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Holistic Health Practitioner | Alternative Healthcare Careers

by Marc Luber

Holistic health and alternative healthcare are rapidly growing areas for healthcare careers.

TODAY’S GUEST

Sarah Vosen: Holistic Health Practitioner at Tao Healing Arts Center
Grad School: Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College – Master’s of Science in Asian Medicine in Berkeley, CA
Grad School: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine – Massage Therapy Training in San Diego, CA
Continuing Education:Shiatsu Massage School of California in Santa Monica, CA
College Major: Chemical Engineering & Pre-Med Biology
College: University of Wisconsin-River Falls in River Falls, WI and University of Colorado-Denver in Denver, CO
High School: Centennial High in Circle Pines, MN
First Job Ever: Food Avenue at Target
Worst Job Ever: Temp job setting up a Dollar Store in a strip mall

SNEAK PEEK   (Full Video + Transcript down below)

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Alternative healthcare has become a billion dollar industry in America as people pursue alternatives to Western medicine. Being a holistic health practitioner can mean many things. You can be a massage therapist, licensed acupuncturist, chiropractor, yoga instructor or even a combination of several of those. Acupuncture, massage therapy, Chinese medicine, herbology, yoga, chiropractic care and supplements are all part of this rapidly growing area of known as alternative medicine.


Become An Acupuncturist

One of the great aspects about alternative healthcare careers is that they give you lots of flexibility and the opportunity to be entrepreneurial like Sarah, today’s guest. Sarah is a holistic health practitioner with a Master’s degree in Asian Medicine, which is basically a Master’s in acupuncture , herbology and massage therapy. Although every state in America has its own requirements for acupuncture certification, most states require the Master’s degree and over 40 states require certification from the National Certification Commission For Acupuncture And Oriental Medicine. Click here to see what your state requires for certification to become a licensed acupuncturist. Also check out our Medical Career Resources for some great book suggestions.

FULL EPISODE: HOLISTIC HEALTH CAREERS

[Disclaimer: Although we are discussing medical and healthcare careers here at Careers Out There, we are not offering or giving you personal healthcare advice. For your personal healthcare decisions, consult your own healthcare professional and/or family.]

For our Audio Podcast: Careers Out There on iTunes

TRANSCRIPT OF TODAY’S INTERVIEW

Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Hi Sara, how’s it going?

Holistic Health Practitioner Sarah Vosen: Going great.

Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Good, thank you very much for joining us here at Careers Out There.

Holistic Health Practitioner Sarah Vosen: It’s my pleasure to be here, thank you.

Luber: I’m really glad you’re here today Sarah, because you’re working in an exciting place – you’re working in the growing area of alternative medicine. You’re a holistic health practitioner, and this kind of medicine is growing around the world. Billions of dollars in America alone are being spent on things like chiropractic care, supplements, yoga, massage, herbology, Chinese medicine, acupuncture. All these areas are growing rapidly in America as people decide to pursue alternatives to Western medicine. Is it exciting to be in this area right now?

Guest: It certainly is.

Luber: Can you explain for us the main difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine?

Guest : I would say the main difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is that Chinese medicine really steps back and looks at the whole picture, and looks at the whole body holistically. So we’re very much interested in how all of the systems in the body are working together and if one is out of synch with the others, we understand why and how to put everything back together and get them working synergistically. Whereas Western medicine often they look deeper and deeper and look at smaller and smaller pieces and often forget to step back and take a look at the whole body.

Luber: So is this like the theory of the stress that I’m creating in my life from work is what’s making my body hurt? That kind of thing?

Guest: Definitely. We’re looking at how all environmental factors, or external factors outside of your body, are affecting your internal health.

Luber: So how does that happen? Tell us what you actually do as a practitioner of holistic medicine?

