How to Improve Perceptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Article updated June 2019
Every practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine confronts one common challenge. We’re not talking about the difficulties of running an acupuncture practice, expanding your patient roster, or improving the quality of your treatment — although each of those might be inescapable, too.
What are we talking about? Defending Traditional Chinese Medicine itself.
You might know what we mean. When dealing with the general public, the average practitioner has to confront a bunch of stale clichés, unhelpful myths, and close-minded skepticisms surrounding the effectiveness of eastern medicines.
“It’s not scientific.”
“It’s just a placebo effect.”
“It’s hippie nonsense.”
Need we continue?
Sure, it’s frustrating. Any form of health treatment that goes against official wisdom faces an uphill struggle. TCM practitioners have to operate alongside the formidable resources and power of the pharmaceutical industry, the respectability of the Western medical establishment, and the general fear of the unknown.
Most of the time there’s no point in being too defensive, and it’s not always necessary to take the mockery seriously. A little patience and good humor go a long way, and it’s usually best to shrug off the doubters. It’s more rewarding to find satisfaction in the enthusiasm of new patients who open-mindedly seek out TCM treatments and discover the tremendous health and psychological benefits.
Nevertheless, public opinions are not fixed. Attitudes can change. This is why it is crucial that the large community of TCM practitioners help steer the public conversation in the right direction. If the public is better informed, people will be more likely to seek treatment from professional acupuncture practitioners in the future.
So how do we fight the clichés, myths, and skeptics? Here are two key things you can do.
Share Your Experiences
If you’ve been an acupuncture practitioner for a while, you probably have many useful experiences to share about the TCM effectiveness. The key is to escape the echo chamber of the already converted and get your message to the general public.
Easier said than done, right? It may mean taking the time to write op-eds and articles for non-specialist publications, seek out speaking opportunities, and think up other creative ways to be heard. One way or another, sharing your positive experiences is essential to encouraging a constructive public conversation.
The modern professionalization of ancient medical practices plays a big part in the fight for respectability. It’s easy for a prospective patient to dismiss an acupuncture practitioner whose presentation and conduct don’t meet the standards of western medical clinics.
Meeting legal responsibilities, embracing the benefits of electronic health records, and getting up to date with acupuncture practice management software are sending the right message to your patients: that TCM is a serious and professional practice.
There are many other ways to encourage a dynamic discussion of TCM that cuts beyond the clichés and communicates with prospective patients whose skepticism needs to be overcome. With commitment from practitioners, the public perception of alternative treatments can only improve in the long run.
Guest blog post by Matt Leask