The simple guide to finding the best acupuncture training courses in the UK and how to build a successful practice
By Gerad Kite
Yellow Path graduates Grace and Georgie enjoy the success of their practice, The Elements Project
Grace and Georgie had both been through a traumatic period in their lives and were looking for a new career. They wanted something that they would find truly fulfilling. Not just professionally, but personally too. Having already attended university, they were looking for a professional training or an apprenticeship rather than more years of sitting in a classroom. They independently came across acupuncture and after extensive research decided that the Yellow Path Five-Element acupuncture training course (apprenticeship) was right for them.
After graduating, they teamed up to create ‘The Elements Project’, a thriving Five-Element acupuncture practice in London with a particular focus on addressing the mental health challenges faced by people of their own age group.
We asked them what it was about the course that they had found especially useful:
“The standard of teaching in this course is second to none. Knowing that all lectures are accessible 24/7 removes the panic of scribbling notes in the classroom. You can miss quite a lot of what is being said. It was so great to just sit back and enjoy the filmed lectures and then be able to go back and watch them again and take notes. Also, one of the trickiest things is point location, so being able to refer to films in addition to the classes with Johnny was really, really helpful. It’s a perfectly rounded training that gives you everything you need and supports you every step of the way.”
“Gerad’s teaching is so inspiring, it really was life-changing for me. Throughout the course we had support and encouragement from the Yellow Path team and frequent opportunities to shadow our mentors in a clinical setting. Having weekly Zoom classes is a game changer. Being able to learn the material online at our own pace and then ask questions is invaluable. The training was everything I had hoped for and it’s set me up with a profession for life that I absolutely love.”
The reputation of ‘The Elements Project’ has grown rapidly amongst a generation of ‘Millennials’ struggling to find the right kind of help and Grace and George already have a loyal following. It’s a great example of what Yellow Path can offer you if you work hard and place your trust in the teaching.
Check out this piece of editorial about Grace and Georgie in Marie Claire magazine: “Meet the women using acupuncture to keep Millennials’ minds in check.”
Would you like to follow in Grace and Georgie's footsteps?
Becoming an acupuncturist is an exciting and personally transformative challenge. It is also a big commitment personally, professionally and financially. We want to help you make the best choice by showing you our approach at Yellow Path and the other acupuncture trainings and courses available in the UK and around the world.
Ultimately you will be your own best guide in finding the right acupuncture training for you. But you will need to do some research and this article is here to assist you.
Let’s firstly take a look at the five main styles of acupuncture training currently taught in the UK and worldwide.
- Five-Element Acupuncture (FEA)
At Yellow Path we teach the classical form of FEA. It is considered to the be the root of all traditional Chinese medicine. FEA comprises of acupuncture (the use of fine needles) and moxibustion (the burning of an herb), and is closely aligned with the teachings of the ancient text, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon. This style of practice maintains its focus on the importance of the ‘spirit’ as the active conduit for healing. Because of its spiritual history it was outlawed by the People’s Republic of China under the authority of Chairman Mao. Over the past two hundred years however, it slowly made its way to the West and most notably taught by Professor J.R. Worsley who was one of my teachers. His teachings promoted the concept of a unique cause of disease (Causative Factor) that can be diagnosed and treated in each person.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM is part of traditional Chinese medicine. It also has its roots in classical acupuncture but rather than focus on the cause of disease it seeks to deal with presenting symptoms and syndromes. It also includes teachings from the Materia Medica that focusses on herbal treatment along with cupping therapy, gua sha, massage and various forms of exercise. In the 1950’s the practice of TCM was standardised and integrated with modern ideas about anatomy and pathology. The spiritual component was abolished and replaced with the more western approach of dealing with the presenting symptom of the patient. This style is practised all over China as well as many countries around the world.
- Integrated Chinese Medicine
This style of practice draws from TCM and Constitutional Five-Element acupuncture (a theory that we all have our own unique constitution) and supports the patient symptomatically as well as addressing the underlying ‘constitutional weakness’.
- Stems and Branches
Stems and Branches looks at the cycles and interactions that occur both internally and externally. These concepts are foundational in all styles of acupuncture but this style of practice looks at how these two aspects of the person combine and balance.
Although there are many crossovers with all of these styles of practice, they are in fact very different. The skills and experience required by the student and future practitioner will be specific to your own personal style and your patients’ needs.
- Medical Acupuncture
This style of acupuncture is focused on the 'scientific' understanding of inserting needles into the body and in relation to Western medicine. Western medical acupuncture uses needles to primarily stimulate the nervous system and does not acknowledge the concepts of yin/yang or Qi (energy).