Guest: So in the course of a treatment, when somebody comes to me with some specific symptoms they’re experiencing that they don’t want to experience anymore, I acquire information not only about those symptoms, but also about all of their systems in their body. So if somebody’s coming to me because they’re having trouble sleeping, I don’t just talk to them about their sleep. I also talk to them about their energy, their digestion, their other systems like urinary, bowel, everything. So I want to look at how your whole body’s working and how those other systems are affecting your sleep. And then once I decide what the diagnosis is for you, then we choose what tools, what methods of treatment are best for your condition. So perhaps acupuncture would be better, sometimes herbs and supplements are better, sometimes we focus on nutrition, sometimes it’s more about changing your lifestyle. And more often than not, it’s really all of those things that end up to be useful. But certain conditions are more suited for different tools. So, I give you a treatment and send you on your way, send you home with some homework, or some herbs, or some different things to work with in your lifestyle that complement the treatment. And then from there, usually you have a course of treatments, say 6 or 10 treatments and then a reevaluation, a re-diagnosis and then decide from there where we go. More often than not, people are coming with symptoms that they’ve had for quite a while or have been in development over a course of time. And in those cases, it takes longer to treat and help get your body back into balance. So, depending on what we’re treating, different lengths of treatment are necessary. So it’s definitely a process. If you’re really truly healing something, it takes quite a while. Sometimes it’s just one treatment, sometimes it’s over a lifetime that you work with somebody in their healing process and eventually, hopefully preventatively. One of the other ways that Chinese medicine is different from Western medicine is that we come from a preventative medicine perspective. We really truly believe that it’s best to stay healthy, rather than waiting until you’re so out of alignment that you’re sick and need to get healthy again.

Luber: And in the course of a treatment, let’s say I come in for a treatment and you determine that this is wrong or that’s wrong, is it then a matter of acupuncture being done at the session and herbs or something like medicine that I would be given at the appointment and I would take them home and take them twice a day just like any Advil or other medication?

Guest: Yeah, usually either acupuncture or massage or a specific modality that I could help you with would happen in the office, and then herbs or supplements are taken regularly outside, at home, in the rest of your life between treatments, so they’re supplementary and complementary to the treatments that we do in the office.

Luber: Explain what acupuncture is. A lot of people outside of California may not be that familiar with it and don’t know much about it, so if you could explain a little bit about acupuncture.

Guest: Acupuncture is the stimulation of acupuncture points using hair-fine, sterile needles. So, the reason why we do that is each of our systems: digestive, circulatory, urinary, detox, all of the systems, they have specific organs that are the main organs of that system and Chinese medicine has mapped a system of meridians on the body that are extensions of those organs. So there’s meridians running up and down your whole body, arms, legs to your fingers and toes. And there’s points along those meridians that over time were found to have certain affects on the body, so we use needles to stimulate those points that send message to the body. The point of those messages, the point of the diagnosis is to decide what needs to happen to bring the body into balance because if you have balance, you have optimal health and well-being. So we use those points that have those certain effects in order to tell the body what to do to go back into balance.

Luber: And the herbs are what? Naturally grown things that you prescribe? Explain the herbs.

Guest: So, herbal medicine means using plants, animals, minerals, sometimes various substances found in nature, grown in nature, that also produce a specific effect. Most pharmaceutical drugs are founded in herbal medicine. The difference is that they take the active ingredient from a single herb and they reproduce that chemical compound in a lab, so they’re giving you just the active ingredient of a plant to produce a certain affect. And herbs are more beneficial, and have less side effects on the body because they work with each other in order to prevent side effects from happening while still giving you the benefits of that actual ingredient. Does that make sense?

Luber: Yeah. In my research yesterday, my reading about herbs was talking about that. The combination of the herbs, as opposed to one herb at a time, is really what makes the magic happen?

Guest: Yeah, it’s really important to have that combination. I was just actually explaining this to my Chinese medicine class this morning. You may have heard that eating a whole orange is much healthier for you and more bio-available for the body, which means that your body can use the nutrients better from an orange rather than taking a Vitamin C supplement. And that’s the same reason why herbs work better than taking the pharmaceutical drug, and also with less side effects. Because when you have just the active ingredient, it’s forcing an action on the body and the repercussions of that action are kind of just there. There’s nothing to correct that. But when you have an herbal formula, you have herbs put together specifically for a reason that would counteract any negative effects of the single herb or the active ingredient. So the herbal formula itself is balanced and that helps bring the body into balance without so many side effects.

Luber: So now, with these herbs, just so people who are watching know that you’re not just making some crazy concoction of herbs and just throwing them at people, this is based on Chinese medicine which has been around for thousands of years, right?

Guest: Absolutely. So starting a few thousand years ago, people were studying the effects of these herbs. And although they didn’t have labs that were able to print out chemical compounds of what they were made of, they would take the herbs and really meditate and feel what was happening in their body. So they would understand if they took an herb, it cooled their body temperature. Or if they took an herb, they felt the effects in their head versus than their feet. So it was really about paying attention to what those herbs did, as human research subjects, on themselves, and then understood the combinations after they understood the single herbs. So the formulas themselves have evolved greatly over thousands of years.

