Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine



Program Descriptions


SIOMs single purpose is to train the most effective practitioners possible through our programs.

There are two primary streams of practice within this field of medicine. One track emphasizes direct palpation and experience with qi, with the practice of forms of bodywork, acupuncture and other methods of assessing and balancing the energetic channels and points. The other track emphasizes the practice of herbal medicine, and food as medicine, focusing on a system of diagnosis leading to recommendations of medicinal therapies. In the USA this has led to the creation of two forms of licensure: that which leads to a practice primarily in acupuncture, and that which includes both acupuncture and herbal medicine in the scope of practice.

There are many good reasons for a student entering this field to select either of these pathways. Since many entering students do not know which track is most suitable for their personal style and interests, SIOM developed the first year of its training to provide a broad foundation that introduces all of the critical elements of East Asian medicine to all students in the program. From this grounding students then enter the second year in a position to make an informed choice as to which path to choose for their future medical practice. It is at this stage that students decide to either focus their studies on the field of bodywork and acupuncture therapies, or they select the track to learn acupuncture and herbal medicine, which includes more in-depth study of the language and theories relevant to the practice of herbal medicine.

The study of acupuncture leads to the masters of acupuncture degree (M.Ac.) and licensure in states that do not require herbal training. The combined study of acupuncture and herbal medicine leads to a masters of acupuncture and Oriental medicine degree (M.Ac.O.M.) and for those who would like to more deeply refine their skills in East Asian medicine in a more individualized training format, the final degree title of the Doctor of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (D.A.H.M.). Below you will find a description of each year of SIOM training and the pathways available to you to reach licensure and your work in this profession. Remember that ALL students enroll full-time in the first year of the program to get a broad base for their future practices, and the decision as to which direction to go in study in the second year is not made until near the end of the first year of instruction.

The First Year

The first year of instruction focuses on students gaining insight and knowledge from experienced faculty in clinic and academic instruction, and the introduction of students to the fundamentals of both classical and contemporary traditions of East Asian medicine. Students have the unique opportunity of preceptoring from the beginning of the school year with experienced SIOM clinical faculty who represent diverse backgrounds in diagnostic and treatment approaches to patient care. There is in-depth instruction in qi gong and physical palpation and assessment techniques, as well as methods of performing acupuncture and related modalities. Grounding in surface anatomy and western clinical science is also provided in order to more effectively inform the practice of bodywork and acupuncture in clinic. Students study the basics of Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese medical language throughout this year and observe in clinical practice how the range of modalities are used by SIOMs experienced practitioners.

The Second Year

In the second year students will select whether they will focus on acupuncture as their primary modality (leading to a M.Ac. degree), or engage as well in the study of herbal medicine and more in-depth Chinese medical language and diagnostic theories (leading to the M.Ac.O.M. and ultimately the D.A.H.M.)

The second year of instruction emphasizes clinical practice with acupuncture and related modalities, as well as a deepening of understanding of the biomedical perspective of diseases in order to more effectively communicate with patients and collaborate with other health care practitioners. Student interns practice in a team approach to acupuncture and bodywork care under the supervision of the key faculty who have been their mentors in the academic instruction of the different acupuncture traditions provided at SIOM. Student learning focuses on the technical aspect of techniques and clinical practice and demonstration of the basic skills for assessment, diagnosis, treatment and referral.

Those choosing the addition of the herbal studies will also participate in rigorous instruction in Chinese herbs, the Chinese medical classics, and Chinese medical language. They will have weekly clinical preceptorships with experienced herbalists on the SIOM faculty and assist in the herbal dispensary preparing herbal formulations and learning how to manage an herbal pharmacy


The Third Year

The third year in both programs engages the learner with the various clinical conditions and diseases commonly seen in contemporary clinics from both an eastern and western perspective. The clinical internships include offsite training assisting patients in community clinics, drug treatment centers, and other specialized patient populations. At this point interns largely practice "solo", being responsible for all aspects of patient care with oversight by SIOM's clinical supervisors. Students broaden their understanding of the American health care system, its history, and the legal and business necessities of practicing in the field today.

Students in the track towards the M.Ac.O.M. and D.A.H.M. do additional work in integrated clinics combining acupuncture and herbal medicine. They take courses in Chinese herbal medicine focusing on specific conditions treated with Chinese herbs and read classical and contemporary Chinese texts that assist in understanding these conditions and the use of herbal therapy.

At the end of three years of successful study and clinical practice the student is awarded the appropriate masters degree for their discipline.


The Fourth Year

The fourth year of SIOM training is for students who have a particular vision for how they would like to refine and deepen their clinical skills and be awarded the Doctor of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine degree. This means that each enrolled student needs to have a personal vision for the additional skills they seek in order to be a physician. Working with faculty advisors, students will form individualized programs that hone their clinical skills, their capacity to effectively critique their outcomes in patient care, their ability to communicate and teach others, their capacity for collaboration with other health care providers, and their skills in accessing appropriate resources for life-long learning in the field. Matched with mentors selected by the student and approved by the school, students will dedicate this year to attaining their chosen unique capacities to enhance patient care and their contributions to the profession and health care in general.

For more information, please see the school catalog.