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

I wanted a more morally satisfying career

Rebecca Clarke is a 34-year old acupuncturist based in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.  She studied acupuncture and herbs at LCTA, graduating with a BSc in Acupuncture in 2005 and with an MSc in Oriental Herbal Medicine in 2008.  Prior to studying at LCTA, she was an IT consultant.  Here she answers some questions about her studies and her experience in setting up a practice.

What made you decide to retrain?

I wanted a more morally satisfying career and I didn’t want to work weekends and evenings – hah that one didn’t work! 🙂

How did you find LCTA?

I began my studies in the North of England but due to a job change that brought me down to Hertfordshire, I decided to relocate my studies as the commute was unbearable. I found LCTA through the internet.

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

LCTA was the closest College to my new job and the open day impressed me.  A course was about to start and I had recently had a particularly nightmarish weekend journeying up to York and jumped at the chance of not having to do it again.

What was your favourite aspect of the course?

The way it changed the way I think about the world I live in and the people I live in it with.

What were your fellow students like?

Fabulous, most of us still meet up a couple of times each year.

What did you think of the LCTA staff/tutors?

They are a diverse and interesting bunch of people with a great deal to offer.

Was the course/College what you expected it to be?

It was tough but it was rewarding.  I don’t think I knew what to expect from it.

What was it like to be a student at LCTA?

It was a journey and a privilege.

What kind of practice do you run and where are you based?

I work in Harley Street, Chiswick and Rickmansworth.  In Harley Street and Chiswick I work with a team of other acupuncturists and we do a lot of fertility work, although not exclusively. Chiswick and Rickmansworth are both multi-disciplinary clinics where I work with practitioners of other therapies.

What was the transition from student to practitioner like for you?

Slow, it takes patience or possibly marketing. I continued studying for two and a half years after qualifying and was still in another full-time job for nine months before I was able to become a full-time practitioner.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I think I should have waited and started my herbs course after acupuncture graduation. I was trying to hold down a full-time job whilst doing acupuncture finals and starting a herbs course. It  was too much for me.

What are you plans for the future?

Oh my plans are huge! I want to learn Mandarin, study herbs in Chengdu, get a horticultural diploma at Kew and study Quantum mechanics. I haven’t decided which or which order as yet….oh and to start doing a daily qi practice.

Do you have any tips for current or prospective students of TCM?

Although I think people did try and tell us this, the one thing that is hard to face is that you are running a business, you do need to make a living. Separating or perhaps actually integrating the ‘I want to help people to be well’ from the reality of earning a living is not easy.


TCM seems to make the most sense in what can often appear to be quite an insane society!

Tom Watson is a 29-year old first year acupuncture student from North London.


He completed a four-year teacher training course with the College of Elemental Chi Kung prior to enrolling at LCTA.  He is a Regeneration Consultant in East London, working on Social regeneration projects such as employment programmes and neighbourhood renewal.  He now works part time whilst studying.

What made you decide to train in TCM?

I have always been interested in Acupuncture and on a broader level, Daoism.  I have practised Tai Chi for a number of years and love the idea of mastering the ‘Five excellences’ as a path through life. I have always wanted to help people in some form, and believe increasingly that the best way to do this is by helping them to find health and contentment or personal fulfilment. The Chinese system of health seems to make the most sense in what can often appear to be quite an insane society!

I also lost my mum to cancer last year. I was her primary carer in the last four months of her life and seeing her suffer through chemotherapy and from the cancer itself was not easy. I see illness as very much being linked to our emotions, and TCM seems to have this approach also, in quite a sophisticated way.

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

I was ‘Googling’ for TCM colleges near London when I came across LCTA.  I later came across friends and colleagues who knew of or had been to the College.

LCTA is close to home, which was an important factor for me. But the structure and content of the course also appealed.

What is your favourite subject on the course?

It has to be Point Location.  Chinese Medicine Theory is also great for its fascinating discussions. For example, we talked the other day about the ‘discerning’ mental powers of the Small Intestine, and we connected this to the common saying when you have a ‘Gut Feeling’ about something. It all makes sense in a funny way!

