Acupuncturist of the Month

Top Acupuncturist South Yarra VIC, Dr. Chloe Stubberfield, Acupuncturist of the Month

Dr. Chloe Stubberfield is an acupuncture practitioner who completed a double degree at RMIT University, a learning institution ranked as one of the world’s top universities. After pursuing her double degree in Applied Science (Chinese Medicine) and Applied Science (Human Biology) with honors, she completed a clinical internship in Nanjing, China for 4 months. She is currently registered with the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency), in addition to the AACMA (Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association). Dr. Stubberfield also sought post graduate training in fertility, pediatric care, and functional medicine as well as training in musculoskeletal complaints as a qualified Level 1 sports trainer. By utilizing a combination of cupping, acupuncture, herbal medicine and supplements, Dr. Stubberfield provides her patients with individualized programs that assist them on their health journey.

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Welcome, Dr. Chloe Stubberfield! Thank you for joining us for Acupuncturist of the Month!

So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for, and what are your specialties?

I’ve been practicing 8 years now and I specialize in women’s health, fertility and stress and anxiety.

What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?  

Honestly it was a bit of a fluke. My mother was very into natural health and I was extremely stuck with a career choice. I loved science and English and drama and there aren’t many careers that you can do all of those! I signed up on a whim and immediately fell in love with it. It had everything I loved all rolled into one!

On your website, you describe The Which Doctor as your passion project. Tell us more about how The Which Doctor came to be. Where do you see it going?

My degree at RMIT was a double bachelor of Human Biology and Chinese Medicine. I loved the idea of bridging the gap between eastern and western medicine because I think both have great aspects to them! The name was about incorporating a pun (I love puns) with the idea of using both types of medicine for WHICHever you need. I always wanted to be The Witch Doctor but it was actually my graphic designer/ auntie who suggested spelling it the alternative way to represent the idea of both types of medicine. It’s still my favourite part of my business because it’s strong, fun and memorable! I’m working on some practitioner training with social media because I think practitioners are amazing but not great at marketing themselves. I fell into a second passion of teaching with my social media and I want to see how many people I can help grow their businesses through Instagram and beyond!

You have an e-book! That’s awesome! Tell us a more about the inspiration behind creating your e-book, “The Which Doctor’s Guide To The Five Element Theory.” What were you hoping to convey to patients?

Thank you! My eBook was a fun little project during lock down. As my dad says “only boring people get bored” and I definitely did not get bored in lockdown! The book is about the five elements of Chinese Medicine but it’s very fun, quirky and easily digestible. It’s a nice little introduction into the Five Elements and how Chinese Medicine sees the world. It’s about owning your strengths and weaknesses and acknowledging the part emotions and the seasons have to play in our health. It is extremely lighthearted and a lot of fun!

What advice would you like to pass along to other acupuncturists who also want to publish an e-book, or any book for that matter?

The main advice I have is just JUST DO IT!! I wrote mine over a week or so once I sat down and started writing. All practitioners have so much information in their heads but they just don’t know where to start. Pick a topic you are interested in and just start writing! Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing, stay in your lane and share your knowledge with the world. No one will interpret things exactly how you do and that’s the magic of it!

On your Instagram, you discuss how IVF and acupuncture work together. Why do you believe it’s most beneficial to have acupuncture as IVF support?

Working with women and fertility is HARD but nowhere near as hard as going through IVF. Some research suggests IVF is more stressful than a cancer diagnosis. The amount of stress that puts on a body is insane. This impacts sleep, diet, exercise and quality of life. Acupuncture is amazing for regulating stress hormones and balancing everything as well as increasing blood circulation to the pelvic region.

If you could pinpoint one piece of advice, or statement of reassurance, to women battling infertility, what would you say?

This is a tough one. The main thing I would say is to talk about it. Find a supportive, trusted friend and open up when you can. Be open and honest with your partner because they are suffering as well and are often left to fend for themselves, together is ALWAYS better! The guilt and shame that surrounds infertility is insane, it’s a medical condition that many couples struggle with and it’s time we treated it as such.

Tell us more about your clinical internship in Nanjing, China. What was the most memorable part of your experience treating patients in a hospital setting?

That was an amazing experience. I was 24 at the time and quite sheltered. I had done some travelling but hadn’t lived anywhere else. The culture shock was intense but the Chinese Medicine side of the experience was amazing! Most people don’t know that in China they have Chinese Medicine hospitals that are the same structure as a western hospital here. It’s one giant hospital with all the different areas (urology, dermatology, paediatrics etc) but everything is treated with herbs and acupuncture. Instead of a pharmacy there’s a giant herb dispensary! People would come every day until their condition was better as it was very cheap there to have acupuncture. The coolest part was you got to decide. If you got sick you could decide if you wanted to go and get antibiotics from the western hospital or go and get some herbs and acupuncture from the Chinese Medicine hospital. I thought that was fascinating and is exactly how I’d love Australia to structure their healthcare.

