Acupuncture – What does an Acupuncturist do?

It shows a fine acupuncture needle in an acupuncture point

A fine needle in an Acupuncture Point

If you are thinking of changing career and are considering training to become an Acupuncturist, it is import to realise that many different people call themselves Acupuncturists. So, first you need to decide what type of Acupuncturist you want to be, and then you need to find a suitable College that will provide the training you need.

What does an Acupuncturist do?

By definition, Acupuncture involves the piercing of the skin by a needle. So, the simplest answer to the question “What does an Acupuncturist do?” is, “they insert needles into a person (or animal)”.

Why is this done?

As the word “Acupuncturist” comes from the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the objective is to treat a medical condition.Thus, a Chinese Medical Doctor, whose main treatment specialism involves the use of fine needles to treat a patient, is called an Acupuncturist and the title would only be used to refer to a fully qualified Chinese Medical practitioner of Acupuncture. The doctor would make a diagnosis of the patient using all the specialist methods of TCM and would then select the appropriate Acupuncture points to needle in order to treat the patient.

In China, if the patient is a human being they will be treated in a Chinese Medical Hospital or Clinic. Animals would be treated by Veterinary Acupuncturists.

So are all Acupuncturists in Ireland, the UK, and other parts of Europe, fully trained practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

An Acupuncturist using Pulse diagnosis in the TCM clinic

Pulse Diagnosis in the ICTCM Clinic

No. Those who have trained at an established and reputable college, such as the Irish College of TCM (ICTCM), will have studied intensively for 3 years to learn all the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical skills of Chinese Medicine that are required to safely and effectively treat patients with real medical conditions. They are fully trained practitioners of TCM and may refer to themselves as Chinese Medical Acupuncturists or Practitioners of Acupuncture TCM.

Is this the same as a Western Medical Acupuncturist?

No. Some Western Medicine (WM) professionals, have trained at the Irish College of TCM and are Chinese Medical Acupuncturists as well as being WM Doctors or nurses, but most Western Medical Doctors, nurses and Physiotherapists who say they do Acupuncture have only completed a short introductory course in Chinese Medicine and use the insertion of needles as an adjunct to their Western Medicine treatment. They make a diagnosis according the principles and theories of Western Medicine.

Are Acupuncturists in Alternative medicine or Complementary Medicine clinics all trained in TCM?

Not all of them. Some have studied at the ICTCM and are fully trained and will be members of a Professional Body such as the Professional Register of TCM. However, some therapists in such clinics have learned how to insert needles but have not learned how to make a TCM, or indeed any, medical diagnosis.

What about Cosmetic Acupuncture?

Most people offering cosmetic acupuncture are not fully trained and insured in TCM, and do not treat medical conditions.

Acupuncture Treatment in the Teaching Clinic of the Irish College of TCM

Acupuncture Treatment in the Teaching Clinic of the Irish College of TCM

Where can I train to become a Chinese Medical Acupuncturist able to use Traditional Chinese Medicine to make a diagnosis, determine a treatment plan and provide the correct Acupuncture treatment?

The Acupuncture Department, at the Irish College of TCM which was set up in 1983, has been training people to become wholly safe, competent, confident, professional practitioners of Acupuncture TCM since that early date.

Our Professional Acupuncture Training programme begins in October each year and anyone wishing to apply for this year’s intake should contact us straight away as we have almost finished recruitment for this coming academic year.

Health and the Seasons – Late Summer

Harvest in Late Summer

Harvest in Late Summer

When does Autumn begin? Is it still summer at the moment, or is there a touch of autumn in the air? Are we at the cusp of a change of season?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the change of seasons is a period when aspects of our health can change and can either get better or worse. TCM theory would say that we are now entering the “Late Summer” season.  It is sometimes called “Indian Summer” in English.

In nature it is a time of Harvest, when we gather in the fruits of our labour. It is said that that “we reap what we sow”. This means that if we have sown bad seeds these will not produce a healthy and bountiful crop. Or, if we have not tended to the needs of our seedlings when they are growing, or the weather has been inclement, the yield will be poor.


So too in our everyday lives. If we have not “sown good seeds” or paid due care and attention to our new projects, this can affect our health and wellbeing. If we have had a stressful Spring, setting up new ventures, striving to get ahead and be successful without taking necessary care of ourselves and others around us, our plans may not come to fruition. We may then feel worse in the Late Summer.

In terms of our own health, this season is traditionally associated, with the physiological system, referred to in Chinese, as Pi (and Wei). The notion of Pi in TCM covers a wide variety of human functions, ranging over a wide expanse of human activities. Among other things Pi is responsible for the body’s ability to adequately transform food and drink into Qi – the vital energy necessary for life. It is also responsible for separating out and getting rid of the waste products in daily living. Its widest function is that of transporting the Qi throughout the entire person.  Typically, a variety of “digestive” disorders may have their roots in Pi dysfunction and can get worse (or better) in Late Summer.