How are you finding the course?

Great – I love it. It’s tough working part time but having said that I think I am managing to keep up with the studies without getting stressed. Qi Gong is helping, but I’ll tell you more after I get my first exam results!


What are your fellow students like?

Brilliant – a great and varied bunch, all ages and sizes, but all very supportive and nurturing of each other.

What do you think of the LCTA staff/tutors?

Professional and knowledgeable and most importantly passionate about their subjects.

What do you like most about the course?

Everything really! But the way it’s structured (spiral learning I think) is really helpful in getting to grips with new concepts.

Is it what you expected it to be?

Yes – and more.

Is there anything you would change?

Not at this stage no.

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

Finishing my exams and taking a break in the summer!

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

Id love to take herbs – it seems like herbs really compliment acupuncture treatment, and can be a lot more effective in some circumstances. I love learning new stuff anyway.

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

A popular one that makes me lots of money!  I want to be busy and I want to feel that I help. I would certainly want to introduce a low cost element at the practice.

What is it like to be a student at LCTA?

It’s great, I feel well supported but also really excited about the future.

It truly blew my expectations away!

Nicholas Bouwer is a 21-year old student living in Weybridge, Surrey.  He is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nicholas is in the second year of his acupuncture course and plans to study tui na massage once he qualifies.  Before enroling on the course, Nicholas studied photography in South Africa.  He works at Tesco part time as they offer flexible hours to fit in with his studies.  He is also legally only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week on his student visa.

What made you decide to retrain?

The photography market died with the invention of digital and I feel that helping people is the only way I can give a true meaning to my life.

How did you find LCTA?

My acupuncturist in South Africa (Dr Motz) recommended that I speak to an acupunturist he knew in the U.K, who then recommended LCTA as his daughter was studying with the College.

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

I looked around and LCTA seemed the most professional, also the recommendation went a long way.

What is your favourite subject on the course?

It’s truly hard to choose but I would say Chinese Medicine Theory or physiology and pathology so far.

How are you finding the course?

It is fascinatingly interesting, the vastness of knowledge one can acquire seems endless.

What are your fellow students like?

There is great diversity among colleagues, each with there own life experience in various fields from medicine to law or the arts. I feel that everyone is ultimately in this to benefit other individuals through treatments so they are good people.

What do you think of the LCTA staff and tutors?

The staff are lovely and the tutors are fairly different in their ways, each offering things to be learned or approaches to consider.

What do you like most about the course?

The part I like most is treating, seeing a result right before your eyes will always be the most satisfying aspect.

Is it what you expected it to be?

It truly blew my expectations away and presented me with a College, staff and colleagues I couldn’t have dreamed of. The professional feel caters very well to me personally.

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

Learning more about Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

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

As mentioned before I would love to do the tui na after this degree as a supplement to my treatments, as I have seen its effectiveness in class from other students who are studying it.

What is it like to be a student at LCTA?

An enjoyable experience, a lot is done to help us along and keep us at the level we need to be at. I don’t feel that the lecturers leave anyone behind.

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!

Acupuncture training is likely to change not just their careers, but also their lives

Linda has been at LCTA for a year as the Undergraduate Course Administrator looking after all of the acupuncture students.  Here she explains a bit about what she does:

My role at LCTA is to answer any queries and deal with any problems that the acupuncture students may have.  Once the course begins, from day one, I’m the person they speak to about overdue course work, exam results and anything else that might be affecting them on a day-to-day basis.

The students first meet me at their Introduction Day.  Bonny and I go through information about the College and give them the relevant documentation and hand outs.  We also set up team exercises so that they can get to know each other.  It’s especially nice to meet the students right at the outset.  When I started a year ago, everyone had already begun the course and so it took me a bit longer to establish relationships with them.

The Introduction Day is a really good day.  I had my first one with the March intake.  I was absolutely petrified but as soon as it got going it was great.  I’m sure the students were nervous too, after all they were in a group of people they didn’t know at the start of a long course that would change not just their careers but also their lives – it must be scary.

