How to Find a Naturopathic Doctor

Three Parts:Deciding if a Naturopathic Doctor is Right for YouIdentifying a Naturopathic DoctorInvestigating the Practice

Naturopathy is a system of health care based around the idea that the human body has a ‘vital force’ which promotes self-healing.[1] It aims to treat the underlying causes of diseases holistically, and often with non-invasive methods. Its medical value is controversial, and many doctors and scientists question its effectiveness.[2][3] Nonetheless, some patients have experienced improvement after using naturopathic treatments. Finding a naturopathic doctor suitable for your needs, as with finding any doctor, takes time and requires effort. Here are some steps to aid the process.

Part 1
Deciding if a Naturopathic Doctor is Right for You

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    Research naturopathy. Before deciding to seek out a naturopathic doctor, read up on the principles and effectiveness of naturopathy.
    • Talk to your current healthcare provider. Your current doctor will be able to help you make an informed choice about the potential benefits of naturopathic medicine versus its potential downsides.
    • Check the web. Naturopathic practitioners and organisations in many countries have websites outlining the basic ideas of naturopathy. Many of the critiques of naturopathic medicine from the point of view of conventional medicine can also be found online. Take the time to read around the subject and decide what you think.
    • Ask your friends, colleagues or family. See if members of your community have experiences with naturopathic healing. Their experience may help you make your own choice.
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    Find out the laws governing naturopathic treatment in your jurisdiction. The regulations governing naturopathy vary dramatically between countries and regions. In particular, some jurisdictions allow naturopathic practitioners to prescribe drugs and perform some surgery. Find out what the laws in your jurisdiction allow naturopathic practitioners to do.
    • In some jurisdictions – such as South Carolina and Tennessee in the US – naturopathic practice is forbidden.[4] Ensure your jurisdiction doesn’t forbid the practice of naturopathic medicine.
    • In many places, naturopathic practice is not regulated by law, so anyone can claim to be a naturopathic practitioner. Be careful not to go to a practitioner with no training!
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    Identify what kind of care you’re looking for. Naturopathic medicine covers a number of different types of treatment. These are known as 'modalities'. Decide which kind of modality suits your needs better, and use this to find a naturopath who focuses on this area of health.[5] There is no set or defined list of modalities which naturopathic medicine encompasses, but here are some common examples:
    • Botanical medicine. This is the use of plants to treat or prevent disease, using the purported natural healing properties of plant.
    • Homeopathic medicine. This involves the use of very small doses of natural substances to stimulate the body's self-healing abilities. It has been singled out by practitioners of conventional medicine as particularly ineffective.[6]
    • Lifestyle counselling. This involves a naturopathic doctor working with you to develop a healthier lifestyle.
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    Be aware of the risks involved in the modality you choose. Because naturopathic medicine offers so varied a range of treatment options, the potential risks vary similarly widely. Search online or ask your current healthcare provider to assess the risks associated with the treatment you are looking for.
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    Consider the cost of treatment. In most countries, naturopathic treatments are only available if you pay for them yourself. For instance, in the US, most health insurance plans do not cover naturopathy.[7] In the UK, the NHS does not provide naturopathic treatments.[8] Because naturopathic medicine is practiced in many countries and covers such a wide range of treatments, it is not possible to give an idea of typical associated costs. Investigate the cost of the kind of naturopathic care you're looking for, and decide whether you can afford it.

Part 2
Identifying a Naturopathic Doctor

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    Consider what kind of naturopathic practitioner you want. In some countries, including the US and Canada, there’s a difference between ‘naturopathic physicians’ and ‘naturopaths’ (also known as ‘traditional naturopaths’).
    • Naturopathic physicians train at a naturopathic medical school, and earn ND (‘Naturopathic Doctor’) or NMD (‘Naturopathic Medical Doctor’) degrees. They have more of a background in conventional medicine, and are often subject to more strict professional licensing regulations.
    • Traditional naturopaths attend schools with varying curricula and graduation requirements. They are likely to lean more towards more purely alternative therapies. In most places, they are ineligible to practice medicine. If your beliefs also lean towards a wholesale rejection of conventional medicine, a traditional naturopath may very well fit your requirements.[9]
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    Look for naturopathic doctors on the internet. Most countries and regions have professional bodies which have directories of naturopathic practitioners. Begin your search by looking in these directories for practitioners in your local area. This will help you create a shortlist of potential candidates who are close to where you live.[10]
    • A lot of what you're looking for will depend on your personal priorities when looking for a doctor. Decide on your priorities in advance. For instance, consider your views on how far you reject modern, conventional or invasive medical techniques, or what gender you prefer your doctor to be. Once you have decided on these priorities, use them when creating your shortlist.
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    Ask for references. Talk to other people who’ve used naturopathic doctors, whether from your local community or on internet message boards. They may have useful tips and recommendations about which naturopathic doctor to choose.
    • Ask in other kinds of places connected to alternative treatments, such as health shops. These places will often have ties to other alternative healthcare providers, and may be able to point you in the right direction.
    • Be sure to ask why the doctor is being referred to you. It’s important that your priorities match up with those of the person doing the referring![11]
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    Look for personal websites. See if the practices you are investigating have an online presence. If they do, have a look at the website to get a sense of the personality of the doctor and the atmosphere of their practice. This will help give you an initial idea of their personal approaches to medical practice and patient welfare before you go deeper.

Part 3
Investigating the Practice

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    Look for appropriate credentials. Because naturopathic regulatory bodies are usually not subject to statutory regulation, the nature and reliability of their qualifications are extremely variable. Research your region's regulatory body or bodies and determine what kind of qualification you should be looking for. If possible, ask others who have used naturopathic doctors which credential-issuing institutions are more reputable.
    • A naturopathic physician should have earned a degree in naturopathic medicine from a naturopathic medical school accredited by your jurisdiction’s professional regulatory body for naturopathic education.
    • Look for appropriate professional certification. Naturopathic doctors should be licensed by a professional organisation. There are often multiple professional organisations in an area - ask around to find which is the most reputable.[12]
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    See if you and your doctor are compatible. It’s important that your doctor has a good bedside manner, and that you get on well with them. Arrange a phone call with your prospective doctor to introduce yourself and get to know them. This will help you understand whether or not your personalities, beliefs and approaches to healthcare are compatible.[13]
    • Potential topics to cover include how the doctor makes decisions, how far they co-operate with patients in deciding on a course of treatment, and how much they communicate with patients about their issues.
    • The specific topics to investigate will of course be determined by your own priorities. Decide in advance what you are looking for most in a healthcare provider, and tailor your questions accordingly.
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    Ask about the practice’s policies. Find out how long it takes to get an appointment, whether same-day appointments are available, and how long patients have to wait before seeing the doctor. The staff at the naturopathic practice should be able to tell you this important information.[14]
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    Assess the staff. A naturopathic medical practitioner will be part of a team, and it’s important to see how good that team is. The most significant factors to consider are their courteousness and their efficiency. As you ask them for other information about the practice, form your opinion about their own reliability.[15]
    • If the staff are rude or inefficient, these are warning signs that the practice should be avoided.
    • Similarly, if there are problems passing your messages to the doctor or arranging appointments, even if the staff are courteous, this is also a probable red flag.

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Categories: Alternative Health