Luber: So walk us through a typical day. You’ve explained what happens in a session. What’s a typical day in the life of a holistic health practitioner?

Guest: OK, let’s see, in a typical day for me, I have clinic hours from 9am to 3pm. So I get myself ready and I go to my clinic and I set up my room, which means I’ve got a massage table set up. I use sheets to cover them up, I set up my needles, I’ve got alcohol to sterilize, I’ve got different massage oils, I’ve got a biohazard container to make sure I put the needles away with proper disposal. So once I’m set up, I see patients usually in one hour or 90 minute timeslots, are most common I would say for acupuncture and/or massage. And in that time, we already discussed a typical treatment. So I’ll see 5 or 6 people in a day, most often. As a part of my day, I often do some kind of physical practice that allows me to feel good so that my chi, and my body, is functioning in a balanced way so that while I’m facilitating a treatment, I don’t get in the way of their healing or, you know, my energy supports that, rather than my stress entering the room and affecting them.

Luber: And what’s the most fun or rewarding part of what you do?

Guest: I think the most fun and rewarding part of what I do is really seeing the affect that my work has on people. I mean, for the most part, I’m helping people get out of pain or reduce or relieve symptoms that are really getting in the way of their life. So when they leave from seeing me, they more often than not have a smile on their face and their just more relaxed in general and that warms my heart.

Luber: What is the main reason that they’re coming? Is it a specific type of pain?

Guest: People come for a variety of reasons, actually. More often than not, they’re coming because of something that they don’t like that’s happening to them, whether it’s a pain in their body or something disrupting their life like they’re not sleeping well, or they have digestive problems or they’re trying to get pregnant and they have fertility issues. There’s a variety of things that I can help them with. Pretty much, the scope of Chinese medicine is very wide and very broad. And since we’re working to get the body back in balance so that it’s functioning as optimal as it knows how to, I can treat anything. I can really treat anything that walks in the door. If somebody’s experiencing something that’s not right, and it’s because something’s not quite right in their body, I can help them.

Luber: And do you often get repeat visitors who come for other symptoms so if someone’s been treated for one symptom and then maybe a year later they have another issue going on, they come back for a different kind of treatment?

Guest: Yeah, that does happen. And I think it’s important for practitioners let their patients know that that’s a possibility. Because a lot of people have heard that acupuncture is good for pain but they don’t realize that it’s also good if you’re coming down with a cold, or like I said, if you have fertility issues, or if you have digestive problems. People hear about it because their friend got acupuncture for once certain reason so they think it might only be good for one thing. So it’s really important to educate your patients that acupuncture can treat anything. And, most importantly, prevent you from getting sick in the first place or from not feeling well or having whatever you’re dealing with, a negative symptom that gets in the way of your life.

Luber: Is that by boosting your immune system?

Guest: From a Western standpoint, you could probably say it’s boosting your immune system, because that’s how we’ve been taught – that your immune system keeps you healthy. But from a Chinese medicine perspective, we don’t give one system all the glory. It’s really the functioning of all of the systems together that keeps you healthy. It’s a system of checks and balances, really. If everything’s working together and working properly, they keep each other in line.

Luber: Very interesting. What about the lifestyle? What’s the lifestyle like in this career path? Is it long days, high stress? You were talking about how you have to keep your stress free so that you’re not bringing that in to a session with a patient or a client. What’s the lifestyle like? Is there a life and work balance? Talk about that.

Guest: I would say that there’s a great opportunity for having a life work balance in this field. A lot of people who want to be practitioners or healers or really help people tend to be the kind of people that give give give give give, and aren’t always good receivers. So that sometimes can skew your work-life balance. A lot of people only want to give and they have a hard time receiving, so they don’t give themselves time to relax or time to heal or deal with their own stresses. But, since you’re in the field of helping and healing, it’s a great model for as much work-life balance as you give yourself. The demand, I think, comes from yourself. Most people in this field are self-employed, so the stress isn’t coming from above. It isn’t coming from bosses and bosses and bosses. It’s not usually that sort of scenario. You’re self-employed, so you inflict your own stress and you put pressure on yourself.

Luber: Makes perfect sense. What about the workplace environment? Is it the kind of thing where it’s very casual, you wear what you want, or are you dressed like a Western medical doctor where you’re wearing a lab coat and a suit?

