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powders-traditional-chinese-medicine-school-canadaHow do you choose the right school for you?

When trying to decide between educational institutions, we emphatically advise that you visit the prospective school’s campus in order to get a feel for the environment. Your intuition will help determine if the atmosphere is positive, and inspires the right conditions for your educational growth and development. Sit in on a class to experience the level and quality of instruction. Attend the school’s teaching or professional clinic to assess what the level of training is like, and what kind of skill set it will foster in your own personal practice.

Here are some key questions to ask when comparing various institutions and programs:

What traditions of Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine are taught at the school?

Eastern Medicine encompasses a wide range of therapeutic methods and modalities. Some of these include acupuncture, moxibustion, herbology, bodywork (including Shiatsu and Tuina), Gua Sha, cupping, Eastern nutrition, and Qi Gong and other Daoist arts. There are also many variations and styles of practice of these traditions. For example, acupuncture and moxibustion have evolved in different ways depending on the geographic region in which it has been practiced. Most schools favour the acupuncture tradition that is currently practiced in post-Communist China, while others may be focused on a very particular style.

At Eight Branches, we lay a solid foundation by teaching the standardized form of acupuncture (Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM) that is accepted by the main regulatory bodies in Canada and the United States. We also uniquely offer an advanced program that introduces other treatment styles, so that our students are exposed to a variety of traditions and can incorporate other specializations into their own practices. For example, some of the styles of acupuncture offered in our curriculum include Traditional Chinese, Kiiko Matsumoto/Master Nagano Japanese, Korean, 5 Elements and Master Tung.

Our goal in teaching a variety of styles and lineages is to surpass the minimum criteria of practice set out by the North American regulatory bodies. We believe that a broader skill set allows for higher efficacy of treatment when applied in real-life circumstances. In other words – being proficient in a variety of techniques allows our graduates to treat a wider variety of ailments, with better results.

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Is the curriculum comprehensive and complete?

While a strong scholastic foundation is indispensable for your career, it is important that a curriculum offers a balance of textbook knowledge, hands-on practice, and active cultivation of the lifestyle that grounds one’s practice. Does the school walk the talk?

Eight Branches offers complete and comprehensive courses in both Professional Diploma and Continuing Education Programs. The Eight Branches program distinguishes itself by offering an in-depth training in TCM theory, diagnostics, nutrition and herbology, as well as the more practical applications including acupuncture, moxibustion, bodywork, gua sha and cupping.

Another unique aspect of the Eight Branches curriculum is the incorporation of practical Western medical components to the program.  In addition to teaching standard medical theory, terminology and techniques, we place a strong emphasis on learning relevant materials and applying it to clinical practice.  Our students learn how to take a complete physical, including the appropriate language to communicate with both Western medical physicians and patients who have had limited exposure to Asian medicine.   In an integrative society, we recognize the need for our students to feel comfortable understanding complex medical conditions from both an Eastern and Western perspective. Our faculty includes Western trained physicians in both teaching and advisory roles.

In addition to the strong academic foundation we offer, it is our mandate to complement the academic, practical, and business-development courses by incorporating meditation, Qi Gong, and other Daoist arts into the curriculum. We firmly believe that this element of our program expands the personal growth of our students and equips them with the ability to cope with the physical and psychological demands of their chosen career. The guiding principle of this philosophy is “first you must learn to treat yourself, then to treat your family and then to treat your community”.

How does the school prepare you for successful entry into the professional field?

The primary goal of any school should be to prepare their graduates for successful completion of board regulatory examinations and the development of their professional practice.

At Eight Branches we offer our students a comprehensive education including TCM foundations, theory, diagnosis and therapeutics.  In addition, we prepare our student for board regulatory examinations by offering preparatory courses, workshops and examinations. To date Eight Branches graduates have a 90% success rate (compared with a 68% national average) on board exams and 100% success rate on registration with Regulatory colleges in Canada.

Further, Eight Branches puts a great emphasis on preparing our graduates for professional practice. We do this by training our students in Practice Management and Business Development and by offering all of our graduates mentorship opportunities to facilitate a smooth transition into the workforce.

Who is the faculty?

In this rapidly growing industry of complementary health there are many inspiring mentors and leaders. Take a look at who forms the backbone of the academic institution. Do they lead by example?

