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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

Twelve-Step Program to the Post-ABT Exam Party

By Barbra Esher, AOBTA CI. Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), LAc

In my last column (in the June issue), I suggested how to organize a study group to learn the Asian medicine portion of the NCE. This seems to be the major concern of massage therapists taking the exam, even though it is well-known that the NCE can be passed without knowing the answers to any of these questions.

Regardless, many people wrote saying that they appreciated the guidance. I also received letters requesting something similar to study for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) exam. I recommend that you use the outline that comes with the exam booklet! This article is based more on my shiatsu program. All of my graduates last year passed the exam, so you may be able to study and review this information and also do well!

If you plan on taking the ABT exam, hopefully you are already registered, as the deadline is August 9. This leaves you 12 weeks to bone-up on your traditional Asian medicine foundation concepts. Get together with as many as you can and commit to supporting each other in knowing this material cold. (Cold being yin, means you learn it to the deep dark depths of your being!)

A good way to organize your time is to divide these 12 "steps" by the number of people studying together, and assign who will teach each week. So if you have 12 people in your group, each person will teach one segment of this material one time. It's best to teach the information that you know the best, so you aren't just reading from a book. Make it fun and interesting, and include as many audio-visual aids as possible. Give out handouts. If you don't know what you are teaching at all, don't worry, you will know it by the time you finish preparing your lesson!

Also, have all the people who are not teaching that week write down five questions on the material presented the previous week. Start each class with a review from the previous week - it could consist of nothing more than answering those questions. Cut the questions apart (so that each question is on a separate piece of paper), put them in a bag and pass it around, randomly picking and answering questions. (This strategy gives everyone the opportunity to think about and consider each question, rather than people just calling out the answers.) You didn't have time to make up questions? Well then, you'll have to make up 10 for next week! A study group takes more of a commitment than just meeting once a week; you have to work at learning this information!

By the way, this system works for any number of people. If there are just two of you, alternate between teaching and writing questions based on the information you've learned the prior week. If it is just you, study the material in a methodical way, and compile a bank of questions to test yourself later.

12 Steps/ 12-Week Program

[Unless otherwise specified, the page numbers referenced in brackets appear in Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia, Churchill Livingston Press.]