I deal with all students in all years and no two groups are the same.  The dynamics of each group are very different and weekend students are different to weekday ones.  There aren’t any specific stages that every set of students goes through or specific issues that arise, you just take each group as it comes.

Exam time is the busiest time of year for me.  Everything else stops so that we can focus on that and then we have to get everything in order again before the beginning of another new year.  The main thing we notice with the students awaiting their final exam results is a general eagerness.  They want their results because they want to get on with setting up their practice.

When they come back for Graduation, the March ones especially haven’t seen each other for a while and so it’s a nice excuse to get together.  We had a whale of a time at this year’s Graduation Ceremony.  It was nice to mingle with the students for the last time before they took off to begin their new careers.

One of the graduates emailed me recently about something and she said it felt strange to think that they don’t have to come to College anymore.  She said it felt like the end of an era, she was missing it a bit.

My main advice for new students is to enjoy the course and take each step as it comes.  They may have some difficult times but they shouldn’t worry.  They should always try to remember why you they are doing it and most importantly, just enjoy it.

The Statutory Regulation of Chinese Medicine: What you can do to help ensure it happens

Advice from LCTA Principal, Bonny Williams.

Statutory Regulation is essential for herbal medicine in this country. Having been committed to it so far, the government now looks like it has lost momentum.

Do not imagine that because the latest round of consultation on Statutory Regulation for Chinese medicine has passed, there is nothing more you can contribute. Even if you have already responded, whether you are a patient, a practitioner or an interested bystander, please write to your MP again urging the Government to go ahead with Statutory Regulation without any further delay. Each time you write a letter, your MP will let the Minister know that another letter has been received on this matter and the Minister will write back. This adds to the 5000 or so letters she has already received in this consultation round. Every single one helps our case.

So what do you say? Here is a rundown of the current situation:

Why statutory regulation is in the public interest:

  • Government has committed to statutory regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners since 2001. In 1995 it published the result of a public consultation showing a 98% positive public response in favour of statutory regulation of this sector, but since then they have lost momentum. Now another public consultation has just finished. If statutory regulation is not granted very soon, the impact of new EU legislation on herbal practice and supply in 2011 will be devastating.
  • Herbal medicine is very popular and its use in the UK is widespread. According to an Ipsos MORI poll  (November 2008) conducted for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), 26% of UK adults have used a herbal medicine in the last two years and of those using herbal medicines, 56% had used a herbal medicine supplied by a practitioner.
  • The only way to be assured of well-qualified practitioners is via statutory regulation. Neither voluntary regulation nor licensing ensure independent regulation and accreditation of training programmes or continuous professional development. Only statutory regulation can ensure the continued availability of a wide range of herbal products.
  • Statutory regulation will make practitioners ‘authorised health professionals’ under the terms of the main EU Medicines Directive (2001/83/EC) and will allow them to have herbal medicines made by third-party manufacturers and suppliers under licence from the MHRA. This will ensure good quality products and continued supply of a wide range of herbal medicines
  • If herbalists are statutorily regulated like osteopaths and chiropractors, doctors will be able to safely refer patients for treatment

What will happen if statutory regulation does not go ahead:

  • If statutory regulation does not happen, the 2011 EU directive specifies that herbal medicines made for specific patients by a third party supplier should be removed from the market (e.g. traditional Chinese herbal medicine products).   Without statutory regulation, only herbal mixtures made on the practitioners’ own premises will be allowed to be supplied to patients. This will mean a great loss of consumer choice. Also a considerable number of suppliers and practitioners will go out of business.
  • As a result consumers will be forced to buy from unsafe internet sites or from bogus back-street practitioners.
  • Herbal medicine training is now to degree level – a postgraduate MSc degree at LCTA. Without statutory regulation universities will be reluctant to support herbal training – undoing years of work to ensure high standards of training.

If you think herbal medicine should be allowed to survive in this country, please write to your MP today in support of herbal Statutory Regulation. It will make a real difference.


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.