About Naturopathic Doctors

Naturopathic doctors are trained to use natural means of preventing and treating illnesses and maintaining optimal health. Their treatment modalities can include many different types of alternatives to conventional medicine such as acupuncture, lifestyle changes, diet and nutritional considerations, and herbal or homeopathic treatments.

Definition

Naturopathic doctors (ND) are trained medical professionals who treat diseases or other conditions through the use of a variety of non-invasive methods. In general, NDs look at the body holistically, rather than treating the individual body part or problem. An ND is a graduate of an accredited naturopathic medical school. NDs are trained in the use of many types of alternative treatment systems such as biofeedback, herbology and accupressure, although many practitioners choose to specialize in particular modalities.

Warning

At present, the term “naturopathic doctor” (ND) is protected in only 16 states, meaning that in the others anyone can practice under the title with no regulations regarding license or education. This not only makes finding a trained professional more difficult, and it affects the practice of naturopathic medicine. It can be hard for new practitioners who are graduates of a school of natural medicine to convey to potential patients the benefits that they bring to their field as a licensed ND.

Considerations

A career in naturopathic medicine requires many unique personality traits and characteristics. Individuals who are considering naturopathic medical school should know that they will be required to learn both core studies such as anatomy and physiology and the various alternative treatment systems. Most programs that lead to a degree in naturopathy have strict admission guidelines and prefer students whose undergraduate studies include science, biology, chemistry and other coursework that would be expected of any pre-med student. Programs for obtaining an ND are 3 to 4 years long and include some practicum. States that offer licensure also require a post-graduate internship and a passing score on a professional board examination.

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Benefits

As more and more people begin to seek alternatives to the often-invasive Western model of medicine, the demand for NDs is growing steadily. According to The Annals of Internal Medicine, almost 70 percent of adults have used some type of “alternative” therapy. Naturopathic physicians are able to work in a variety of environments from private practice to working in a partnership with other NDs and/or conventional physicians, in research positions or as natural pharmacists. The average salary for a naturopathic practitioner, as of 2009, varies greatly dependent upon the type of practice, but is generally between $80,000 and $150,000.

Principles

There are 6 guiding principles of practice that all naturopathic doctors adhere to in providing care. They are: 1) Do no harm. For naturopathic doctors, this means using the least invasive treatment possible to achieve desired results. 2) Trust in nature and, by extension, in the body’s ability to heal itself. 3) Identify and treat the causes of disease and disorders, rather than merely addressing symptoms. 4) Educate the patient. The doctor is considered an educator who is a partner in health. 5) Treat the whole person. This includes paying attention to the emotional and spiritual dimensions of disease. 6) Emphasize healthy lifestyle and prevention of disease. Regardless of educational program or area of specialty, these are the principles of naturopathy, around which all treatment is based.