Chinese Medicine Practitioner vs. Acupuncturist - what's the difference?

For the sake of accuracy, this post is only going to cover this topic as it stands in the state of California. The United States has several states which have different regulations for Chinese Medicine Practitioners. In California, if a person wants to study and then practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), that person enrolls at a 4-year university that specifically teaches TCM. Potential students need to have met a standard of pre-requisites before being accepted to the University.

During the continuous 4 years of education the student studies TCM theory, anatomy, physiology, physics, Qi cultivation, TCM diagnosis, Western Medical diagnosis, pharmacology, herbology…the list goes on and on. After completing all of the training and 1 year of clinical rounds and passing the universities exit exam and being awarded a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the student then sits for their state board licensing exam.

This exam covers not only acupuncture, but also herbal medicine, TCM and Western diagnosis, anatomy and physiology, and pharmacology. After passing the state board exam, we are then awarded a state of California Acupuncture license. But, we are much more than just “Acupuncturists”. 

Those of us who have completed all of these steps are Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which incorporates acupuncture as one modality of patient treatment. In spite of the fact that we are trained in many other methods, many TCM practitioners call themselves “Acupuncturists”. The reason I am writing about this is when I tell someone I am a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I get a blank stare. When I say I do acupuncture, they then understand. But, the challenge is, I do much more than just acupuncture. Being a TCM Practitioner, I diagnose within the scope of my medicine. I give dietary and lifestyle advise. I treat my patient with any combination of acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, moxabustion, and/or tui-na. I prescribe herbal medicine. I consult with their Western doctor. I order and interpret blood work.

I am much more than just an acupuncturist. Sometimes, I don’t even do acupuncture if that particular modality is not in my patients best interest.

To say to someone “I am an acupuncturist” is easy. It’s shorter than “I am a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine. I am a licensed acupuncturist and an herbalist. I also do cupping and give nutritional, fitness, and lifestyle advise to treat my patients.” Although my way of telling someone what I do is longer, it is truly accurate. I feel it also sets me off on the right foot with a potential client or referral source by elaborating and educating them right from the start that Chinese Medicine is much more than just acupuncture.

Although I am not a doctor, I still appreciate and value the root of the word, “docere”, which means “to teach”. I aim from the outset to begin educating others as to what it is I do. The expression “teach a man to fish” is very applicable to how I treat my patients, as I am not here to heal you but rather am here to guide you and teach you how to heal yourself.

Upcoming Changes

Thankfully things are still young in the life of this website, because we have decided to change our name! We loved To Be Set Free as the name of our business, however, the website was already owned which is why our url is We weren't interested in a bidding war with the owner (is it just me who finds it so SHIESTY that people buy names so you have to buy them if you want to use them? *eyeroll*) so out of the blue I toss out "Live Set Free" to Lauren and she loved it, so there it is. Also, it was available as a dot com. Yay!

Hopefully in about a month we should be set up at We really are happy with the new name. It feels stronger, more direct and empowering. Action oriented. Which is how we are, and how we want to help you create your life to be. We are very excited and inspired as we have a lot of pretty neat ideas and future dreams. 

Stay tuned!


A Change in Taste

I have been eating strict Paleo for over 3 years. When I initially went Paleo, I spontaneously lost about 25 pounds in the first 3 months. After that weight loss burst, I pretty much leveled off except for two spans of time when life was very full (read: stressful, but in the growth sort of way) and I lost around 10-12 pounds during these times. Of course, once life leveled off I gained those 10-ish pounds back because I really wasn't eating enough so it wasn't a sustainable, body-friendly weight loss experience.

My physical body is just fine. I have a ton of energy, stable and appropriate emotions, I'm generally pain free on the day-to-day and I have zero PMS. Superficially my body shape is normal, pleasing to most. I have cellulite from long-standing auto immune disorders and I jiggle where I would rather flex, but over all no one would look at me unpleasantly or kick me out of bed as they say. Regardless, I want to feel even better. I want to flex more, I want to be stronger, I want to feel free in my shape. I am on the path of liberation on all levels. That being said;

Personal Story: Allergic Reaction to Hair Product

PLEASE NOTE: This post is NOT medical advice. If you have any health condition that is concerning you, please follow your own good advice and act accordingly- be it calling 911, going to the ER, going to your doctor, calling your mom...whatever you need to do. My only intention in sharing this story is just that-to share a story. Feel free to take away anything you want (or, nothing at all).

I have a fantastic hairdresser. Her cuts are amazing and she is easy to talk to and isn't precious about her work, so you can actually tell her what you want and don't want. She's great. 

On Thursday Dec 23rd I went to get my hair retouched and trimmed. We use an organic ammonia-free paraben free hair dye, and inevitably some of the dye will make it's way onto my forehead, temples and ears. When this happens, as it did on this day, my hairdresser will use a solution to lift some of the stain off of my skin. I have never had a problem with this solution in the past, and I just learned she had used a different brand this time. Everything seemed perfectly normal when I went to bed that night.