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23rd Jan 2020

What Exactly is a Naturopath?

Posted by Angela Fleming

When asked what my occupation is, I often get a puzzled look on the recipients face when I say ‘I am a Naturopath’, which is ultimately followed up with ‘oh, what is that’? Or another equally common, perhaps my favourite and somewhat insolent response when asked is ‘oh, that witchcraft doesn’t work’! That comment always humours me, there is absolutely no point in getting offended, everyone is entitled to an opinion right? I look at it as a big open window of educational opportunity!

That said, I would like to keep that window open and explain what a Naturopath is, does and the overall process of becoming one.

Do you have to do a course to become a Naturopath?

As a Naturopath, our core aim is to effectively assist people with improving overall health. This cannot and should not be done without proper education. People’s health must be taken seriously; it must be adhered to correctly. Currently, unfortunately anyone can call themselves a naturopath… hence why it’s so important to know what to look for to ensure you are getting the real deal.

  • Association Membership - Professional associations exist for naturopaths in Australia, which include ANTA, ATMS, ANPA and NHAA, These voluntary associations only accept members who have tertiary education in the field of naturopathy. They also require members to have professional indemnity insurance coverage, a first aid certificate and to complete continued education every year to remain up-to-date with scientific advancements.
  • Qualification & Education - The most common courses undertaken are Advanced Diplomas of Naturopathy or Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy). These courses involve 3-4 years of full time study, over 300 hours of on campus tuition, which includes over 40 subjects ranging from pathology, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, herbal medicine, nutrition and practical subjects, just to name a few. From 2016 onwards, some associations will only be accepting new memberships from degree-qualified naturopaths.

Here at Australian NaturalCare, we only hire degree-qualified naturopaths. Secondly, dedication must be embedded in and amongst every cell in your body. Being a naturopath is not just a career, it is a lifestyle.

What does a Naturopath do?

A naturopath aims to bring an individual back to a homeostatic state by reaching internal stability. Whole body equilibrium may be achieved through the use of dietary advice, herbal medicines, and nutrient supplementation alongside lifestyle changes.

Why would I see a naturopath?

You can see a naturopath for many different health concerns. Some examples include;

What should I expect when I see a Naturopath?

An initial consultation with a naturopath will generally take between 1 to 1 ½ hours. During this time a naturopath will aim to identify the underlying cause of concern by investigating lifestyle, family history, diet, stress, sleep, bowel habits and past medical history. The information gained is utilised to put all of the pieces of the health puzzle together and make sense of why the existing concern/s exists in the first place.

Therapeutic doses of herbal medicines (in tablet or liquid form) and or nutritional supplements are given to regain, restore and replenish whole body wellness again. Removing insults or triggers contributing to the concern is also advised, which may include lifestyle, environmental and dietary changes. Education on making these changes is essential in any given treatment plan.

It is more than likely your treatment with a Naturopath will require more than one visit. The number of visits depends on the condition as well as patient compliance. Reassessing the treatment plan is important in order to track patient progression.

Observing individual positive progress is rewarding, knowing a client won’t be returning due to a beneficial outcome is more rewarding.

What a Naturopath doesn’t do

It is important to note a Naturopath isn’t a Doctor. In any circumstance a Naturopath does not and should not diagnose any health conditions. A naturopath is not qualified to do so. If a Naturopath suspects a particular disease/condition then appropriate investigative and functional tests should be ordered via a General Practitioner or Laboratory. If the presenting condition is severe and out of scope of Naturopathic practice then a referral to another health practitioner is warranted.

It is unethical practice for a Naturopath to intervene with Doctor’s advice or pharmaceutical prescriptions. Authority should be given by the client (if necessary) in order for a Naturopath to communicate with and inform other health practitioners of any given naturopathic treatment plan.

People assume Naturopaths do not agree with conventional medicine. In my opinion conventional medicine plays a vital role within the health sector. In my ideal world working alongside Doctor’s and other health professionals collaboratively would benefit everyone involved, particularly the patient.

Does herbal medicine work?

Scientific evidence has proven herbal medicine to be effective. Clinical trials and studies have paved the foundation fundamental for naturopathic prescriptive advice. Many clinical trials have been guided by traditional use of various plants.

The outcome of any given treatment plan significantly depends on the contributed effort of the client. Will herbs work if you only take them for 2 days? Not likely. Consistency is important, patient compliance is more so. Your body needs time to build up stores in order to respond positively, this may take 3 days to 12 weeks, everybody is different.

I like to think of Naturopaths as educational health facilitators, once you reach your goal, the end result is definitely worth the effort YOU have put in. The importance of your health is priceless; knowing how to prevent recurrent illness or certain conditions will provide you with a wealth of health for the future! Try it, you may just find the answers you have been searching for.

Check out our blog What is in a Naturopath's Pantry for some health tips from our very own Naturopaths.

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