Acupuncture is a labour of love
As a teenager growing up in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, James McNeill dreamed of changing people’s lives.
Becoming an acupuncturist has enabled him to do just that — in his 35-year career McNeill has helped thousands of clients to meet their health goals.
James was thinking of becoming a marine biologist when he discovered acupuncture.
“I went to an open day at the New South Wales College of Natural Therapies and never looked back. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine really spoke to me on a personal level because they take a holistic approach to health.”
Today, James is one of four practitioners at the Napier Acupuncture Clinic, where he sees a wide range of clients.
“Each person is different. Every indicator such as a line on the face, an emotion, colour of the tongue and even whether they are early or late, tells me something about them.”
“The mind, body and spirit fit together like a mosaic. My job as an acupuncturist is to work out how all of the pieces fit together. Sometimes it just takes a gentle push in the right direction to bring about great changes overall.”
James is on mission to educate people about the benefits of acupuncture and the science behind it. This passion was sparked during his training, when he completed a hospital internship in Hangzhou, China.
“When I saw how acupuncture was used at the front end of their medical system, I understood the true value of what I was doing, and what it had to offer us in New Zealand. I knew it would take work to get it properly into the health system but I was determined.”
James has worked for many years to achieve this, and co-wrote Spirit of Nature: the Harmony of the Five Elements with David Bell, which won the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust book award in 2005. He was also a president of AcupunctureNZ and a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Complementary and Alternative Health.
“The committee was tasked by the Minister of Health to look at ways in which disciplines such as acupuncture could benefit the health system in New Zealand. Following wide consultation, we came up with several recommendations around research and the introduction of statutory regulation for acupuncturists.”
The work was completed in 2004, and although the government is yet to implement the recommended changes, James says there has been some progress.
“Research in particular is evolving. There has always been a huge amount of anecdotal evidence backing the benefits of acupuncture, and there is now also a growing body of clinical research. One in particular is the Acupuncture Evidence Project, published in Australia in 2017. Studies like this turn information into hard data and that’s what’s needed.”
AcupunctureNZ is continuing to lobby the Government around statutory regulation for the profession. In the meantime, all members meet and maintain stringent voluntary standards. All are fully qualified health professionals who have completed the equivalent of four years full-time training either in New Zealand or overseas. They are also required to complete 20 hours continuing professional development (CPD) education each year and hold a current first aid certificate to maintain their annual practising certificate.
With more than 800 acupuncturists currently practicing in New Zealand, finding the right one can be something of a minefield. AcupunctureNZ recommends prospective patients select an acupuncturist from their membership database to ensure the highest standards of care.
When he’s not busy with his clients, James is a keen musician and thespian. In May 2007 his song Stormy on Sunday was a runner up in the Song of the Year pop category and The River Song also received an honorable mention. He was also in Napier Operatic’s Les Mise´rables.
When it comes to acupuncture, James gets huge satisfaction from every case, big or small.
“I’ve witnessed some miracles during my career. Eight years ago, my daughter was in an accident and suffered catastrophic injuries. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine helped her to survive against the odds and have played a huge part in her ongoing rehabilitation. Helping my clients to see improvements is extremely rewarding. Success looks different to everyone — a seemingly small improvement for one client could be huge for another. The most important thing as an acupuncturist is to have an open mind. Sometimes you come up against brick walls before you get the result you want. It’s all about giving 100 per cent to that 1 per cent chance, and never giving up.”
Acupuncturists James McNeill, partner Jacqui Kiddle and their son Daniel McNeill.