Education (Part 1): Education to Graduation

Aside from “What is Chinese Medicine?” and “How does acupuncture work?,” the next most common questions are:

  • “Is this something you had to go to school for?” 
  • “Are you certified?” 
  • “How long did you have to study?” 

We LOVE these questions! Some individuals are quick to inquire, others are more shy and delicate in approaching this subject, and for many, it never crosses their minds. Please ask! We encourage you to ask, ask us, ask your Doctors, your Chiropractors, your PTs, your health coaches, and anyone else offering health advice. There is a lot of opinions/advice out there today and unfortunately in the health and wellness field, there are a lot of self-appointed experts.  We ABSOLUTELY encourage you to ask ALL your practitioners about their education and qualifications.

The Simple Answer…? 

School? YES! Absolutely, schooling was involved. Certified? Licensed Acupuncturist! Certified by the national governing body (NCCAOM) with a state-approved medical license to practice in South Carolina.  How long did we have to study? Weekend courses? Self-taught? The answer here is a bit more involved…

SO, lets share with you who we are!

The Practitioners at Five Shen Wellness

Each practitioner at Five Shen Wellness has dedicated YEARS to studying their craft and have each attained their formal education at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture (AFEA) in Gainesville, Florida.  The Academy ( is one of only a few accredited institutions in the U.S. that offers this level of training in Classical Five Element Acupuncture. 

Our practitioners have earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science and gone on to earn their post-graduate Master’s degree in Acupuncture at AFEA. 

While this dedication and education is enough training to get licensed and practice at a high level, each of our practitioners have continued to dedicate the time to expand, study, and learn. Ms. Devynne has since gone on to earn her Doctorate from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego (PCOM), receiving the title of Doctor Devynne Berry, Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine (DACM). James has recently began the this journey himself at PCOM and expects to complete his Doctorate within the year.

We could probably leave the discussion here, giving a short, abbreviated answer to the above questions; it would be enough to simply say yes, ‘we are educated,’ listing off the degrees we hold, but it does not quite honor the depth of our knowledge nor the journey we’ve been on to get here. 

We are quite proud of the work that has gone into becoming experts in our field, and we believe that the depth of the education that we have received is what separates us and our work from the ‘fads/trends’ that always seem to come and go in various forms within the the wellness field. We also believe that when it comes to the “true” healthcare, or caring for one’s health, that Chinese Medicine has a track record as a HOLISTIC MEDICINE that has stood the test of time for thousands of years.

Let’s dive a little deeper, shall we!?

The “Not so Simple” Answer…!

Formal Education

In a day and age where ‘qualifications’, and ‘certifications’ can be as simple as a taking a weekend workshop and printing a certificate off of the internet to hang on the wall, we want to honor  the diplomas we hold and the work that goes into our education by laying out exactly what it is we learn as we embark on studying Chinese Medicine. 

A lot of individuals are shocked to discover that becoming an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner is an extensive process and results in a legitimate college level degree. This alone, is why we find value in sharing this piece of writing.  

Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years of Study to Get Started)

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine programs are a post-graduate field of study which means a Bachelor’s degree is required to get accepted into an accredited program.  As mentioned earlier, all the practitioners at Five Shen Wellness have Bachelor degrees in Health Science.  

A secondary requirement to be accepted, beyond the Bachelors degree, is to have a knowledge base that includes training in the following fields of study: human anatomy and physiology (I), biology and psychology. These requirements must be met prior to beginning our Chinese medicine training.

Journey to Master’s (An Additional Four Years of Study)

Most Chinese Medicine schools in the U.S. and even in China today teach a westernized, more ‘prescriptive” version of the medicine; this is a disconnect from how the medicine has been practiced for thousands of years. Each of our practitioners at Five Shen made the decision to study the classical system of medicine. The Classical Five Element system maintains its roots and relationship to the origins/original intentions of the medicine (See “Why Five Element Acupuncture“).

As mentioned earlier, our practitioners attended one of only a few accredited institutions in the U.S. that offers this level of training in Classical Five Element Acupuncture. The training at the Academy consists of two separate programs, each with their own requirements and dedicated studies. 

Our additional four years of study included BOTH the acupuncture and herbal program earning each of our practitioners a post graduate Master’s Degree specializing in Acupuncture and a Certification in Chinese Herbal Studies.

Time at The Academy 

The acupuncture program, alone, consisted of nearly 3,000 hours in theoretical Chinese Medicine study along with supervised, hands on clinical experience.  The herbal program happens separately, but along side the acupuncture study.  This is 2 years of theoretical study as well as an additional year of supervised clinical experience. This is the roots of our herbal studies/approach in our clinic here in Greenville SC.

It should not come as a surprise that the majority of our study was in Chinese medicine and, for us, Five Element Acupuncture.  These are some the more broad umbrellas our knowledge stems from: Chinese medicine theory and core concepts, point location theory and practice, needling techniques including proper depth and safety, observational study, clinical seminar and more. 

What likely IS unexpected is the amount of Western medicine knowledge we obtain through our time in school.  This too is an incomplete list, but it should give a sense of what we study beyond Chinese medicine:

  • Anatomy & Physiology (I & II)
  • Biology
  • Chemistry 
  • Psychology
  • Pharmacology 
  • Medical Red Flags
  • Western Nutrition
  • Pathology 
  • Counseling & Psychotherapy
  • Understanding Lab Tests/Imaging 
  • Integrative and Functional Medicine
  • Western Clinical Science 
  • Medical Terminology 

So, upon our graduation at AFEA, we have undergone years of both Eastern AND Western medical training. In fact, we have enough education and training to be considered Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) in some states. 

Here in South Carolina, we are overseen by the medical board, and are simply considered Licensed Acupuncturists, it does not discount the training and understanding we have of the Eastern and Western medical systems; it is still a part of our knowledge base that we are able to draw from when working with our patients.  

In Part 2 of this topic, we will get into more detail regarding licensure, but it is important to note here that the above Western medicine ‘topics’ are not just simply classes we attend.  Part of us obtaining licensure as an acupuncturist requires the passing of multiple national board exams, including one focused solely on Western Biomedicine.  

What does all of this mean for you? 

Chinese Medicine in many ways can be considered a complete system of medicine. It has been that way for thousands of years. We are capable of caring for, correcting, and treating many conditions that can arise from imbalance in the body. A possible alternative? Yes! Possible to integrate into your current care? Yes!

At Five Shen Wellness, we have dedicated our lives to understanding the natural rhythms of the body and how a holistic, whole system, whole body approach to care can set the system right to correct and/or prevent illness. We are well versed in BOTH Eastern and Western medical philosophies and theory. We are passionate about this medicine and continue to deepen our understanding of this original medicine while sharpening and evolving our skillset. 

SO to answer the original burning question above, YES! this is something we went to school for 😉 AND you are in EXCELLENT hands at Five Shen Wellness ~ Center for Traditional Healing Arts.

Stay tuned as we continue to peel back the layers of this topic. We will also get into the rigors of proving our merit to the National Governing Body and all that is involved in obtaining licensure. We will also share our passions for what we continue to learn in order to deepen our understanding to best serve our community? (CEUs)

Do you have specific questions? Are you interested in exploring how Chinese Medicine can shift how you think about and achieve health? Reach out &/or schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation. We love to share and We LOVE to help!

Also, check us out on social media [ Facebook // Instagram ] to stay current with upcoming events &/or to follow the day to day happenings within the clinic.