How to Choose a Provider

Deciding on a new provider is an important choice. The articles below are intended to help you make informed decisions when choosing a new provider by arming you with information about the type of care different specialists provide and suggesting questions you can ask of providers to better determine if their services are right for you. Your health plan may or may not provide coverage for these specialties, so check with your health plan and be sure you understand your financial responsibilities prior to using any services.

How to Choose an Acupuncturist

Acupuncturists offer Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) services. Some of these services include acupuncture, massage, and the use of herbal treatments. They can also help you with exercise and eating plans. They help people of all ages. And they work in many types of settings. These settings can include hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practice.

These professionals are highly educated. They are licensed, certified, or registered health care workers. Their titles may differ from state to state. Some of the most common titles are:

  • Oriental Medicine Doctor (OMD)
  • Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM)
  • Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc)
  • Practitioner of Oriental Medicine (POM)
  • Oriental Medicine Practitioner (OMP)

American Specialty Health (ASH) ensures that all Oriental Medicine professionals who work for ASH have the right credentials.

Selecting an acupuncturist is a personal choice. You may want to ask your friends, family, or doctor if they know a professional they like.

Asking questions can help you make a good choice. You may want to meet with more than one professional in this specialty before you make your choice.

Questions You Can Ask

What training, certification, and experience do you have?

Most states call for acupuncturists to have a state or national license. If there is a licensing board in your state, you should make sure the practitioner is licensed. Then ask the acupuncturist if they have a specialty and what that is. Also ask how many years of experience he or she has.

How can you help me with my health issues?

Find out what kind of treatment will be offered. Will acupuncture be used? Acupuncture treatment often uses very fine, single-use needles. These are put into the skin at certain points on the body. Depending on your health issue, other services may be recommended. These may include:

  • Chinese herbs
  • Electro-stimulation (at a mild level to the needles or flat on the skin)
  • Moxibustion (using a heated herb on the outside of the body)
  • Acupressure (pressure applied to acupuncture points without needles)
  • Cupping (mild suction tools) 
  • Tui Na or other TCM massages
  • Special exercises to do at home
  • TCM food plan advice

Be sure to ask questions to learn more about each of these services and how it may help you.

Can you tell me about the benefits and risks of my treatment options?

Your acupuncturist will talk with you about your treatment options. He or she will explain the benefits and risks of each one. Be sure to let the practitioner know about any concerns you have.

How often and how long should I expect to come in for treatment?

This question may not have a simple answer at first. How well people respond to treatment can vary. Some people feel better right away. For others, it can take longer to start feeling better. How many treatments you need may depend on your health issues and how well your body responds. Your practitioner should outline a plan for your treatment. And you should know how your progress will be checked over time.

Will you suggest exercise or other changes to help my condition?

Your acupuncturist may talk with you about changes you can make to your health habits. You may be shown exercises to do at home to help your health. You might be given advice on what foods to eat or avoid to help you feel better. You may also learn about herbs that may help your health issues.

Other Points to Consider

You should expect the acupuncturist’s office staff to treat you with courtesy. When you call, are they prompt and professional? Do they answer your questions? Do they help set future appointments? Will you be comfortable working with the practitioner and his or her staff?

After asking the questions listed above and meeting the practitioner and office staff, think about the answers you received. Does the acupuncturist’s approach to your healthcare seem like it will work for you? If so, you can feel comfortable that you have made an informed choice.

Your Checklist

Look for an acupuncturist that:

  • Be licensed or certified to practice in your state
  • Treats you with respect and professionalism 
  • Listens well to your health concerns
  • Answers your questions in a way that you can understand
  • Makes every effort to help you improve your health
  • Refers you to specialists as needed

As you can see, there are many factors to think about when choosing an acupuncture professional. You deserve the best care possible. So do some research and ask questions. Most of all, take the time you need to make a choice you feel good about.



J. Dabbs


Go Back