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 Chinese medicine training in the UK

The transition from student to working practitioner was exciting

Murad Muhtaseb is a 33-year old acupuncture practitioner based in South West London.  Murad graduated from LCTA with a BSc (Hons) in Acupuncture in August 2007.  Prior to retraining, he worked as a Dental Surgeon.  Here he talks about his experiences in choosing a clinic setting and establishing his practice.

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

I practice in the Esporta Health and Fitness Centre in Wimbledon, South West London.  It’s a clinic situated in the tranquil Spa area of the centre, and is open to members and non-members of the club.  Being located in a gym I see a lot of musculoskeletal conditions but I see a wide variety of other ailments too.  I am happy to see any condition that I think I can help with.

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

I was more worried about setting up my practice than was necessary.  With a bit of patience I found a clinic that I felt comfortable in, in the area I was interested in, and at a price I could afford. It took about three months and in that time I saw places that just weren’t right for me, but I guess you need to see what you don’t want to appreciate the good places.

Because it was a well established gym I had access to local health conscious people who were interested in hearing more about my services.  It wasn’t hard to generate interest in acupuncture but converting that interest to actual clients was a little tougher. I knew business would be a little slow at the beginning so I wasn’t too disappointed that I had many gaps between appointments.   When I was busy I tried my best to give the best treatments I could, and on quiet times I would research my cases, and work on marketing and designing my website.  All in all the transition from student to working practitioner was exciting and ran fairly smoothly.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Not really.  I am glad I jumped in to practising full time or I don’t think I would have become a full-time acupuncturist at all.  I am still learning about running a business as I go, but it’s all part of the adventure.

What are you plans for the future?

To carry on building a client list and I am always looking out for new opportunities.  Last September I started working at an acupuncture clinic in Kingston University and I can see myself joining up with other practitioners like osteopaths or chiropractors in multi-disciplinary clinics if the right opportunity arises.  The healing power of acupuncture is so amazing I constantly want to read and find out more about different styles of acupuncture and learn from other practitioners’ experiences.  Being in London, I am lucky to have a huge selection of lectures and courses to attend.

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

Enjoy what you do.  Building a practice takes time but it will be a lot easier if your career excites you.  Be patient and positive and there is no reason why we can’t all have a clinic working at the level we desire.



LCTA has introduced a Masters Degree in Chinese Medicine.

The course, which will be available to study from September 2010, will enable Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners to gain an MSc by researching an aspect of TCM that is of specific interest to them in their practice, whilst continuing to treat their patients.

Masters students will be able to research any condition or any aspect of Chinese medicine through the practice of acupuncture, herbal medicine, tui na or qi gong.  “The focus of this brand new course is clinical practice, which we believe is the cornerstone of Chinese medicine,” explains LCTA Principal Bonny Williams.  “Many of our students discover a passion for certain aspects of Chinese medicine, whether this be related to a specific  condition that they enjoy treating, or to a technique that resonates with them.  By giving them the opportunity to base a research degree around their existing practice, we hope to assist them in developing their specialism, their expertise and their practical experience much further than they would with a normal research degree.”

Guided by expert mentors and research staff at the College, students will be encouraged to set their own developmental goals, manage their study time and attend Master Classes of their choice, both in the UK and overseas.  “Evidence-based research is an important part of the process of improving the credibility of the Chinese medicine profession in the UK,” explains Bonny. “The more expertise we can offer to prove the effectiveness of our practice, the better.  It is vitally important to keep raising standards to ensure that Chinese medicine earns the respect and recognition it deserves.

“We hope that our new Masters programme will lead the way in setting a new international standard for Chinese medicine research and look forward to enrolling our first cohort of students in September.”

To find out more or to enrol for September, please call Carolina, Bonny or Laura on 020 8446 3332 or visit

About the course

LCTA’s Masters in Chinese Medicine is awarded by the University of Portsmouth (subject to validation).

The course is run over one or two years, depending on students’ available study time.

The programme is open to anyone with a degree or degree-level qualification in Chinese medicine, membership of a relevant professional body and a fully-insured clinical practice from which to work.

Acupuncture training was great fun at my age!

Kathy Hilditch is 61 years old.  She lives in Southgate and graduated with a BSc in Acupuncture from LCTA in 2009.  She is currently studying Tui Na.  Kathy is a Barristers Clerk and is retiring on 1st April 2010 to practice acupuncture full-time.  Here she talks about her experience as a mature student at LCTA:

What made you decide to retrain?

I wanted a new career that I would enjoy when I retired.

How did you find LCTA?

I came to the Teaching Clinic for treatment in 2003.

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

It had a good reputation and was near to home.

What was your favourite aspect of the course?

The chance to learn.

What were your fellow students like?

They were all very nice.

What did you think of the LCTA staff and tutors?

They were great.

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

It’s so long since I studied that I did not have any fixed ideas.  So it was completely new to me.

What was it like to be a student at LCTA?

It was great fun at my age!

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

I already practice from home and I will be in the City of London in a practice very soon.

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

It was inspiring and a little daunting at times.  I still can’t believe it!

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I should have believed in myself more.

Now that you are back at LCTA, how have you found the first few weeks of your tui na course?

I was in two minds whether to start in September rather than March as I thought it may be too much with starting my practice.  I decided to go for it, and have found it really helpful. It’s refreshing my knowledge all the time.

Are you enjoying being more hands on?

I love the more hands on approach and the palpation skills are invaluable.  I now really feel that this will be great to run alongside my first year in practice.  I also wanted to do Qi Gong to cultivate my Qi and energy, for my practice and general good health.

Was it easier to get yourself into it having already done the acupuncture course?

I’m still at work but I finish next week so I will be able to study at a more leisurely pace than before, which became very difficult when I was doing the acupuncture degree.  I can’t wait to have more time to myself and be more relaxed about everything.

Just before I started Tui Na my mother had a massive stroke.  She has reached a great age, nearly 94, and sadly will not recover, so my life has become even more complicated with the inevitable about to happen.  I was looking forward to spending more time with her and giving her more attention, so I’m very sad about that and she was looking forwarded to it as well, how cruel life can be!  I really feel as though one chapter in my life is closing and another is about to begin.   Tui Na will be good for me to focus on.

What are you plans for the future?

I would like to build a good practice and get a good name for myself.

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

Keep going, it’s worth it.

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.

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.