The first visit in the acupuncture clinic is devoted to gathering a great deal of information about your main concerns, medical history, physical conditions and our energetic observations. We address your questions and discuss a treatment plan. In Five Element acupuncture, this process is called the Traditional Diagnosis, or TD, and usually lasts about two hours. This includes a physical examination, along with pulse-taking, but no needles are inserted during the first visit.
From your next visit onward, acupuncture treatments move your energy in the direction of vitality, harmony and balance. Your practitioner monitors your response to treatment by talking with you at the start of each visit and by taking your pulses before, during and at the end of treatment. Pulse-taking in acupuncture is not the same as taking your radial pulse in Western medicine. The process is similar in that your practitioner takes your hand in theirs, but they are listening to and feeling for different qualities. Your pulse “picture” provides the truest assessment of your health, guiding your treatment plan and helping to evaluate your progress over time.
Working with their clinical supervisor, your practitioner will determine which acupuncture points to use for your treatment. The Five Element tradition believes in effecting maximum change in a person’s qi through using as few needles as possible. As such, practitioners may choose only three to five points to needle, with each point chosen for a specific purpose. Once the point is precisely located on your body, your practitioner will most likely burn moxa directly on the point. The point will be cleaned and the needle inserted. Most often the needle is promptly removed. Needles are generally not left in the point for lengthy periods of time. Your practitioner will check your pulses before moving on to the next point. You are encouraged to relax throughout your treatment and to let your practitioner do their work. Sometimes your practitioner will ask for information about what you are experiencing in the moment. Along with pulse-taking, this information is helpful in gauging the progress of the treatment. Your pulses will be taken again after all of the points have been needled.
While every person is different, most people benefit the most by coming weekly at the start of treatment. As your health improves and stabilizes, treatments are scheduled less and less frequently. Once healthy, the emphasis is on preventive treatment. This means coming seasonally for “tune-up” treatments to help you maintain health and well-being.
The Academy’s faculty-supervised clinic means that treatment is provided by student interns in their clinical year of training. Every aspect of treatment is closely supervised by faculty members who are experienced licensed acupuncturists.
There are often three practitioners involved in each treatment: an intern who has been assigned to be your primary practitioner for every treatment, a second intern who assists in the treatment, and one or more clinical supervisors. Your primary practitioner is responsible for planning and carrying out your treatment and evaluating your progress. The assisting intern may vary from appointment to appointment. They are as highly trained as your primary practitioner, but their main role is to assist as needed. Additionally, a clinical supervisor will come into the treatment room to talk with you, ask questions, examine you physically as needed and take your pulses. Depending on the phase of clinical training, the supervisor may also be providing feedback to the intern on needling and checking the location of points which have been marked out. This is all part of the clinical experience.