On a more mental level, Pi is responsible for transforming and transporting ideas. Failure in respect of this function can manifest as overthinking and repetitive or even obsessive thinking. Ideas can stick in the mind and clarity of mind will suffer. The person will not be able to separate good ideas or thoughts from bad ones.

Humidity or Dampness also “Distresses” Pi, so if the weather in Late Summer is Damp, clarity of Mind and efficiency of “Digestion” on all levels can be impaired. Other Damp-related symptoms like certain types of pain in the joints can also become worse during this season.

An Acupuncturist who is fully trained in the field of TCM, would be able to offer specifically tailored treatment and Chinese Medical advice to a patient who was susceptible to illnesses arising from, or getting worse, during the Late Summer.

Are you the sort of person who would be interested in learning, according to millennia of ancient venerable traditions, how different seasons influence and deeply affect yourself, other people and the entire environment around you? In more immediately practical terms, relating here to a self-employed profession, are you the sort of individual who would be interested in becoming a TCM practitioner, a fully trained, competent and confident  health-care professional  who would be able to offer such advice and treatment and thereby improve the health and wellbeing of clients?

If so, it is still not too late to apply for a place on our long-established, tried and tested, Professional Acupuncture Training programme, the Licentiate in TCM. The three year part-time course, run by the Irish College of TCM, begins in October each year and is held in our College in Dublin 3.

Graduation of new Acupuncturists

To announce that four new Acupuncturists have graduated as TCM practitioners and have set up clinics in various parts of Ireland and the UK.

Congratulations to the four new Acupuncturists who are starting a career as practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. They have clinics in Donegal, Dublin, Wexford, Tipperary, and York (UK).

They successfully graduated from the Irish College of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Professional Acupuncture Training Course – the Licentiate in TCM.

A Ceremony was held on 30th June where graduation certificates were presented. Officials, staff, family and friends gathered to celebrate this achievement and to wish the graduates success in their change of career.

Graduates and staff celebrating at the graduation
Graduates and staff celebrating at the graduation

Who can study Acupuncture and TCM with us?

The photo shows a group of students of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in the main classroom of the Irish College of TCM, in Dublin.
Students of Acupuncture and TCM

Questions that Acupuncture applicants often ask

We are now accepting applications for the 2019 Academic year which starts in October. So, I thought it would be useful to answer some of the questions that prospective applicants often ask.

The main thing people want to know is “Will I be a suitable Acupuncture student“?

If you have a keen interest in medicine and health and would like to work in a Caring profession, then that is a good start. We will then want to know why you are particularly interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture?

The answers might be:

  • I have a friend who is a TCM practitioner and Acupuncturist and they got me interested.
  • I have been unwell and Acupuncture treatment really helped me so I know it works.
  • I’ve read about Chinese Medicine and I like its Holistic approach.
  • I work as a Health professional and would like to extend my range of Clinical options and heard good reports about Acupuncture and other TCM treatments.

“Do you accept students from other countries?”

We accept students from Ireland the UK and all parts of the EU. We also accept people from other countries provided the student will not require a Student Visa to study on our course.

Because all of our courses are part time and do NOT qualify for a student visa we are unable to accept any applicants from overseas countries where a Visa is required. If an applicant from such a country already has the right of abode and right to work or study in the EU we can accept their application.

Another common question is “Am I too old?” or “Am I too young to study with you?

The answer to that is that we accept suitable people of any age, provided they are at least 21 years old when the course begins. Our courses are designed for adults who are wishing to either change profession or, if they already work in Acupuncture and TCM to gain a post-graduate qualification.

“What qualifications do I need to be a suitable Acupuncture Student?

  • You do not need to have prior qualifications in either TCM or Western Medicine.
  • You must be able to show us that you have the capacity (not just the desire) to undertake an intensive course of part-time study over a three year period.
  • Prior study on intensive or demanding courses will be an advantage, because you will be prepared and know a little of what to expect, but this is not a requirement.

“What qualities do I need?”

You need to be intelligent, not afraid of hard work and willing to work in a small group with other adults who have the same hopes and expectations as yourself. The course sets high standards and we accept students who are prepared to put in the necessary commitment to be successful in the academic, practical and interpersonal aspects of the course. It helps to be mature and well motivated and being kind and helpful to others are qualities that will help you to be a better practitioner.

You will be training to be a professional practitioner of Acupuncture TCM so many different skills need to be developed.

You can find out more about our Students and Graduates and the specific entry requirements via these links.