Guest: Well in school we had to wear dress clothes and a lab coat as a part of the intern clinic. Now, I’m choosing to work in an environment where I can dress comfortably and casually, I don’t choose to wear a lab coat, I get to pick the music that’s happening in the room, and I set up my own environment. That goes along with being self-employed as well. I believe that you can choose any kind of environment you want. There are acupuncturists who work in Western medical offices and in those environments, they may not be required to wear a lab coat or they may choose to if they want to be….you know, there’s a certain kind of stigma with a white coat. Some people want that included with their stigma and some people don’t. So it’s really, again, a choice because you are self-employed in most instances. So you can be as professional as you want to be and attract whatever kind of patients you want to have based on that appearance.

Luber: So when you’re talking about being self-employed, is that even when you’re at a clinic like the Taos Healing Arts Center in Santa Monica where you are, are you working for yourself at their place? Or are you an employee of theirs? How does that work?

Guest: I am renting space from them. So I work in the same environment with other therapists, but I’m self-employed. So, I’m renting space from them. I work amongst them but not for them.

Luber: But I’m assuming at a place like that, and I’m sure there’s many around the country scattered around, a place like that, I’m assuming, has certain requirements before they would let anyone open shop within their….

Guest: Definitely. I work in the city of Santa Monica, and Santa Monica itself requires a business license. You can only get that business license once you are licensed by the state of California to be a licensed acupuncturist. So there’s a specific test I have to go through and on top of that you have the fees and other requirements that the city itself mandates that you take care of.

Luber: And is the herbologist part of it all? Is that included in the acupuncturist license or is that a separate?

Guest: It’s included. It’s included in the scope of practice of a licensed acupuncturist in California. So California has its own state licensing program and requirements. The rest of the United States is licensed under a national licensure. So California is the only state that requires its own specific requirements. Different standard than the rest of the United States.

Luber: OK. I read in my research yesterday that 1979 is the year that that first started in California, so that’s when it first was getting going over here. So, a little trivia.

Guest: I was born in 1979. That must be….

Luber: There you go. It was meant to be for you.

Guest: Yes.

Luber: What about money? Let’s talk about money for a minute, because of course everybody who’s watching and considering doing this for a living, wants to make sure they can pay the bills and put food on the table. How do you get paid in this field? Is it an hourly rate? Is it based on you charge the client per hour session or 90 minute session, is it based on the herbs that you’re giving? How does that work?

Guest: Usually the treatment itself is a specific price, so per hour or per treatment, the patient pays a certain rate. Most often, I would say, that the herbs are a separate price because each person has a different tailored herbal formula and different herbs cost different amounts of money. It also depends on how many treatments you need and how long you need to take the herbs. So the cost for the patient depends on that, depends on what you’re healing. But also then for the practitioner. Your salary really depends on how many patients you’re seeing per day, per week, per month, per year. Usually you’re choosing your own price for treatment. There are some regulations in California law that state, you know, there’s some regulations on pricing. You have to be within a certain range of price based on your local area. So, depending on what city you’re in and what state, determines how much you charge. So they’re not telling you how much to charge, they just don’t want you to be too ridiculously expensive or cheap in any one area. They want you to stay in a certain range and there’s also some other requirements based on like, you can’t have special prices for different groups of people. Basically you can’t discriminate within groups as far as how much you’re going to charge people.

Luber: In general, would you say that someone practicing holistic health is going to make less money than someone who is a Western medical doctor?

Guest: I think it depends on where you’re working. Doctors have a stigma of making a lot of money and I’m not really sure of what the realities are on that. I think it depends on whether you’re working in an environment that accepts insurance, if you’re getting paid via insurance companies, or if you’re taking cash or check only from patients. I think that an acupuncturist or an alternative medicine practitioner can make as much money as doctors. It’s really up to them to choose how much money they want to make.

Luber: And are there any ranges you can give based on people you know in the field who are either just doing OK or some maybe are just really kicking butt at what they’re doing? Is there any kind of range so that people could have a good painted picture in their mind of what’s out there?

Guest: Well I would definitely say that you choose the amount of money that you want to make because you set your own schedule. So you could choose to make a couple hundred dollars a week or you could choose to make much more, and that depends on the environment. I have a friend who works in a fertility clinic and she mentioned to me that she makes upwards of $10,000 a month working in fertility clinics.

Luber: Doing acupuncture?