On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?

Any acupuncturist will tell you that to be successful (in whatever that means for you) you have to do A LOT of personal development. Finding who you are as a practitioner takes a good 5 years and if you are also trying to find who you are as a person it can get pretty intense. The self doubt often creeps in, there is just so much to learn that the imposter syndrome can rear its ugly head. There were more than a few times where an office job with regular income seemed like a nice alternative to constantly hustling, growing and learning that’s for sure! But these constant challenges are what makes people stronger and make you a better healer and better person. I wouldn’t change that for anything (but would recommend getting a pretty tough skin as a self employed acupuncturist).

Share a recent success story you had with a patient. What acupuncture points, herbs, or other interventions (meditation, yoga, nutrition, etc) did you use to help them achieve results?

One of my favourite conditions to treat is amennorhoea because even though it’s complex I find that results can happen quickly. A recent patient had 3 months of secondary amennorhoea before she saw me. The first treatment I found she was extremely blood deficient and highly anxious so I gave her some Gui Pi Tang (my favourite), Magnesium and melatonin lotion and told her to increase her quality meat consumption. We also increased her Blood Building foods like beetroot and kidney beans and switched her to a warm diet (soups and stews). The acupuncture points I used were HT3, PC6 AND SP4 (open the Chong), Yintang, Ear uterus, CV4 and CV6. I keep my needling very simple and superficial because most of my women are extremely deficient. I had a whole plan written out and told her it may take a few weeks. She came back the following week and she had her period! I always get excited when that happens and I remember how magical our medicine is.

Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?

Oh yikes so many things! Probably to not be so hard on myself. To all the new grads out there, no one knows what they are doing so please don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Fresh out of school you have so much knowledge but it takes time to learn about people and how to interact with them. Also looking after yourself is key. If you are healthy and happy it attracts clients and you are more confident. I burnt myself out early in my career working too much to make ends meet. Now I invest a lot of time and money into self care practices, exercise and nutritious food. It’s not always possible when you start out but having a daily walk alone with your thoughts to clear your head is a great place to start!

What do you believe keeps an acupuncture practice thriving?

I guess from my perspective it’s all about patient care. I try my hardest to make each and everyone of my patients feel special and heard when they come to me. They are why I am here, why I am doing what I love. Sometimes you get caught up in bookkeeping, admin, social media that you can forget what is truly important. It isn’t about ego, it’s about the patient sitting in front of you. I always try and remind myself of that.

What are specific roadblocks to watch out for as a new acupuncturist?

Working too much and being too flexible!! When I started I’d come in to see a patient on a Sunday, after hours and whenever suited them because I was desperate to help. Setting strong boundaries with your patients around care and relationships is crucial. It’s something I still struggle with because my patients are awesome BUT remembering you are their health practitioner first is really important. I am quite casual and very friendly with my patients, especially the ones I’ve known for years but still try and maintain healthy boundaries.

We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it’s from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with situations like these?

That’s tricky! It’s hard to not let your patients energy affect you especially after the last few years we have had. Honestly COVID has helped a lot with boundaries and shielding because I think all the health practitioners used up a lot of their compassion and suffered from compassion fatigue. It’s just not viable to care so much about each and every patient. You have to be able to separate their feelings from your own abilities as a practitioner. People that go into Chinese Medicine are normally extremely empathetic and intuitive people so it’s easy to let someone’s bad day ruin ours. The advice I have for that is to make sure you are looking after yourself mentally and physically. My day starts with a walk, some music and a coffee and ends with me having a long, hot shower to wash away all my patients’ problems. Being as balanced as you can means you can learn to care without letting their worries consume you.

What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?

Yintang is one of my favourites! It is the perfect point for so many stress related conditions and is a great numbing, calming point I use a lot. Spleen 6 is used constantly in my practice. It’s a great point for most female gynaecological conditions and I love it. Heart 3 and 7 I use a lot to nourish the Heart and calm the Shen. I love using Heart points in each of my treatments as I believe nourishing the Heart is the key to healing a lot of people.

Tell us about some herbal formulas and foods you find yourself consistently recommending to your patients, friends, and colleagues. What makes these herbs/foods so helpful?