  1. Yin/Yang Principles
    Yin/yang associations (hot/cold; day/night, etc) [pg. 3]
    Five aspects of yin/yang [pg. 4-7 & Massage Today, "Got yin/yang?" December 2001]
    Signs and symptoms of Yin Deficiency plus treatment [pg. 182-183; 187-188]
    Signs and symptoms of Yang Deficiency; treatment, including use of moxa [pg. 183-184; 187]
  2. Five Elements/Phases
    Generating, controlling, over-acting, insulting sequences [pg. 19-20] Associations (Wood = green, sour, wind, etc.) [pg. 20-21]
    Physiology [pg. 21-23]
    Pathology [pg. 26-28]
    Diagnosis [pg. 28-31]
  3. Fun(damental) Substances (Make sure to put the "Fun" before "da mental"!)
    Major functions and pathological imbalances; signs, symptoms and treatment of each:
    *Qi: deficiency, stagnation, sinking or rebellious [pg. 35-38; 41-48; 191-192]
    *Blood: deficiency, heat or stasis -- (including guasha for treatment of Qi and/or Blood stagnation) [pg. 48-52; 193-194]
    Shen: disturbed or deficient [pg. 72-74]
    Essence: deficient [pg.38-41] (good time to briefly review the Six Extraordinary Fu as well) [pg. 123-125]
    Fluids: deficient or excess [pg. 52-56; 194-197]
    *most important to focus on Qi and Blood
  4. Internal, External and "Miscellaneous" Causes of Disease/Imbalance
    Internal: Joy, fear, anger, sorrow, worry, pensiveness, fright/shock [pg. 129-132]
    External pathogenic factors: (all can be internal as well, except for "summer heat")
    Wind, cold, heat, damp, summer heat, dry (include cupping for treatment of wind, cold or heat; stretching for heat; moxa for cold) [pg. 132-134]
    Neither internal nor external (miscellaneous): overwork; over exercise; weak constitution; stress; too much (or not enough?) sex; too many births too close together; trauma; diet; poisons; parasites [pg. 134-141]
  5. Review the Meridian/Channel Flow with the Body Clock, Starting and Ending with Internal Pathway [descriptions of channels: pg. 368-453]
    Review major point categories, how to use and how many: 12 shu points [Massage Today, "Soul of Your Shus", July 2001];
    12 mu points [Massage Today, "Mu/shu Combo" September 2001]; 12 yuen/source points;
    15 (or 16 depending on which reference book you are using)
    luo/connecting points;
    12 Gathering/Influential Points [pg. 345-352]
  6. Eight Extraordinary Vessels: Pathways; Functions; Master/Couple Points [pg. 355-365 & Massage Today, "Roadmaps of Our Lives", June 2001]
    Six division meridian connections [Massage Today, "Using the Six Divisions," March 2001, March & April, "Korean Constitutional Types", 2002]
    Familiarize yourself with the Six levels, Four levels and the San Jiao progression of disease. (But don't drive yourself batty with these. Review for about an hour, then again the night before the exam) [pg. 177-178; 479-483]
  7. Kidneys: Function [pg. 95-101], major pathologies, case studies and treatment [pg. 243-254]
    Kidney Qi Deficiency [Not in Maciocia; this is just a less advanced stage of Kidney Yang Deficiency.]
    Kidney Yin Deficiency
    Kidney Yang Deficiency
  8. Liver: Function [pg. 77-82], major pathologies, case studies and treatment [pg. 215-229]
    Liver Qi Stagnation
    Liver Fire
    Deficiency of Liver Blood
    Liver Yang Rising
    Liver Overacting on the Stomach
    Liver Invading the Spleen
  9. Heart: Function, Major Pathologies [pg. 71-75], case studies and treatment [pg. 201-207] (Review Liver more if extra time!)
    Heart Blood Deficiency
    Heart Yang Deficiency
    Heart Yin Deficiency
  10. Spleen and Stomach: Function [pg. 89-92; 111-114], major pathologies, case studies and treatment [pg. 241-244; 265-271] Spleen Qi Deficiency
    Spleen Yang Deficiency
    Spleen Qi Sinking
    Spleen Not Controlling the Blood
    Stomach Yin Deficiency
    Stomach Fire
    Rebellious Stomach Qi
  11. Lungs: Function [pg. 83-87], major pathologies, case studies and treatment [pg. 231-237] (review SP/ST more if extra time)
    Wind Heat Invading Lungs
    Wind Cold Invading Lungs
    Lung Qi Deficiency
    Lung Yin Deficiency
  12. Random Case Studies from Foundations... Ethics, contraindications, how long to keep records, when appropriate to discuss clients, boundaries, etc. [See Acupuncture Risk Management by David Kailin, CMS Press]

Yes, I omitted a lot of detail from this outline -- for example, just about all of the yang organ pathologies. That's because you need to pull back and focus on the big picture. You probably are not going to run across Heat in the Small Intestine in your practice and most people wouldn't consider it "entry-level" knowledge.

Yes, I also left out Western medicine. You need to have taken at least 100 hours of it to sit for the exam but it's such a small percentage of your knowledge base that I wouldn't spend too much of your time reviewing every muscle origin and insertion. (Just as I don't recommend massage therapists learn Asian medicine for the NCE, unless it was a significant part of training.)

I also didn't include questions on the different forms of ABT. Don't worry about the different techniques for styles you don't know. You couldn't possibly, nor would you want, to learn them all. It's more important to know the basic theory. Pulse and tongue is included in all 12 weeks. It's part of learning the signs and symptoms; for example, a reddish tongue for yin deficiency and a swollen, pale tongue for yang deficiency.

One last thing: several textbooks have test questions in the multiple-choice style used on the NCCAOM exams. Check them out to see if they might be useful. TCM Study Guide Series Acupuncture, Kang Tai Press, Chicago; and Tests: Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Foreign Language Press, Beijing.

Again, I am not telling you what is on the exam, but I am giving you an approach that I know works. I am committed to you succeeding; write me and let me know how you did!

Click here for previous articles by Barbra Esher, AOBTA CI. Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), LAc.


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