Guest: Doing acupuncture with fertility patients to help complement those Western treatments. So in her case, fertility treatments are often pretty pricey, and I think she can charge more as an acupuncturist in those environments because, like I said, you want your range of treatment costs to be similar to what’s around you. So it depends on your environment and where you live. In California, in Santa Monica where I live, I can charge more for a treatment than I would if I were giving treatments in Minnesota where I’m from. Or somewhere else in the Midwest. So I’d say it’s proportional to your environment. I think it really is. But it is up to you. I’d say it’s also proportional to how hard you work or how many patients you see is going to increase your income. There’s not a lot of passive income in working in this field. Sometimes if you really get people really committed to following an herbal program, you don’t have to spend as much time with them because you’re not giving them treatments. You might just see them for a consultation to check in with them and see how they’re doing on their diagnosis and then re-prescribing them herbs. That takes less time than giving them an acupuncture treatment, but they still have to pay for the herbs. So you could make more money, I think, by also focusing on herbology as well as acupuncture or massage.

Luber: So tell me this, when you’re doing the herbology, are you also the pharmacy? Are you also selling? You’re prescribing the herbs and selling the herbs. That’s my understanding so far.

Guest: Yes, if you choose to do that.

Luber: OK.

Guest: In China, traditionally, you’re either an acupuncturist or you’re an herbologist or you’re a massage therapist, you very much specialize in one aspect of the field. In California especially, but in the United States, in the schools that we’re in now, we’re trained in all of the tools. So it’s up to us to choose what we want to focus on. Some people only focus on acupuncture and some people do anything.

Luber: I guess what I’m trying to figure out is is there a conflict of interest when it comes to prescsribing herbs, because if you’re also making money off the herbs, what’s to stop someone in your field from saying you need these 2,000 herbs because there’s a lot of money then for the practitioner.

Guest: I hear what you’re saying. I hadn’t thought about that. I guess it could be a moral issue that is brought up in that kind of scenario, but I think that most people who are out to really help people, their goal is to be of service to their patient. So that’s a non-issue really. You wouldn’t prescribe them every herb in the book because that’s not going to be beneficial to them.

Luber: So it’s kind of on the honor system.

Guest: It is on the honor system. I guess there are shady people out there who will charge you for the biggest, most expensive thing just because of the money that they could make, but I don’t think they would have return clients because people know when they’re getting ripped off and people know when they don’t feel better. If they’re taking every herb under the rainbow as well as getting some elaborate treatment that’s not really helping them, they’re not going to go back to that practitioner.

Luber: What about education? What’s necessary? Tell us about the path that someone needs to go down school-wise in order to do what you’re doing in America?

Guest: In America, I’d say that after high school, going into a pre-med undergraduate program is probably the most common. Most acupuncture schools, they may or may not require an actual 4-year degree. More importantly, they look at what content your undergraduate studies include. You need to have anatomy, physiology, biology, psychology, sociology, some math, other sciences. It’s a well-rounded but science-based pre-requisite program. From there, the acupuncture school is really a Masters in Chinese Medicine. That program is 4 years long. It’s a pretty intensive program. It’s usually 11 or 12 full 16 week semesters fit into 4 years. So you have 3 full semesters in a year with three three-week breaks in between those semesters. So it’s definitely a very intensive program. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. You have a lot of classes, you’re often in class 20-25 hours a week, and that’s before studying. So it’s a pretty intensive program but it’s amazing. It’s highly rewarding. Throughout that schooling process you learn a lot about yourself. It’s a really transformative process personally. You really do have to work on yourself and learn about yourself in order to understand how to help other people.

Luber: In talking about the education, do people need to go to a special kind of school and are there several around America?

Guest: Yes. The Masters Degree in Chinese Medicine is a specialized degree and most schools that offer it only offer this program. They may offer maybe some massage or some complementary therapies along with the masters in Chinese Medicine but it is a specialized program. There are definitely schools all across the United States. I’d say there’s probably more in California than anywhere else, and more along the coasts than in the middle, but I know there’s schools in most major cities.

Luber: What about licenses and tests that are required for once you have your degree? What do you need to do then?

Guest: After I got my degree, I took the California licensure exam. There’s a fee for taking that exam. That test specifically, when I passed it, allows me to practice in California only. There’s also a national licensing exam, and that exam allows you to practice anywhere in the United States. There’s also a fee for that. For California, there’s just one exam and for the nationals, there’s actually a series of exams for each category. There’s Western medicine, there’s acupuncture, there’s theory, herbs, so there’s different parts to the national exam. The California exam is just one big test. The difference is California offers the test only once or twice a year. The national exam you can sign up on line and take it at specific testing centers any time after you’ve gotten your degree or towards the end of your degree. So they are different and depending on what state you want to practice in, it will change how you need to study and what you need to study and how you’re going to take your exam and how much it’s going to cost.