Gui Pi Tang is one of my favourite formulas and Tian Wang Bu Xin Wan. A lot of my women are blood deficient and Heart deficient, they are highly stressed and needing some nurturing. I use these formulas a lot myself as I am prone to Blood Deficiency as well. I love my slow cooker!! I tell allllll my pateitns to get a slow cooker and make stews and soups. Since I switched from eating cold, raw foods to warm foods my health has improved exponentially. My digestion has improved and my energy is insane. I love getting people on the warm food bandwagon…I’m never getting off it!

Sometimes, the best resource for improving acupuncture & TCM skills is to learn from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one lesson you learned from a fellow acupuncturist or holistic practitioner that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?

I’m lucky to have a lot of acupuncturist friends and mentors. I learn lessons from each one, whether it be about business or client care. One of my fellow practitioners and best friends Tempe Simmons is the most dedicated practitioner I’ve ever met. She lives and breathes to get her patients pregnant and she knows so much about every type and style of acupuncture. Her dedication is extremely inspiring. Our friendship consists of us taking turns ringing each other and growling at each other for working too hard.

The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a significant impact on the acupuncture practice community and small businesses alike, and while it’s on the mend, we are still navigating through the new normal as acupuncture providers. How has COVID-19 changed your practice? Have you added or removed any services due to the pandemic?

COVID has been devastating for small business. I am extremely lucky and grateful that I managed to stay busy during the last few years but I have never worked that hard or been that stressed. Emotionally supporting some very stressed patients while trying to adjust to constant changes was extremely difficult. I do think that people are valuing their health more so now and wanting to change. I also have noticed people are quitting their jobs they hated and pursuing life passions. I’m very excited for that! My practice is pretty much back to normal now but I spent a lot of lockdown building my online community with my Instagram. That was a great way to connect to people and unleash my creative side with a passion I didn’t know I had, so I’m grateful for that!

Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?

Yes heaps!! When I’m doing everything I need to, I am an energiser bunny and very happy and productive. For me this includes a daily walk (by myself), eating very well, exercise (pilates at the moment), limiting alcohol and making sure I get my alone time. I’m an extroverted introvert and need a lot of time to unwind. I’ve gotten better at resting as I get older. I’m often at home in bed in my downtime. I used to think that was strange or lazy but it is crucial. I need time in my bed by myself to unwind and this allows me to then be insanely productive in a shorter amount of time. I love being my loud, quirky self and I’m not myself if I’m overdoing work or socialising. Sometimes that gets out of balance but I try to be kind to myself…like I would with my patients.

The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:

You have made my day (I told them a terrible joke when they were upset)

The funniest thing a patient said to you recently:

You’ll never guess how big my poo was today!

As an acupuncturist, what are you most proud of thus far in your professional journey?

Honestly I’m pretty proud of everything! I’m proud of the fact that I did things my way and it seems to be working out. Growing up, the thought of running and maintaining a business was so out of reach but the fact that I’m doing it is amazing to me. I’ve really got outside my comfort zone over the last few years and pushed myself with public speaking and expressing myself on social media. 10 years ago I would have been terrified about what people would think but now I don’t care. I’m happy with who I am as a person and practitioner and that’s pretty awesome!!

If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why? 

Probably one of my terrible acupuncture puns. There’s too many to choose from…all equally terrible and they’d all be equally funny on a billboard.

What is your definition of success?

For me success is all about being happy, healthy and contributing to society in a positive way. My parents are very community minded and taught us the importance of giving back and being a part of something bigger than yourself. Having something you care about for a career and surrounding yourself with positive, likeminded people is what success is to me….I consider myself very successful going off that definition.

If you could have one superpower what would it be and why? 

Great question! I’d love to be able to read people’s minds! It would make my job a lot easier and help me understand people more. Plus I could use it as a pretty fun party trick.

*Rapid fire questions! *:

-Top 3 favorite books? Ooo tough one, lots of fantasy and historical fiction. I loved Room, Red Rising and Little Coffee Shop in Kabul.
Morning or night? Morning
Tea or coffee? Both!
Sun or moon? Sun! Give me some sun!!
Cupping or Tui na? Cupping all the way
Yin or Yang? I’m extremely Yang so I crave the Yin haha
Meditation or exercise? Exercise
Instagram or Facebook? Instagram
-Spirit animal? Probably a Labrador. Friendly, energetic and always keen for a walk.

Where can other licensed acupuncturists, students, and patients go to learn more about your work?

My Instagram is the best place to learn about what I love to do. I’m very active on Instagram and love teaching people about Chinese Medicine.

My instagram is @thewhichdoctor_
And clinic instagram is @whichdoctorintegrativehealth

To purchase Chloe’s e-book, The Which Doctor’s Guide to the Five Elements, click here.