Eight Branches’ greatest asset is our faculty, which is comprised of practicing health professionals who share the benefits of their expertise with our students. Our teachers enrich the curriculum with their personal and real-life experiences, and are able to model first-hand the skills required to establish a thriving and rewarding practice.

We select our teachers based on reputation, experience and specialization in their fields. Many have achieved renown by authoring articles in magazines, collaborating in books, or having developed high profile, successful careers in the health care industry.

Be sure to check that the faculty listed on the school’s website is accurate and up-to-date.  Many schools do not update the faculty on their website or promotional materials.  Eight Branches strives to keep this information current so that students can make an informed decision.

Do the facilities foster a positive learning environment?

What kind of learner are you? How does class size affect the way you process information? Do you respond best in a lecture-style environment or through hands-on learning? Can you study anywhere, or do you require a serene and calm setting in order to focus? Does the aesthetic of a classroom affect your attitude towards study? This is why we recommend visiting schools in person, so you can visualize yourself in the physical space. Often these features of a campus can affect one’s openness to learning – how would you respond to studying in a sterile, office-like environment as compared to a warm, community-focused space?

When it comes to clinical practice, the facilities must be outfitted properly to host the modalities being taught. Ask for a tour of the school and make sure that the teaching clinic is well equipped and a functional learning environment. This will give you some insight as to the extent to which they encourage interactive learning.

Eight Branches has recently expanded and renovated our campus, and now offers students a range of classroom environments to suit different types of study. The academic classrooms are suited for small class sizes and have an abundance of natural light and inspirational artwork. Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and other Daoist arts are offered in the original building next-door (home of Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre) in an expansive, serene Dojo setting. We have recently renovated our teaching clinic, which now offers 6 fully equipped clinic spaces for students to practice, and is open to the public (contact us to book affordable traditional Chinese medicine treatments). We also house an extensive library and apothecary in which our students can find a comfortable chair for quiet moments.

The vision for our facilities reflects our mandate to offer a balance between lecture-based, and hands-on practical teaching. We aim to keep students stimulated and enthusiastic through interactive learning. While there is a lot of memorization required in our courses, we strongly believe in the importance of experiencing the medicine. This is the reason why we installed a student kitchen next to our apothecary – to encourage the preparation and tasting of food for our nutrition classes and herbs in our herbology classes.

Where is the school located?

Is the school conveniently located? Will you be able to reach the campus safely and with ease? What is the surrounding neighbourhood like?

Eight Branches is located at Davenport and Ossington. We are a short bus ride from both Dupont and Ossington subway stations. There is ample free parking in the area. Our location is in the Hillcrest neighbourhood, which is one of Toronto’s most vibrant, family-friendly neighbourhoods; rich in character and with a long history of embracing healthy and community-focused lifestyles.

Why Choose Eight Branches?

Choosing the right school is one of the most critical decisions a student can make on the path to becoming a skilled practitioner. Eight Branches offers its students a comprehensive education in Eastern Medicine with an emphasis on practical hands-on learning.  Our three foundational philosophies are:

1. Teaching all eight branches of eastern medicine including acupuncture, moxibustion, herbology, Asian bodywork (including tuina and zen shiatsu), nutrition, taoist arts (including tao yin, tai chi and qi gong), gua sha and cupping. While most schools focus on acupuncture and herbology we take a more holistic approach to the medicine incorporating all of the branches in the classroom and in the clinic. We also include different styles of acupuncture in the curriculum beyond TCM including Japanese-style acupuncture & moxibustion and Five-Element acupuncture.

2. A strong emphasis on personal development and self-care. This is one of the reasons that our curriculum includes so much tao yin, qi gong and tai chi as well as the nutrition component. We feel it is very important to build our own health in support of our patient’s and the growth of a healthy practice.

3. A balance between lecture based teaching and hands-on practical teaching. We aim to keep students stimulated and enthusiastic through interactive learning. While there is a lot of memorization required to learn eastern medicine it is also important to experience the medicine. This is why we prepare and taste herbs in our herbology classes; so that we can learn through experience, just as Sun Si Miao and Zhang Zhongjing did.

Does Eight Branches offer what you are looking for?

If you have any questions, please feel free to call 416.925.5722 or email us. We look forward to meeting you and touring our facilities!