It is an adaptation of Chinese acupuncture focussing on anatomy, physiology and pathology and works on the principles of evidence based medicine
Acupuncture Schools and Courses
You will notice from the listing above that there are different styles of acupuncture in the UK and around the world. The schools and their teaching styles differ, too. Most of the courses provide a wealth of information that needs to be understood and memorised. Others, like the training at Yellow Path, have much less cerebral learning. They focus the students' attention on heightening their senses to develop a greater sensitivity to the natural world and fellow human beings. Both approaches are valid and reflect the style of acupuncture being taught.
Where is best for me study?
You need to first of all ask yourself the question; "how do I want to work with my patients?" and then find the best fit. The beauty of acupuncture as a career/vocation is that you can approach it in many ways. If you enjoy research, education and scholarship, there are many opportunities within the profession. If however you welcome the opportunity to put down the books and put your attention on what we are passing on to you, Yellow Path is your first choice! There is also of course, somewhere between the two.
It is always good to chat to a few people who have graduated from a school rather than rely on testimonials. Find acupuncturists online who normally state where they trained in their bio. They will happily tell you their experiences, both good and bad. The team at Yellow Path are always available to discuss your needs and interests in becoming a practitioner and offer contact details of previous students who will share their experience.
Types of Training
Let's start by looking at what Yellow Path has to offer. This training is a premium, high quality professional course in Five-Element acupuncture. You are required to attend monthly three-day, in-person workshops and uniquely, 75% of the curriculum is accessible online with original filmed lectures. This means that as the material is released to you throughout the course you have access to it throughout the training, 24/7.
If you want to master this system of medicine and really stand out from the crowd, Yellow Path is here to support you from now and all the way to graduation. And we go even further. We support you in the building of your practice and provide all the post-graduate acupuncture training you will need. Our approach to acupuncture training stands alone from all the other acupuncture courses for the following exciting reasons:
- A training true to the teachings of ancient China and passed to you in the original oral tradition
- High quality original filmed content covering our entire curriculum available 24/7
- Duration of training = 2 years
- Highly experienced and charismatic teachers bringing this magical tradition to life
- Three days of contact per month
- Your own personal mentor
- A highly interactive clinical training supported by experienced practitioners
- Our own clinical training site in the city of London
Yellow Path - Two-Year Professional Training
Yellow Path's Five-Element acupuncture curriculum was originally a 3 year full-time, accredited programme (formerly LIFEA). This training became an apprenticeship and when Covid hit all our lives, our apprenticeship changed, too. We were quick to recognise that training and education in all subject areas needed to change in a post Covid world. We clearly saw that we had to move with the times!
We engaged a professional film crew to join us in the classroom and create beautiful and inspirational films to deliver our entire curriculum online. Moving from the classroom to the laptop needs to have the same quality connection between the teachers and the students. The quality of the filming also needed to match what we have all become used to with the likes of Netflix and Masterclass. We're proud to say that Yellow Path is now the ‘Masterclass’ of acupuncture training.
We deliver the Five-Element acupuncture training in the master/apprentice model of teaching. This is done through monthly in-person workshops and original online filmed lectures available 24/7 with support from your personal mentor. The entire training takes 2 years and we have two intakes per year starting in the Spring and Autumn .
Three Year Degree Courses (BA/BSc)
These courses are structured to meet the academic requirements of a degree level training and provide either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc). They are an academic course of study as well as a professional training in the practice of acupuncture. They are considered to be a full-time course and cover Chinese Medicine, Western Sciences, Research, Clinical Skills, Professional Practice and Point Location.
Three Year Degree (level) Course
These courses have a very similar structure to the degree courses but are not linked with a degree awarding institution and therefore may be less academic.
Things to consider
We all have different ways to learn. Some of us work well alone and find it easy to self-motivate. Others need more handholding and regular in-person classroom meetings. It is also clear that education is moving more and more online. It is worth asking what plans each institution has for the future so you know in advance how you will be learning.
At Yellow Path we give you a clear structure with monthly classes and online teaching material released in a logical order. Not only do you have the curriculum released to you over your training, you can also watch hundreds of hours of recorded Q&A sessions relating to each filmed part of the curriculum. Discuss anything you choose with your personal mentor and as you build your own portfolio, our academic support will fact check your submissions ensuring you graduate with the ultimate professional text, your very own creation that will serve you for the rest of your working life.
