Clinical Experience and Externships

Essential to our students’ education is a comprehensive clinical experience. ACTCM students receive extensive clinical training. In addition to ACTCM’s on-site Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic and auricular acupuncture clinic at the CIIS Mission Street campus, ACTCM maintains multiple off-site clinics. These alliances provide ACTCM student clinicians with opportunities to train in diverse integrative care settings.

DACM and MSTCM Clinical Training


The DACM clinical program consists of 1,020 hours divided into seventeen 60-hour clinic shifts. The MSTCM clinical program consists of 960 hours divided into sixteen 60-hour clinic shifts. These shifts are staged, beginning with a clinic theater shift where observers watch a member of the clinic faculty perform treatments in a clinic theater setting and progressing to clinical observation shifts, working alongside clinic faculty on trainee shifts, and finally to intern shifts, where advanced clinical students have the opportunity to work with progressively greater independence as solo interns under faculty supervision. All clinic faculty members are required to interact with patients during all patient contacts to ensure safety and efficacy of treatments.

The clinic shift progression begins in the second semester. During the first semester students take a Clinical and Program Orientation course. As part of this course, clinic policies, safety, blood borne pathogens, HIPAA, and other clinic related subjects are introduced. The educational objectives of clinical experience at ACTCM mirror the progression of the student through the three levels of the clinical program: observation, trainee, and intern level.

At the observer level, students are expected to:

  • Learn, demonstrate understanding of, and comply with basic procedures and expectations of a functioning clinic;
  • Have the ability to fill herbal prescriptions;
  • Maintain the treatment rooms; and
  • Act as an observer of elements of patient care and diagnosis.

At the first trainee level, the educational objectives to be attained by the student include:

  • The ability to establish a clean field and employ proper clean needle technique;
  • The ability to safely and correctly apply acupuncture, massage, electric stimulation, cupping, and moxibustion;
  • The ability to accurately locate all points; and
  • The ability to correctly describe the basic qualities of tongue and pulse diagnosis.

During levels two and three of the trainee phase, the educational objectives from level one are reinforced. Additionally, the following set of educational objectives is to be attained by the student:

  • The ability to independently assess the patient’s condition;
  • The ability to interview, diagnose, and prescribe treatment under the direct supervision of the practitioner; and
  • The ability to accurately locate points.


Upon completion of the trainee phase of training, students move on to becoming interns, providing care still under the close supervision of the clinic supervisor. As the students move through the intern progression they are given progressively more responsibility for designing and conducting care. Faculty continue to meet each patient and make their own independent assessment throughout the intern period. The educational objective to be attained at this phase of the training is to ensure that students have the ability to function, in essence, as the attending clinician under close, but not constant, supervision. This level is different from the trainee level, during which time the clinic supervisor is always present. While the clinic supervisor is frequently present during intern level, the clinic supervisor will not always be in the treatment room with the student interns. The interns greet patients, explain their role, and then skillfully perform the tasks expected of a competent practitioner, including: intake; a reading of appropriate vital signs and conducting a physical exam; a development of a diagnosis; and, if necessary, a prescription for treatment. Such actions necessitate the selection and location of appropriate acupuncture points, correctly performing the treatment, and, if applicable, filling out the herbal formula. Each of these steps is first reviewed and approved by the clinic supervisor.

The educational objective to be attained at the final phrase of intern level is to ensure that students have the ability to handle every aspect of the patient visit, including interview, diagnosis, needling, prescription, and case management. At the culmination of the clinical experience, the student begins to assume the role of an independent provider for patients in the clinic. Although all diagnoses and treatment plans are approved in advance by the clinic supervisor, the student otherwise acts independently in preparation for his/her entry into the field. Throughout the students’ clinical training, they are exposed to a variety of patients and clinic supervisors, which is designed to enable them to handle as wide a range of ailments and conditions as possible, and to foster flexibility in their clinical approach. The ACTCM Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic attracts a very diverse patient population. Students also have the opportunity to intern at the ACTCM off-site clinics that emphasize different conditions and patient populations.

On-Site and Off-Site Clinics

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our off-site clinics are closed. We are working with sites on an individual basis to get our off-site clinics open and running in the near future.

