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Top 10 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help You, Part 2
by: Brian B. Carter, MS, LAc
#6 It's Interactive

Chinese Medicine students learn about how every aspect of our lives (from bowel movements to emotions) relate to one another. We learn to relate to every kind of person.

Patients Can Push Your Buttons

Patients sometimes push our buttons, and this give us the opportunity to interact with ourselves. This is not always easy. We don't always like what we find! But if you commit to growth through interaction, helping, and self-examination, you can deactivate your buttons, grow past your limits, and increase your usefulness to others.

More specifically:

* Some students may realize they came to medicine for a selfish reason and decide to put helping others first.
* Some students find they are people-pleasers and have to learn how to set boundaries and be more assertive (not aggressive or passive-aggressive!).
* Others are more confrontational and aggressive by nature and need to learn compassion and patience.
* Some are analytical and live in their heads - they need to learn to focus on their hearts, gaining rapport and loving their patients.

Letting Go of Bad Habits

Your bad habits are called into question. At one point in my training, I went back to smoking cigarettes. It was a guilt-laden 6 weeks! It seemed hypocritical to want to be a healer while destroying my health. And I felt like I had to hide it. I quit to be a better example to my patients, and not to have to hide anything.

I also had to quit coffee. I knew from chinese medicine that it wasn't helping me with my impatience and irritability. It was worsening my liver qi stagnation! I had to give it up and take herbs instead. I had to practice what I preach.

When you know something is bad, it seems like fun to do it anyway (it gives you the illusion of power and control). But eventually you give in to the wisdom, do what is right, and get to feel even better. Then you can help others with the same struggle.

Your Victory can lead to their Victory

Occasionally, your own personal growth and commitment to self-examination helps your patients directly. At one point, I saw a woman with fears of abandonment. I had just discovered and confronted my own similar fears 6 months before. She was able to feel understood and heard and I was able to offer her solutions, strength, and hope.

In this way, we are trailblazers- pioneers in growth. If we remain shallow, so will our healing interactions. If we grow deeper, we can lead people to greater healing.

#7 It Benefits YOU Too!

As was just explained, by helping others you get to grow too.

Save on Health Care Costs

By giving yourself the know-how and resources to keep yourself, your friends, and your family well, you can save money. One acupuncturist said on an email list that it saved her family tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs. It can be practiced inexpensively - for many years it treated millions of poor peasants in China who had no access to western medicine. Chinese Medicine may be a large part of the solution to our healthcare crisis.

Professional Courtesy

Some acupuncturists trade treatments with one another to stay in good health. I've received hundreds of treatments from fellow students, practitioners, and my wife! It's helped me with anger, irritability, migraines, light sensitivity, fear, over-thinking, colds and flus, and cold sores, among other things.

#8 It's Traditional and Ancient

It's natural for us to look for reassurance, especially in dealing with our health. Biomedicine reassures by requiring studies of treatments for safety. Chinese medicine has been tested for safety and efficacy (especially acupuncture), and it has thousands of years of experience behind it to show what happens to the people it treats. It is inarguably a positive influence in our world. Biomedicine, on the other hand, is only 50 years old, and the full scope of the side effect phenomenon (short and long-term) has yet to be grasped.

Not every chinese remedy has been through the full rigors of the Randomized Controlled Trial (biomedicine's gold-standard), but neither have all of the standard biomedical treatments. The millions of hours and patient visits through hundreds of years establish traditional chinese treatments as safe and effective. More and more studies are being done to confirm them and understand how they work in biomedical terms. I have written extensively on acupuncture safety and how it works here.

#9 Its Theories have Broad Implications

Since it integrates many different disciplines and realms, CM concepts could be used to reorganize and give insight to psychology and psychiatry, pharmaceutical medicine, and sociology. These insights could guide and suggest future research in all fields.

The 16 types of the Meyers Briggs personality typing system have been somewhat integrated with the 5 constitutions and 6 temperaments of Chinese Medicine (read about that). This yields a mind-body medicine that integrates personality and physical disease.

From the patient's symptoms, we can understand their personality and what might help or hinder their healing from an emotional and behavioral perspective.