Professional Training versus Academic Study
Acupuncture training is a professional training and the end game is that you qualify and start your own practice. Most university courses, no matter which subject you study, are not apprenticeships or preparing you for the workplace or to work alone. It is, therefore, essential that along with amassing lots of information and passing exams, you end up feeling excited and confident to work with your patients. Once again, I highly recommend you speak to graduates of the different training institutions and ask how well-equipped they felt to take their learning and skills into their life of practice.
Cost of Training
Training fees for acupuncture in the UK range anywhere from £12,000 to £26,000. In the US the cost of training can be as much as $50,000.
The three-year degree courses are understandably the most expensive as they cover a lot of information and must meet the academic hours required for a degree level course.
It is possible to apply for grants and bursaries for training, especially as acupuncturists have recently (2020) been upgraded in status by the government to "medical professionals ". You will find helpful links at the end of this article on career change.
Acupuncture is an ancient tradition and was passed down from master to student over thousands of years. This wealth of information and experience is what is described as a lineage. Even though you may choose to attend a degree level training or the standard three-year course, the study of acupuncture is rooted in ancient Chinese history and is dependent on the all-important relationship between the teacher/s and the student.
I am proud to say that the Yellow Path teaching team is passionate about passing on this system of medicine in the ancient oral tradition. All of our teachers and mentors are highly experienced in teaching and in practice.
Our approach to the training is to transmit this ancient wisdom in a format that meets the needs of the modern world. I was taught by great teachers like J.R Worsley, who looked us in the eye and physically directed us in how to engage with a patient and work with our senses and acupuncture needles. This intimate and close contact is essential for the transmission of centuries old knowledge and experience. Our films achieve this intimacy through their high quality and direct teaching style. You are not watching someone else’s classroom experience; you are being taught directly by us. Take a look at some of our free taster films.
It is essential you trust and value your teacher/s. Historically the student would search for his or her teacher and when found, ask to become a student. Equally, the path to mastery is to serve the needs of the student. It’s a subtle and beautiful relationship that values knowledge and experience in partnership with enthusiasm, humility and curiosity.
“When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready the teacher disappears”. Lao Tzu
Don’t be shy! Interview your future teachers. Speak to them before you sign on the dotted line to see if they are right for you! Equally they will decide if you are right for them.
Does a training programme need to be accredited?
There is an assumption that the best training programmes are the accredited courses. This is untested and unproven in the case of acupuncture training. In the UK there is no government regulation or accreditation of acupuncture. Some training institutions have chosen to be accredited by various self regulating organisations. These accrediting bodies have been created by members of the profession but do not have any legal standing as far as who can or cannot practice acupuncture.
For example the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) is a not-for-profit company focussing on acupuncture education in the UK. It consists of members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), educationalists, members of the public/other training institutions and Western medicine professionals. Its aim is to maintain standards that are decided and implemented by the company for organisations that seek their validation.
The BAcC is an accredited register with the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) who are accountable to parliament and set standards for all the the statutory regulated health professions in the UK. However, acupuncture in the UK is not a statutory regulated health profession.
The BAAB, partnered with the BAcC, plays its part in meeting the standards the PSA requires of all health professions.
There is no legal or civic requirement for any acupuncture training institution to be accredited by the BAAB or for graduates to become member of the BAcC.
Your Future Practice
Who do you want to help? Have you thought about your future practice and who your patients/clients might be? What might they need from you? Where will you practice? How much do you envisage/need to earn?
Patients come to us with lots of different needs. Some people are suffering with physical complaints and need you to reduce or remove their pain. Others will struggle with their mental health and need not only needles but a friendly ear to bend. Some need both! Increasingly, there are patients turning up with more existential woes, like a lack of purpose or drive; a broken heart!
It is important that you take time to imagine yourself in practice so that once again you can choose the most appropriate acupuncture training and role models to help you along the way.
For example, I was a psychotherapist before I trained in acupuncture which was born out of a huge curiosity in how people think and feel. I was not particularly interested in physical symptoms although I naturally wanted to help people out of any kind of suffering. I was lucky enough to land in a college that taught Five-Element acupuncture which focussed on developing my senses for diagnosis and the importance of the patient/practitioner relationship. Conversely, a colleague who was previously a professional athlete went on to train at a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) college and now has a successful clinic treating physical pain!
Again, it’s not quite as binary as that but every training institution or teacher has its own emphasis of style and intention.
The Secret to Success
Many of us in the acupuncture profession jumped ship from previous careers because of feeling unfulfilled. Some of us turned to acupuncture training on the back of a personal health crisis that was resolved through acupuncture when all else failed. Some found the philosophy enthralling and ended up practising.