Luber: What about the best personality type for this? What is the right person to jump into this field?

Guest: Can I say one more thing about the test?

Luber: Sure.

Guest: I was going to say an important thing to know about acupuncture school is that you can get student loans. There are some massage schools and other kinds of alternative therapies that are not covered by federal student loans, but the masters program is covered by federal student loans. At least it was when I was going through it. I know that we’ve gone through a lot of turmoil in our financial system and economy, but I’m pretty sure that students are still qualified to receive student loans. It was very important in my case, and I appreciated that, so I’m sure many people will too.

Luber: That’s good advice. Good to know.

Guest: When I started, most schools were quoting somewhere around $40,000-$50,000 for the whole program, and I would imagine it’s gone up. It’s been 6 years since I started.

Luber: That’s a lot. Good to know. And what about that question, personality type. What would you say is the right person to jump into this field?

Guest: I would say this field is a good fit for you if you are somebody who likes to work with people. You definitely need to have the ability to communicate with people and be willing to communicate with people in addition to having compassion for them. It’s also important to be somebody who is interested in problem solving, because it’s sort of like putting together a puzzle when you’re working with somebody. There’s so many different pieces and different aspects of their life that you’re looking at and you’re working with all parts of that to help them along with their journey. Along with that kind of scientific approach, it’s also a very beautiful art at the same time, so having an appreciation for the kind of softer, more beautiful things in life is also important. That might sound flowery, but I really think that there’s a balance between the two sides. It very much can satisfy your left brain and satisfy your right brain and it very much takes the type of person that can do both, I think to make a great practitioner.

Luber: Excellent. Now some people might be looking at you and thinking, I don’t get it – she doesn’t look Chinese to me. What’s this white girl from Minnesota doing practicing Chinese medicine? What drove you to this instead of Western medicine?
Guest: That’s funny. I would have thought the same thing about myself, probably, when I was growing up in Minnesota. I didn’t know that there were any other styles of medicine outside of Western medicine when I was growing up in Minnesota. I had some health experiences that, I guess, through those experiences, I came up with the decision that I definitely didn’t want to do Western medicine even though I very much enjoyed science. Just because I didn’t enjoy the process. I didn’t feel like doctors ever really helped me. And then while I was going to school at the University of Wisconsin, I was introduced to a line of Chinese herbal whole food products – so different supplements that you eat and drink and you know, I was kind of like alright I’ll try them. I’ll eat this and drink this and substitute it for some of my food and I started to feel a whole lot better. I was only 19 and didn’t know that I felt bad until I felt really really good. That sparked my interest and made me think hold on a second, did you say Chinese medicine? What is Chinese medicine? So that sparked my curiosity and I started doing some online research and read about what Chinese medicine was and a variety of other complementary and alternative medicine practices and when I read about acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a whole, for some reason it just sounded like home and that’s what I really wanted to do with myself.

Luber: And clearly, since you had to go through pre-med classes at a university here, you’re a bright person. You’re not some crazy hippie. So there’s probably a lot of people watching thinking this is some path for a bunch of crazy hippies.

Guest: Yeah, I definitely think it takes a person who has a lot of ambition and desire to do what this field does. I did 4 years of undergrad, I did 4 years of a masters degree, I took several exams. I had to put in a lot of effort in order to get where I am today. It was not like I snapped my fingers or somebody suddenly told me you can go heal people today – go for it. I’m definitely an educated person. I continue to study and I continue to educate myself so I can help find answers and understand how I can help people more.

Luber: And since we’re on the topic of hippies, just for the record, since we were talking about this earlier, because I had mentioned that the camera angle is making your eyes look a certain way, and you said that people ask if you’re stoned. For the record, you are not stoned, in case anyone is thinking…..

Guest: I am not stoned!

Luber: We are a drug free program here at Careers Out There. Family friendly. So let’s say this all sounds great to me, maybe I’m hearing about it for the first time and I’m really psyched to go down this path or maybe I’m even already starting to pursue it. Give some advice to people whether they’re in high school, college, or they’re already out there in the real world. What can you tell them to start thinking about whether it’s classes, extracurricular activities, internships, things that can set them on the right course to do what you do?

Guest: Actually, I think the first thing that would be good to do if you’re interested in complementary, alternative health in general, is to receive some treatments yourself. So try out a variety of different practitioners in a variety of different styles. See what resonates with your body. Although, like I said, acupuncture can treat all sorts of symptoms or illnesses, it’s not always the right tool for people. Some people really resonate with taking herbs and healing that way. Some people resonate with massage. People often times are afraid of needles. If they’re fearful of needles, acupuncture isn’t going to help them as much as somebody who is totally OK with having an acupuncture treatment. If somebody is interested in this, go experience the medicine for yourself and see what works for you and what seems interesting to you. What kind of practitioner environment would you want to be in. There’s many out there and I think that anybody who is interested has a place.

