We spoke to Mark Bovey, Research Manager at the British Acupuncture Council, to find out more about this popular complementary therapy – and how to go about finding the right practitioner.

What are the benefits of acupuncture to general and emotional wellbeing?

Acupuncture is so much more than just the needles. Practitioners spend a lot of time working with their clients and offer support in all areas of their lives giving them guidance and a safe place to talk about their issues.

Although many people turn to acupuncture for very specific conditions; because treatment is aimed at the whole person the benefits are usually far greater than just helping the main complaint. A traditional acupuncturist will look at all aspects of your life and will work to get you, your body and your lifestyle back in balance.

So, it may be that although treatment is aimed at one specific issue, improvements are experienced in sleep, energy, digestion, mood and generally feeling better in oneself.

How important is it that people find a reputable acupuncturist?

Acupuncture with a trained and fully qualified practitioneris one of the safest forms of healthcare you can choose so it is essential youfind a properly trained and insured practitioner.

Currently acupuncture is not statutorily regulated, whichin effect means anyone can set up as an acupuncturist; however there are otherlevels of regulation in place to ensure acupuncture practitioners are workingsafely and to a high standard.

What qualifications do people need to practice acupuncture?

As mentioned above, because acupuncture is a non-(statutory) regulated profession there are different standards in terms of training and there is no single qualification that must be obtained in order to practice.

There are many different forms of acupuncture ranging from ear only acupuncture to traditional acupuncture based on East Asian theories and techniques.

Many medical practitioners such as GPs and physiotherapists, use a form of acupuncture within their practice and will have received basic additional training in order to do so. This is also true of many chiropractors and osteopaths.

Most traditional acupuncturists will have completed moreextensive education with many courses in the UK now running to degree levelstandard. This level of training covers all aspects of Chinese medicine andincludes 3,600 hours teaching time and 400 clinical practice hours before adegree in acupuncture is awarded. 

What are the signs of a good acupuncturist?

A good acupuncturist will be a member of a professional association of some sorts. This will hold them accountable to certain standards and will often include appropriate insurance.  

Most medical acupuncturists will either be a member with the British Medical Acupuncture Society whilst physiotherapists will be with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists. Chiropractors and osteopaths also have their own regulatory body.

Traditional acupuncture has several different professional bodies but the largest and most popular is the British Acupuncture Council.

Reputation is also a good marker of who to see. Recommendations from friends and family can be a good place to start.

A good acupuncturist should make you feel safe, comfortableand well looked after.

What are the signs of a bad acupuncturist?

It’s always important to listen to your instincts when choosing an acupuncturist. If you don’t feel comfortable with them then that’s probably a sign to look elsewhere. 

All of the above points, especially those around professional membership and insurance are important to consider; so, do your research before making an enquiry/appointment.

As a potential client you have every right to check on the practitioner’s qualifications and what training they have undertaken. If something sounds off when you ask this then that’s a sign to walk away and if necessary check them out with the professional associations.

All acupuncturists should be working to a very high standard in relation to hygiene so get a sense of how their clinic looks and operates. A treatment room doesn’t necessarily have to look like an operating theatre but it should be clean and well maintained. The practitioner should have access to hand washing facilities, their clinic should be registered with the local authority and they should look clean and professional.

If the practitioner doesn’t inspire confidence or make youfeel safe then don’t commit to seeing them.

Where should people go to look for an acupuncturist?

Each professional body will hold a register of qualified and insured practitioners so this is always the best place to start. The Professional Standards Authority maintain a list of statutory and non-statutory regulators which you can view here 

The British Acupuncture Council has the only acupuncture register that is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority under their voluntary register scheme. This offers guarantees in relation to standards of training, ongoing professional development, safety and professional conduct. To find a BAcC acupuncturist in your area you can use the search facility on their website www.acupuncture.org.uk or contact their central office 020 8735 0400.