We are aware that being a good student will not necessarily translate into building a strong practice. At Yellow Path, we give you the confidence and tools to set up in business, help you feel confident and know we are here to support you as you start to work alone.
Clinical and commercial success requires more than education and good will. Experience and further training are two parts of the puzzle but both are totally dependent on getting the word out to prospective patients. They need to know who you are and what you do so that they can be helped and you can craft your art.
Ultimately you are selling a service. People are in the habit of researching for the best quality and the most affordable of any given product or service. Acupuncture is no different and in spite of its profile being greatly raised in the past 50 years, there’s still a long way to go before it becomes part of mainstream medicine.
So, what is the secret for success?
The Yellow Path training is designed to infuse you with passion but you will need to find and share your own passion to build your new career. If you’re not excited about what you are learning and practising, no one else will be. Human beings are story tellers and we all love a story. Speak to existing acupuncturists and patients and ask about their success stories. Share these with everyone you meet and build the buzz.
Although the study of acupuncture is rigorous and rooted in tried and tested means, curiosity and appropriate acupuncture research is essential to keep the tradition alive in the modern world. At Yellow Path we ensure our students have a strong foundation in this ancient art and once this has been achieved we encourage a healthy level of questioning and research. In 2001 we conducted a trial to question the efficacy of our work. Although the outcomes were not stunning we were able to show the clinical benefits of our work.
There’s a lot to learn, digest and assimilate and none of this comes without hard and consistent work. You cannot fall back on intuition or simply being nice to people! The work of an acupuncturist is forensic, sensitive and dynamic and all of these qualities require application, humility and patience
Be sure to make a five-year plan. Include all the suggestions I have made about choosing the right style of practice and the best training for you. Also, think ahead and visualise what you will need, how you will market yourself and even down to where you will practice. All plans are made to be broken but start somewhere and see where it leads.
Once you start practising, patients will not fall from the sky. If you haven’t prepared in advance and your patient list is empty, not only will you start to lose faith in yourself, your skills will start to fade.
When I started out in the late 1980s patients came by word of mouth or through the press. I was vocal in my success and over the years the press remembered my name and my work. It culminated in a six page spread in the Mail on Sunday with the title, "The Daddy of All Fertility Experts". That kept me and my colleagues very busy for many years!
10 years later the same paper ran another story focussing on men and gave our practice another great bounce.
My colleague Johnny Childs read about the issues many women face during the menopause and hormone problems in general. He approached Tatler magazine and offered free treatments to the beauty editor. Delighted with her response to treatment an article was published which put Johnny on the map.
But times have changed and love it or loathe it, social media is the best form getting the word out and is here to stay. It is a wonderful way to communicate your journey from acupuncture student to practitioner. Case studies are always of interest to people and if they can relate to what you are showing them, they will become your sales agents.
Yellow Path graduate, Beverley Reeves, was planning her practice from the day she started her training. She told her story of being a student to anyone who would listen and rallied patients to the clinical training that she knew would spread the news of her great work with the needles. Beverley now runs a successful practice in less than one year of graduating. Check out her site here: Beverley Reeves Five-Element Acupuncture.
- Two Things to Do Each Day
- Do something to improve your acupuncture skills. It might be reading something, exploring the natural world, sitting on a park bench watching people go by or practising taking the Chinese pulses. It doesn’t matter but do it every day.
- Do something to promote your future practice. Post something on social media. Write a blog about your learning journey. Call a friend you heard was needing help and ask how you can help. Make a list of 20 things you could do and rotate them.
What the World Needs Now
Acupuncture is an ancient tradition and a living tradition. It’s well equipped to deal with today’s problems just as it did for the problems of 3000 years ago. It’s worth noticing the kind of problems you personally experience, those of your family, your friends and your community and how you as a new practitioner can make a real difference. You need to think about what people are in need of now, and in the future.
Our lives have changed
One of my teachers used to talk about the changes he’d witnessed in his lifetime. Born before the Second World War and living in a small community, he saw that material needs and comforts were lacking. A lack of heat in winter, food shortages and for some, inadequate shelter. Yet people were happy and felt alive. He described children playing in the streets and neighbours communicating and being part of an active community. He saw a wealth of spirit in spite of the material poverty.
Today we have the opposite. The general trend in the West, is a competitive and somewhat alienating environment that offers plenty materially but leaves many people feeling empty and alone.
Why people get sick
Why do people develop physical symptoms in spite of their materially comfortable lives? Why do we have more internally created diseases than ever before? Mysterious cancers, autoimmune conditions, organ failure, medically undiagnosed symptoms and a growing problem with mental health fills our hospitals. Why?
