements.  I really liked the fact that LCTA doesn’t just focus on this one aspect – it covers all Chinese medicine theory so you get a really good grounding.

I also liked the fact that if I wanted to, I could study Chinese herbal medicine at a later point.  When I walked into the College for a Presentation Day, I knew it was the right place for me.  There was a really nice feeling about it.  Everyone knows each other, it doesn’t feel too big and everyone’s really nice.  I started a week after the Presentation Day and I love it.  I did my first clinic observation just before Christmas and the more I do, the more I know that it is the right thing.

Since having my second son, I haven’t relapsed, although I have struggled at times.  My mum is really pleased that I have got to where I am now and she has lent me the fees so that I can do the course.

The course is hard work but enjoyable.  I am on the weekend, part-time course which will take four years.  I travel down from Milton Keynes on the weekends for class and work at Starbucks locally during the week.  My mum has my two sons on a Saturday and my husband looks after them on Sundays, he is a Pharmacist and has Sunday and Monday off so we usually get some time together after my early shift on a Monday afternoon.

College is great.  It’s very different from school where everyone was competitive.  All of us share information which is really good.  We all read different books and often photocopy interesting pages for the rest of the class.  There’s a real mix of backgrounds in my group and we all get on really well, everyone is really supportive, which is fantastic.  Even the second years offer to help us and it’s nice to know we have their support too.  We also know everyone in the office and all the tutors who are also really helpful and much more approachable than the ones I had at university – they give us their email addresses and genuinely don’t mind if we contact them.  We all work at the same level and there’s a really nice atmosphere, I just love it.

The work is interesting and hard.  Chinese Medicine Theory (CMT) is my favourite subject.   Some people find it hard to leave conventional medicine behind (they can’t accept that the ‘Liver’ is not where it is in Western terms) but I find it easy to accept it as it is.

You start to look at people and relate what you have learnt in CMT to what you are seeing.  My eldest has nose bleeds during the night and night sweats.  I recently learnt that Kidney Yin deficiency can cause night sweats.  I don’t know how to treat it yet so it makes me want to learn more so that eventually I will be able to.

We are constantly learning and we all take it away with us and apply it, I look at people and think ‘ooh they are Damp’ and I always go home and tell everyone the new facts that I’ve picked up.  One lesson we learnt that bananas aren’t good for some people as they cause Damp in the body and take a long time to be processed.  For about two weeks afterwards it was a bit of a joke if anyone ate a banana!

Having a chance to observe treatments in the Teaching Clinic and listen to the discussions is really fascinating.  We have to do five days of clinic in the first year and I managed to see some really interesting cases on my first observation day.  We have done some tongue diagnosis, so I can understand a little of what the practitioners and third years are discussing.  We’ve also done some work on pulses and they let us look at the patients’ tongues and check their pulses.  I was quite pleased because I managed to pick up the same things as the practitioners.  I didn’t necessarily know what it all meant but I knew what to look out for.  Having the Teaching Clinic is a really big advantage as not all colleges have one.  My next clinic day is in February and I’ll know more than last time so it will be fun.

The course is hard work but worth it.  I tend to study when the kids are in bed – I leave my husband watching television and I take all my books and work in bed.  I also read a lot of Chinese medicine theory books; whilst everyone I work with is raving about the Twilight Saga, I am reading about the Yellow Emperor!

“Being a health professional is first and foremost a vocation. We teach our students the importance of always maintaining the highest standards of professionalism”

New LCTA Principal, Bonny Williams, talks about her new role, staff changes and what the first year acupuncture students’ beginning of term is like.

Bonny Williams

“Since becoming Principal I have been on quite a steep learning curve.  Even though I have worked in an executive role at LCTA for seven years already, people look to me for different things now that I am Principal and it turns out there is a lot that Susanna dealt with that I didn’t know about.

“As I have become more comfortable in my role, I have begun to understand the shape it will take – and the role will certainly be different from the one Susanna fulfilled.  We have actually rewritten the job description and at the moment I am observing and taking the time to understand my new role within the structure of the College.

“It’s quite interesting to look at the business from a new perspective and to see how effectively it is run.  It’s giving me an opportunity to take a fresh look at procedures, to assess whether we can improve them and to decide how best to put systems like Key Performance Indicators in place.”

So have there been other changes in the staff team at LCTA?

“Anna Bernard is our new Practice Manager.  She has excellent experience running clinics and is brilliant with students. Anna maintains very clear boundaries and is an excellent role model for students moving into a career as a professional practitioner. We are also about to interview for a new Joint Academic Manager and hope to be able to appoint someone very soon.

“Thankfully my appointment to the Principal role has it been an easy transition for everyone in the office – mainly I think because they knew me already.  Lots of people have said it would have been strange to have someone from outside take up the role and the reception I’ve had from staff has been really lovely.  Most people felt that it was a natural progression.”

What have you been doing during the first week of term?

“We don’t have a lot of contact with students over the holidays, so I have been going to see each class as they have returned to College to introduce myself in my new role.  A lot of them already know me obviously, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to get to know me in my new capacity as Principal.

“I met all the first years on their induction days.  Susanna used to run the induction so it made sense for me to take over from her.  Induction day is not a teaching day, but it is important to us as it’s about setting the flavour for the year – giving new students an idea of who we are, the character of the College, how things are done, what’s expected of them and what they can expect of us.  It’s about our values.

“During the induction day we cover a lot of fairly dense material, but in a nice light way – there’s a lot of administrative information that we have to pass on – but the key is to ensure that they understand not just what we want them to do but how we want them to do it.

“At LCTA being a health professional is first and foremost a vocation.  We expect our students’ values to be those of a professional – they should always be doing their best, always putting the interests of the patient first and always modelling the values of modesty, respectfulness and all the things that underpin professionalism.  Being a professional is about being willing to go that extra mile, even if it is the end of a very long day and you are tired.  As a consummate professional, you keep working to the best of your ability until the job is completed.

“We also talk a lot about reflectivity.  We encourage our students to be honest and reflective all the way through their courses.  This is always the harder path to take but we expect it of them because if they can’t do it for themselves they won’t be able to do it for their patients.  A good practitioner should be able to deal first with their own issues, leaving the way clear to deal with their patients properly.  Personal development is a major part of the course and we believe that it is only through self-development that you discover the resources required to deal effectively with other people’s issues.  It’s the difference between being a good practitioner and a great practitioner and at LCTA we aim to produce great practitioners every time.”