What do those letters at the end of your name mean?
Have you ever looked at someone’s name maybe on their business card or office door, saw a bunch of letters at the end and thought, what the heck does that even mean?! These are called post-nominal letters and it usually indicates a degree obtained, accreditation, or some kind of office held. It must be important if they’re putting it there, right? Mostly yes – often practitioners want to be differentiated and these letters are earned. I want to explain to you the abbreviations used by acupuncturists and herbalists, what they mean and how we get our training. Hopefully this will give you some clarity and empower you to have more understanding of your practitioner’s background! You should always feel free to have the right to this information.
The most common abbreviations indicating licensure!
The most common abbreviation I see for acupuncturist’s is “L.Ac.” It simply means, “licensed acupuncturist”, which means that they went to an accredited school, took national board exams (which are Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture & Biomedicine), passed those and got a license through their state and country! Another in rising popularity is “E.A.M.P.” which means East Asian Medical Practitioner. “M.Ac.” and “M.Ac.OM” are also common, and those mean the degrees that the person graduated with (this one is important!). Our degree choices in school are either a Masters of Acupuncture or a Masters of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. The “OM” part indicates the person has also studied herbal medicine, so seeing this at the end of someone’s name is an important indicator of their training!
At the school I studied at, they required the M.Ac. students to have 1725 hours of instruction and 1020 hours of clinical work (I thought it was 900 when I was in school, but I could be wrong!). The M.Ac.OM students had 1950 hours of instruction and 1200 hours of clinical work – this is about a 200 hour difference in treating patients in clinic. The students who study herbs, generally have more clinical experience after school, because learning herbs also teaches you another way to view the body and get a different way of diagnosing. Regardless of the difference in this experience, I think both M.Ac.’s and M.Ac.OM’s can offer very effective treatment! At my school in particular, we began clinical work the first semester, so by the time we graduated, we had already had our hands on people for 3 years!
D.A.H.M. is the newest one, and it is moving the West towards a very exciting change. It’s a Doctorate of Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine (sometimes DAOM). Most chiropractors, you will see a D.C. at the end of their name meaning “Doctor of Chiropractic” and they go through the same amount of years of training that we do, so why haven’t we achieved this yet? In Asia, it is more common that acupuncturists are actually medical doctors, and the trend will go that way in the states soon I believe. The DAOM/DAHM degrees are usually another year after your M.Ac.OM degree, and focus on clinical work and research.
What about herbalists? Is there a certification process for them too?
Herbal medicine not having a certification is also a misnomer. For Chinese medicine, a M.Ac.OM graduate can take a national Herbal Medicine board exam and become certified as a Chinese herbalist. They don’t need to this to practice acupuncture, but they do need this to practice herbal medicine!
With Western herbalism, although it’s not as common to see, the American Herbalist’s Guild is a national organization that registers herbalists as “Registered Herbalists” or an “RH”. In order to do this, they recommend you have at least 2 years of training, 2 years of clinical study totally around 400 hours, recommendations from mentors or teachers, and then a board decides your acceptance based on your botanical knowledge, therapeutics knowledge, practice management skills, sciences and a demonstrated commitment to continuing education. Wow!! I am not saying that you must have this to be an “herbalist” but it is helpful information to know that if you are seeing someone that is going to be prescribing you herbal formulas, that they have had some kind of training, and you know if they have registered with the AHG, that they have confirmed having a large number of clinical hours backed by a clinical herbalist. Many other herbalists however, have learned from apprenticing, or oral tradition. This type of folk herbalism is wonderful and completely legit too, so if someone says they are an herbalist and not registered with the AHG, I also think it’s great, but now you know the difference.
I hope this information was helpful! Empowering yourself to understand what your providers do and where they learn it can be pretty amazing information! Hey, the more you know, right?