Historically, Chinese medicine acknowledged and emphasised the role of the spirit in the maintenance of peoples’ health and well-being. They understood that being connected to nature and having the capacity to experience a rich and vibrant inner and outer life was an integral part of being well. In the West our attention has been diverted to our material needs and our thinking minds. We value success through intellect and property at the cost of the spirit.
We find ourselves at a time in history when a mental health crisis timebomb is about to explode. Obesity and a growing number of internally created diseases are on the rise. It’s certainly time to divert our attention back to ourselves and respond to what nature is telling us to do.
In 2010 I was invited to go to Chennai, India to set up a training in Five Element acupuncture. This forward thinking hospital chain (Apollo Hospitals) realised that with cases of diabetes on the rise due to obesity, then needed preventative treatments such as our style of acupuncture to keep their patients well.
Ancient wisdom for modern times
Acupuncture is a system of medicine and a way of life that has stood the test of time. It taps into a home truth. We are as much a part of nature as a flowing river, a desert landscape or a school of whales. If we do not adhere to Nature’s laws and live our life as she dictates, we will undeniably find ourselves slipping into further decline. This ancient system of medicine is more relevant and valuable than ever before. By entering into the role of the acupuncture practitioner you are making a massive contribution to not only your own sense of happiness and wellbeing but also your patients and the world at large.
I hope you have found this useful and if you have any further questions, please explore our site and do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you great success with your new career and hope you will consider joining us at Yellow Path.
Testimonials from Patients and Students
Gerad was recommended to me by a close friend because I wanted to see someone who had received the very best acupuncture training. I went along hopeful that he might fix a tendon problem.
He completely threw me when he said, ‘Forget why you thought you came here. Let’s start with a clean page. If you could take away one thing from this session, what would it be? Think BIG!’
After a moment’s pause, I said, ‘I wish I could sleep. I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours each night for as long as I can remember, but many years. I can’t get through each day without nodding off at some point, however briefly.’
Gerad was able to quickly identify and easily explain the source (and long term impact) of the problem. The fix was instant too. I’ve been getting a minimum 6 hours of good, deep sleep every night since. I wake up restored and the experience has been nothing short of revelatory.
I can’t recommend him and his style of acupuncture highly enough.
Andrew Martin (patient)
The Yellow Path acupuncture training is one of the best acupuncture courses available. It provides a very grounding and inspiring teaching of Five-Element Acupuncture. It remains true to the original understanding of this ancient practise of the Yellow Emperor. I feel honoured to be a part of this system of medicine that has such a rich history.
Gerad has been a great support, he understands our uniqueness that will make us the practitioners we hope to be whilst remaining an anchor to Five Element Acupuncture. He makes me feel very confident in building my own practise one day and I am grateful for the encouraging environment to learn in. With his thorough explanations he makes it very accessible and a joy to learn. Thank you Gerad and Johnny!
Rose Village (Student)
When considering my move into Five-Element Acupuncture, I needed the best acupuncture training that would fit around my busy everyday life. Yellow Path has provided the flexibility I required to do this and to go at the right pace for me. The online lectures are excellent and broken down into manageable and logical subjects. There are weekly online meetings giving me the opportunity to clarify content from the lectures with my fellow students and Gerad. There is the opportunity to regularly meet up to have outstanding practical guidance to learn point location with Johnny.
But by far the most unexpected aspect to Yellow Path has been the passion and support that the team provide and has far exceeded my expectations.
Katie Lewis, 48 (Student)
If you really want the best training from the best acupuncturists around, Yellow Path is the place to go.
Beverley Reeves (Former student)
Johnny is incredible, and has helped me so much in the 4 months that I’ve been going to see him. I went to see Johnny for help with fertility issues as we had been trying to have a baby for 18 months with no luck and also had just had a failed IVF cycle.
I went to Johnny at a really hard time and at the first session I was in a state of panic and desperation that it would never happen, however I left the clinic feeling completely different and so much more settled and as if a weight had been lifted. I have been seeing Johnny for 4 months now and it is amazing, I have become some much calmer and more relaxed about the whole IVF process and have become less anxious and panicked about becoming pregnant. We also got pregnant, but unfortunately miscarried, but this was such a massive step for me as that hadn’t happened before, and I know for sure that this is down to Johnny and the acupuncture. I completely trust him. It is clear he attended the best acupuncture courses and this shows in everything he does. I feel so much better as soon as I walk in the door of the clinic.
Rebecca Rennie (Patient)