Finally, don’t forget that your application is just the first step. We interview all suitable applicants (or people who seem to be suitable) and during the interview and tour of the college and teaching clinic you will have a chance to discuss your suitability with a member of the teaching team.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Longevity – Famous TCM Doctor dies at the age of 104

Professor Dr Deng Tietao of Guangzhou University of TCM in 2011

Professor Dr Deng Tietao of Guangzhou University of TCM in 2011

Dr Deng Tietao was a great friend and supporter of the Irish College of TCM. He died, earlier this month, at the age of 104, although as explained in his Wikipedia entry, this would be calculated a little differently in China. In the West, he would have been said to be nearly 103 at the time of his death.

We first met him in 2000 when he was already 85 years old. He came to teach us during one of the specialist Medical Qigong Courses that was being run exclusively for staff and graduates of the ICTCM.

Professor Deng was a kind, refined and enlightened man who understood the importance of being healthy on all levels – body, mind and spirit. He was a much published author of books on many aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine and his seminal book on Chinese Medical Diagnostics has been published in English. When only in his 50s, his students published a book (in Chinese) as a sign of respect for his excellence as a medical practitioner and teacher, which outlined his regimen for a healthy life and longevity.  This included his daily practice of one of the most famous traditional Qigong forms, called Baduanjin.

A very early illustration of the traditional Qigong form called Baduanjin

A very early illustration of the traditional Qigong form called Baduanjin

During the subsequent years we met him a number of times when he gave guest lectures to groups from our college and met the Director of the College Tom Shanahan to discuss the most important attributes of a Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioner. Both agreed that it was kindness to one’s patients.

The last time we met was in 2011 after he had been awarded the very highest award by the Chinese Government in 2009. He was named a “Master of National Medicine” of China, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the China Society for Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, and won the Guangdong Science and Technology Award (First Class).

Dr Deng, in his home in Guangzhou, with the President of the ICTCM, Tom Shanahan and the Registrar, Mary Plunkett

Dr Deng, in his home in Guangzhou, with the President of the ICTCM, Tom Shanahan and the Registrar, Mary Plunkett

During our last meeting in 2011 he brushed a unique calligraphy for the Irish College of Traditional Chinese Medicine showing that he gave his great support to our efforts to spread high-quality, authentic Acupuncture and TCM across Europe and the world.  Further information can be found in our 2011 ICTCM news item.

News of his death was announced by the Guangzhou Daily on 10th January 2019. Their article gives an interesting extract from an interview with Dr Deng, who will be much missed by his friends, family and students.

Welcome to our new Acupuncture students

Acupuncture Clinic, Dublin 3

The Irish College of TCM in Dublin is pleased to welcome a new group of students to our Acupuncture Training programme. The new intake started their studies with us on 13th October.

No further applications can be accepted for this academic year.

If you are interested in changing career and wish to train to work as a self-employed practitioner of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the information provided on our section on Acupuncture Training gives details of the course content and application procedures.

The next intake of students will be in October 2019.

Chinese Embassy in Ireland reception

The Director of the Irish College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tom Shanahan, and one of the college’s Clinical Supervisors Michal Niedzialkowski were pleased to attend an event hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Ireland, on 25th September 2018.

The ICTCM Director meeting the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland at a reception on 25 September 2018

The ICTCM Director meeting the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland at a reception on 25 September 2018

The ICTCM has enjoyed many years of support and encouragement from the Chinese Embassy during its more than 35 years providing high quality training in Chinese Medicine in Ireland.

The photograph shows Tom Shanahan shaking hands with His Excellency Ambassador Dr Yue Xiaoyong.

Acupuncture Course October 2018 – there is still time to apply

Do you want to become an Acupuncturist?

The next Acupuncture Course, which is three years long, runs on a part time basis. This year’s course begins on the weekend of 13 and 14 October.  There is still time to apply for this high quality training to become an Acupuncturist.

In the Acupuncture clinic

Classes are held in our college in Dublin, near the 3Arena. Transport links are good as there is easy access to the Port tunnel, Dublin Airport and motorway system. Thus, people from all parts of Ireland and the EU are able to reach the ICTCM relatively easily.

Students attend Acupuncture classes for approximately one weekend every 3 to 4 weeks and have homework to complete between the classes. You can see the  Course schedule on the Acupuncture Training section of this website.

Being an Acupuncturist (also called “a practitioner of TCM, specialising in Acupuncture”) is a rewarding and satisfying career. You can contribute to the health and wellbeing of patients of all ages, and with a wide variety of different medical conditions.

If you would like to find out more, go directly to the Prospectus pack. It includes an application form and fee schedule, and the full syllabus is also available.