Luber: I can say from my own experience, I’ve had neck and shoulder issues. My neck was destroyed in a car accident about 15 years ago. I was a passenger in a car that got hit at 40 miles an hour into the passenger door. I tried Western medicine which was basically lots of advil and injections of steroids, and nothing really helped. Also had surgery. What wound up helping a lot, literally, this year, I got into trying yoga and massage. Both things made a huge difference. Both were things I kind of laughed at and said was silly California crap. But I decided to plunge in and give it a shot and I have to say, huge difference. So anyone watching who is in pain right now from a car accident or who knows what, try other things if the regular, traditional Western medicine isn’t working for you. That’s a little ad there for you, maybe you’ll get some business.

Guest: Thank you.

Luber: What’s the biggest challenge? If you can’t handle this, then this path is not for you. What would you say that is?

Guest: If you’re not the kind of person who can go with the flow and handle anything that comes your way, then this may not be for you. A lot of times you don’t know who your patient is going to be and what illness they’re going to be. You asked what a typical day is and that was a hard question for me to answer because if I’m seeing new patients, I don’t really know what I’m up for that day. Or I just have to decide I’m up for anything and I have to see what walks in the door and sometimes you get really crazy people and sometimes people are really stubborn and challenging and, you know, they don’t want to change anything about their life but they don’t want to be in pain anymore. A lot of times it’s their life that’s creating their pain. So you have to be really flexible but yet stern a lot of the time because people are coming to you for help and you have to be honest with them about what they really need, what will really help them, and at the same time try to give them the support and empower them to take on their healing for themselves. So there’s a lot of challenges. I find them interesting and inspiring and rewarding but at times they’re rough and I need my own support system in order to process them to come to the right conclusion. It’s a lot of trial and error. Educated trial and error but trial and error nonetheless. There are a lot of shocking things that happen to people in the world and as a practitioner you have to be open enough to hear them and listen to them without reacting. People are sharing some really deep drama sometimes and that can be challenging to listen to and understand how to support them with that.

Luber: Tell me this – I’ve asked other doctors this question – I’ve interviewed a few doctors now. I spent the better part of the past decade as an attorney recruiter. As a recruiter, you’re helping connect people who are already working professionals – you’re helping move them from one place to another. With attorneys, maybe you’re going from one law firm to another, from a big one to a small one, maybe you’re going to a company. But in meeting with these people and building up your candidate base, you’re getting to know intimate details about things like career, what it means to them, what they want out of life….so that you can make that perfect match for them. Because essentially, as a recruiter, you’re a matchmaker for people. One of the things I enjoyed was that level of intimacy. People are sharing really intense stuff with you. With you, it’s probably even more intense because medical issues are even more private. Does that give you – for me this gave me a higher level of appreciation for my job. Does it do the same for you? Does it make you feel better about what you do?

Guest: I think yeah, it does. I feel honored and special that people trust me enough to share those sometimes deep, dark secrets with me. You know, their interpersonal workings. Yeah. It’s definitely an honor.

Luber: Yeah, I always felt that way too. And every doctor I’ve talked to has said the same thing, that that helps raise their level of appreciation of their work. Walk us through some other career paths. If somebody is saying this all sounds cool to me but this herbology stuff just sounds too weird. Let’s say they want to focus on certain things. They can be just an acupuncturist, right? Or just a massage therapist, just a yoga instructor. Tell us some other things.

Guest: Definitely. If you go to acupuncture school, you’re going to learn about 300-400 different herbs as well as all the theory, and all the acupuncture points, as well as most of Western medicine theory and diseases and on top of that a few other tools and modalities. So if you’re looking into Chinese medicine, it’s kind of all or nothing at this point in this country. For other fields, you can definitely learn to be a massage therapist and learn a variety of styles of massage or you could focus on one. You can become a yoga teacher and there are a lot of different styles of yoga as well that are out there to focus on. There are people that focus more on energy work, like reiki practitioners or medical chi gong practitioners. Medical chi gong is Chinese medicine and working with the same energy, it’s just a little more hands off and you don’t use needles, but it’s close to the same. You could be still in medicine and not necessarily be in Chinese medicine, you could be like a doula or a midwife, which are more holistic forms of OB-GYN.