At the first trainee level, the educational objectives to be attained by the student, with direct supervision by supervisor, include: 

Located in the campus building on Arkansas Street, this clinic serves as the program’s centerpiece. The clinic provides more than 12,000 visits a year. Serving a diverse client population, the clinic offers a variety of clinical opportunities for student clinicians and practitioners alike. Clinical services include acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, shiatsu, tuina, qigong, nutritional counseling, and a full-service Chinese herbal dispensary that carries an extensive selection of high-quality raw, powdered, and patent herbs. The ACTCM Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic operates weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays, by appointment basis. The clinic is located at 450 Connecticut Street, San Francisco, CA.

Currently on hiatus

Established in 1994 as a donation-based community clinic, the ACTCM Ear Acupuncture Clinic’s mission is to provide quality holistic health care in a safe and welcoming environment to members of the public who may not otherwise be able to afford such care. The clinic is located at CIIS Mission Street campus and operates on a drop-in, first-come, first-served basis. Treatment sessions typically last between 20 and 40 minutes and are performed in a group setting while patients relax in a chair. Student clinicians under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty utilize auricular acupuncture to treat a diverse group of 30-50 patients each day. The clinic is located at 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA.

Currently on hiatus

CPMC offers student clinicians under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty the opportunity to treat, in a hospital setting, patients who are paralyzed or have limited mobility due to stroke or other injury to the brain or spine. Medical doctors refer patients for acupuncture to address issues surrounding pain management, rehabilitation, speech therapy, motor coordination, muscle tone and weakness, depression and anxiety. Because of the nature of cerebral and spinal injuries, many patients are treated regularly for a number of weeks or months. The clinic is located at Castro @ Duboce Street, 322 CPMC Davies Campus North Tower, 1st floor Room 156, San Francisco, CA.

Currently on hiatus

LifeLong Medical Care Ashby Health Center is located in south Berkeley. It is a part of a network of Lifelong Medical Care health centers in Northern California. The mission of LifeLong Medical Care, which serves an often-uninsured, diverse population, is to provide high-quality health and social services for individuals with limited incomes and for those who face significant barriers to good health. ACTCM student clinicians under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty work alongside physicians, certified nurse, midwives, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, nurse practitioners, and other health specialists. The clinic is located at 3075 Adeline Street, Suite 280, Berkeley, CA.

Currently on hiatus

The Women’s Resource Center is operated by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and provides women who have a history of criminal justice involvement with the services necessary to achieve and maintain safe and healthy lifestyles. Restorative justice principles are woven into all of the center’s practice. The approach is guided by the belief that crime hurts everyone; victim, offender, families, and communities; and creates an obligation to make things right. The WRC is primarily a day treatment center for women released from the San Francisco County Jail. WRC provides referrals for housing, substance abuse programs, employment, medical and mental health programs, and legal issues. ACTCM student clinicians under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty provide auricular acupuncture in a group setting to support women participating in WRC programs. The clinic is located at 930 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA.

Restarting Summer 2021

Glide is a full service center in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco that provides a variety of services to low-income residents of the region. ACTCM student clinicians under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty provide auricular acupuncture each week to those individuals who could not otherwise afford acupuncture services, treating a variety of conditions that include addition/recovery, virally mediated disease, pain, and stress-related disorders.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Glide has started The Tenderloin Community Resource Hub, which is an outdoor site for accessing a range of  critical services and resources on the 300 block of Ellis Street (between Taylor and Jones Streets).

ACTCM will be participating in the Tenderloin Community Resource Hub providing auricular acupuncture beginning in Summer 2021 Semester.

Currently on hiatus

The Pain Management Center at Stanford Health Care offers a comprehensive range of services for patients with acute or chronic pain. The Center offers ACTCM student observers the opportunity to observe acupuncture treatments in outpatient clinic setting under the supervision of ACTCM clinic faculty. The Center is located at 450 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA.

Students have the option of completing one of their Clinic Observation II courses (ACM5351, ACM5452)  by participating in the ACTCM Preceptorship Program. Students who choose this option will complete all aspects of the Clinic Observation II course under the supervision of a California licensed acupuncture practitioner who has been approved by the administration as an ACTCM preceptor. Students may request licensed acupuncture practitioners who meet the minimum requirements to apply for participation in the program. These preceptors may work in various clinics and settings in California. Students must complete the sixty (60) hours of coursework and submit the appropriate documentation verifying their participation by the end of the second week of the subsequent semester in which they are registered for the Clinic Observation II course. Preceptor Package.