The other day I met a new patient who had never been to an acupuncturist before. She was clearly nervous, but her suffering won out over her fear of needles, and she took the insertions with little complaint. As I continued with my work, she asked me a really great question, one that I have never been asked up to this point: "How can I tell if you're good or not?"
"Hmm," I answered. "That's actually a great question. I've never had anyone ask me that before!"
"Well," she continued, "If I went to find a cardiologist, I would be able to tell if he is good at what he does. But how do I know if an acupuncturist is good or not?"
I began to explain the need to search for someone who has graduated from an accredited school, someone who is licensed by the NCCAOM and by the state that they are practicing in. I could tell, though, that I wasn't really answering her question. Just as there are lots of doctors who are properly licensed but not great at what they do, logic would suggest that there are acupuncturists out there who are also not top-notch.
"I guess the real test is whether you walk out of here feeling better," I finished. "If you leave here with reduced pain, then I am good at what I do. If you don't need to come back for months before feeling improvement in your pain levels, I am good at what I do. And if the majority of my patients leave here with the same positive results...then I am a good acupuncturist."
So for all of you out there trying to find a "good" acupuncturist, the best way to begin is to simply ask around. Talk to your friends. You will likely run into someone who can't stop raving about their positive experience with Chinese medicine. You could also go to online review sites (such as Yelp), bearing in mind that some reviews may be skewed. Generally, though, these sites will give you an overview of whether most patients have had positive or negative experiences with a particular practitioner