And vice versa, we can look at people's emotions and behavior and guess what kind of physical problems they might have. This makes for a quicker, more comprehensive medicine, and helps patients feel understood and confident in the care they receive.

#10 It can be a Lucrative AND Altruistic Career

As former AMA president and Medscape CEO George Lundberg, MD says, medicine walks a thin line because:

* It is supposed to be altruistic (selflessly concerned for others), but
* It is also a business (and thus vulnerable to selfish greed).

We could think of this as the yin and yang of the medical business.

Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture and Herbs

Some alternative medicine practitioners are happy to stay outside of the managed care system. It's valuable enough to patients to pay out of their own pockets. Increasingly, acupuncture is covered by insurance, HMO's and worker's compensation boards... sometimes the full cost of the treatment is covered and sometimes it isn't. Herbal medicine usually isn't covered... but patients are used to buying herbs and vitamins without reimbursement.

Lundberg suggests that:

* Proven preventive care should be financed by the government,
* Proven catastrophic care covered by insurance, and
* Everything else paid for out-of-pocket.

Grossing Gross Amounts of Money - Acupuncture Salaries

Regardless of who pays, acupuncturists can expect an annual gross salary of between $40,000 and$1,000,000. I just heard about a hospital position for an acupuncturist in Iowa that was paying $159 per hour (their medical doctor rate).

My wife made $100,000 her first year out of school. One acupuncturist here in San Diego grosses near $1,000,000 annually with worker's compensation cases only.

Right now in California, work-comp reimburses $120 per acupuncture treatment. Some acupuncturists see 4 patients per hour...

Let's do some quick math on an example. If you averaged $80 per treatment (which is achievable), saw 2 patients per hour, and worked 8 hours per day, 4 days per week (leaving a day or two to do paperwork), 48 weeks per year you could gross $245,760. If you spend 40% of your gross on overhead, you earn $147,456 before taxes.

What Makes for Making Money

How much you earn depends, as in all businesses, upon your resourcefulness, initiative, marketing savvy, and - most importantly - the quality of your service. As in all service businesses, you must be good at what you do.

The Freedom to Give

Making all that money frees us to be altruistic. A lot of volunteer care is given by acupuncturists. During "9/11,", New York students from the Pacific Institute of Chinese Medicine treated the firefighters. Likewise, students in San Diego from the Pacific College of Chinese Medicine treat Viet Nam veterans every year at a special gathering. Of dozens of services, the acupuncture is among the top 3 requested. You can take on a number of low or no-fee cases in your own practice. It's up to you.

#11 - There are so many options

It's a varied profession.

In California, acupuncturists are physicians and can be a patient's primary care practitioner - they are professionals on par with MD's, chiropractors, and psychologists. As an acupuncturist...

* You could work with an MD, DO, DC, psychologist, psychiatrist, or massage therapist.
* You can work in a high-class office wearing a suit. You could practice at home wearing your slippers.
* You could do all acupuncture, or all herbs, or both.
* You could treat just sports injuries, or workers compensation, or acupuncture face-lifts, or gynecology, or psychiatry, or do it all!
* There is room for new schools all over the U.S. - there are still states without any Chinese Medicine schools.
* You could practice in California (where 1/3 of us practice), or you could have an 'insta-practice' in many places all over the U.S. that don't have access to Chinese Medicine.
* You could teach or be a clinic supervisor at an established school.
* You could see loads of patients, or spend 2 hours with each one. One herbalist in China sees 80 patients per day. You have to be good to get herbs right- to get them right and see that many patients per day, you have to be stellar!
* You could create a business selling products to the 20,000 or so acupuncturists in the U.S. (even more internationally).
* You can write books and teach continuing education seminars.

There are so many options!

About the Author

Acupuncturist, herbalist, and medical professor Brian B. Carter founded the alternative health megasite The Pulse of Oriental Medicine ( He is the author of the book "Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure" (November, 2004). Brian speaks on radio across the country, and has been quoted and interviewed by Real Simple, Glamour, and ESPN magazines.


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