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 training

Retraining didn’t just lead to a new career – it led to marriage!

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 why he retrained and about his experiences as a student at LCTA.

What made you decide to retrain?

I was impressed with the results acupuncture could achieve with dental problems such as jaw pain and Trigeminal Neuralgia.  I then began to read more about the basic principles of acupuncture and I really connected with the way the body is viewed in Chinese medicine.  The more I read, the more I wanted to learn how to implement these principles in a clinical setting and find out if I could get the same results as the cases I was reading about.

How did you find LCTA?

I searched the internet for places to study and wrote to several places asking for more information about their courses.  Only two colleges replied back to my e-mails. One of them was LCTA.

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

LCTA invited me to an open day where they explained how their course is structured, what kind of commitment would be involved, and then they answered all of my questions. I liked what I heard.  The fact that they had already been fully accredited by the British Acupuncture Council and could offer a BSc from University of Portsmouth was comforting too.

What was your favourite aspect of the course?

I really enjoyed the Teaching Clinic sessions in the third year.  I had practiced point location and made diagnosis on other students in the first two years but the third year gave me the closest experience to a working clinic.  I really enjoy the one-to-one contact with patients and it felt great to confirm that I could do this every day as a career.

What were your fellow students like?

I was very fortunate to study with a superb group of students.  We helped and supported each other.  I had one or two friends that I was especially close to and we would often organise study sessions at our houses.  We would get together, cook some food then work through some study material. It was a lot of fun and it really helped take the stress out of studies.  I am still in frequent contact with a few of the students. There were even fellow students at my wedding last year, one of them being the bride!!!

What did you think of the LCTA staff and tutors?

The staff at LCTA have always been very helpful.  In the first year of studies when we were in the old building, I had an accident and injured my knee just before exams were due to start.  The staff helped me to re-arrange my exams and even moved my classes to the ground floor until I was able to navigate the stairs again.

I’ve always tried to learn as much as I can from the tutors. They all have a lot of experience from different backgrounds and they were always happy to share it with the class.  The tutors definitely pushed us and we had to work hard to pass the modules but I also have fond memories of fun times with many tutors.

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

Pretty much yes.  I knew the work would pile up and there would be many late nights to make sure deadlines were reached but it was all worth it to end up in the career I wanted.

What was it like to be a student at LCTA?

I really enjoyed being a student, but after three years, and shortly following an eight year dental surgery degree, I was also happy to finish being a student.  I found being a student at LCTA was made a lot easier because of the friendships I formed with the staff and the students. In addition to the hard work and hours in the library, I have very warm memories of chatting, laughing and swapping stories with many interesting people. I found my best friend and my wife there so I definitely got the most out of LCTA!

Look out for the next blog entry and read about Murad’s experiences in choosing a clinic setting and establishing his practice.


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.

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.


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.