Luber: My physician, by the way, I want to point this out, my physician who is a traditional, Western, American medicine doctor based in Santa Monica, has embraced acupuncture. And he now devotes two mornings per week to doing acupuncture. I’ve gone to him before for that. Some patients go to him for that and regular. You can go for a physical and get acupuncture in the same day. Some people go to him just for acupuncture. So it’s being embraced by Western medicine now.

Guest: Yeah, which is great. I think to diversify your tool set is really cool. But even more importantly, I think it’s important to really dive in to what you are passionate about and then integrate, and work with other practitioners who are passionate about maybe another subject or another tool so that you can work together with patients. I really dream of a system where practitioners work together to help people. Like each person has a team of healers and they do what they do best. I have a variety of skills myself, but sometimes I think wow, this person needs cranial sacral work and that’s not in my focus, so I refer them to a practitioner I know and trust to help them. That way we can share information about the patient, with their permission of course, but share information and help them together so that I don’t have to learn every kind of medicine tool. I think that would be great to get a team of healers for people.

Luber: I don’t want to go too deep into this because we are somewhat limited on time, but tell your story about your travels because I think it’s really interesting. If you can keep it brief, but also tell us about how after mastering yoga, you went over to India to do acupuncture treatments and teach yoga?

Guest: Yeah, it worked out really great. I graduated from acupuncture school so now I have a degree in Chinese medicine and a tool set that I can use anywhere in the world. As long as I have a healthy body and/or some acupuncture needles, I can give treatments anywhere in the world. So I’m transportable. My career is very transportable. But in addition to that, I was certified as an acro yoga instructor. So that gave me a whole other tool set to provide people with a blend of yoga, acrobatics and Thai massage. So after school, I needed a little bit of a placation, so I chose to travel across the United States and also India and Europe to teach people acro yoga as well as give treatments and massages to people that I met along the way. So I guess I kind of became a traveling yoga teacher and healer all at the same time.

Luber: That had to be a great experience.

Guest: Yeah, I met a lot of different people and I got to offer a lot of different treatments. I learned a lot about myself and again, I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do with myself. I learned that floating around didn’t serve me. It was fun for a while but I learned that I really wanted to be a part of a community and have a patient base that I could see more than once. So it was very rewarding.

Luber: So what’s next for you? Where do you want to take this?

Guest: I would like to continue to increase the awareness of the public of Chinese medicine, of acro yoga, yoga in general, all holistic health therapies. I’d like everybody to know that they have the ability to get out of pain or help themselves with anything that they’re experiencing that they don’t want to experience any more. I don’t think that anybody should live with disease or discomfort. I’d like to educate people that they can enjoy their lives and feel good in their bodies and in their minds and hearts.

Luber: I like that goal. OK, if I’m watching this video and I’m in school and I’m ready to go for this. Let’s say I’m at the same school you were at but I don’t really know how to go about getting a job to start my career on this path. What have you seen as far as, if you were hiring, what are you looking for? When the Taos is bringing someone new into the Healing Arts Center there, what are they looking for?

Guest: What are they looking for in a practitioner?

Luber: Yeah, if someone is coming out of school now and they want to get started, what should they be doing? What angle should they take? What are some tips you can give them?

Guest: I would say that it’s important to be clear about what you want for your life. Be clear about how much money you want to make, how much you want to work, how often you want to work, be clear about what types of patients you want to see, what kind of illnesses you want to treat and what kind of environment you want to work in and I think it’s more important to look at what you want versus what you think your possible employer might want or need. Because if you’re doing what serves you best, you’re going to find very easily a place that works best for you.

Luber: Yeah, that’s good advice. You love what you do?

Guest: I totally love what I do. I enjoy it very much.

Luber: That’s great. What are some keys to success? Leave us with some keys to success for your path.

Guest: I think that no matter what interests you, it’s most important to be honest with yourself and trust your intuition and do what really excites you. Know what you’re passionate about. Don’t let other people or your mind skew you into thinking that you should do something or you shouldn’t do that. Just be honest with yourself and listen to your heart and find out where your joy is coming from and do that. That may change over time but continue to evolve with that desire, that passion.

Luber: Excellent advice!

Guest: My heart has led me to the right place, so I very much trust it and I want to help others do the same.

Luber: Very good. Everyone at Careers Out There, this is what you get. You get real advice from real professionals like Sarah Vosen here. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us at Careers Out There.

Guest: Thank you, Marc.

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