When Douglas Valdez, LMHCA, MA, MSOM, MBA, ’18, first started as an acupuncture student at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), he had no idea he would one day become a mental health counselor. It wasn’t until Valdez started working as an intern at National University’s Whole Health Center that he decided to combine the two fields.
“As a student, I started seeing a lot of patients who were suffering from depression and anxiety,” he said. “Mental health quickly became something I wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of.”
After graduating from NUHS with his Master of Science in Acupuncture he earned his Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Antioch University in Seattle, and also became certified in sex therapy.
In April 2024, he will be among the first class of students to graduate from the new Doctor of Acupuncture completion program (DAc-C) at NUHS. Valdez decided to continue to study acupuncture so he could further his understanding of holistic medicine.
“The importance that acupuncture places on mind-body health has always resonated with me,” he said.
His coursework includes an in-depth look at herbal formulas and supplements as a form of treatment along with case studies that include mental health issues like bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.
“In recent years, acupuncture has become a popular alternative to prescription medication for mental health conditions with many patients receiving a combination of both treatments,” Valdez said.
Because the Doctor of Acupuncture Completion program DAc-C program is completely online, Valdez is able to continue operating his practice, Curativo Health in Seattle, where he specializes in chronic illness, sex therapy, LGBTQ+ and several areas within mental health. He also works alongside fellow NUHS graduate Kay Hubbard, ND, MA, ’19. The curriculum, which also includes business and marketing classes has been a great help with his practice.
“The faculty has provided great guidance and even specific feedback on some of my current business and marketing plans,” Valdez said.
When he graduates, Valdez believes he’ll have a significant advantage over other therapists. At his practice, Valdez focuses on root causes of an illness and taking a whole health approach, something that many mental health therapists do not do.
“I will look at a patient’s whole lived history, not just the symptoms that they are presenting,” Valdez said.
He’s also looking to bridge the gap between holistic care and the counseling community. In addition to his Doctor of Acupuncture degree, Valdez is also in the process of completing his Ph.D. in Counseling Education and Supervision. With the degree, he’ll be able to bring in counseling interns to work alongside acupuncturists.
“This will be a great way to bring the two professions together to better improve the health of patients,” Valdez said.
He encourages other practitioners to continue their education, even if they are already running or working at a practice.
“Don’t feel intimidated by the idea of going back to school,” he said. “Operating a practice and going to school can be very manageable especially if it’s online. NUHS faculty also provide great support.”