What Being a Naturopath Is Like for Me...
Now Playing: "Doctor, Doctor!" by Robert Palmer
I receive a good number of letters asking me what it's like to be a doctor of naturopathy. I am always glad to hear that someone is interested in doing this kind of work!
Here is a very nice letter I got today from a young woman who is deciding between naturopathy and law school, and my response to her:
I am reaching out to you for a little advice. My name is Jessica. I live in New Orleans and was recently accepted to Tulane University Law School. I really thought that this is what I wanted, but I seem to be having a crisis over whether or not I should attend. I don't know if I am just scared or what is happening in my head, but I began looking more closely at Naturopathic Doctor degree programs lately. I would love if you could tell me a little more about what the actual experience of going to school and trying to establish yourself after graduation was like. Do you feel as though Naturopathic Doctors are "stigmatized" (as my somewhat biased roommate says)? Did you complete a residency program? How competitive are residency positions? How competitive are ND positions? Is insurance ridiculously expensive? Do you feel like the debt you incurred is going to create a significant burden? Are you happy? Would you do it again in a heartbeat?
I'm sorry to hurl all these questions in your direction. I just feel like I'm at this point in my life where all of the decisions I make are going to affect everything else I do for the rest of my life. It's pretty scary. I think I only applied to law school because I wanted to bite the bullet and do something big, even though I have no real desire to practice law. I keep hearing horror stories about people who graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and they can't find a job. And plus, I could hate it!
Again, maybe I'm just getting cold feet. I'm not sure. I never really considered naturopathic medicine as something that I would make a primary career goal. I've always been interested in it, but I guess I always figured it might be something I pursued in my retirement years or something. But now, I'm not making decisions for just myself anymore. I have a relationship that is getting pretty serious and we talk about having kids one day and the whole package. That makes me want to find a job that won't require me to work 80-hour weeks and won't be completely inflexible. Do you consider your job to be fairly flexible? What are some of the benefits to running your own practice versus working in a clinic? What's the part about your job that you find most challenging? Are there international opportunities? Are there opportunities to do things on a part-time or short-term basis for additional income? Do you feel that your training has had a positive influence on your own health and the health of your family? Is liability a concern? What is your stress level?
Ok... I'm going to stop bombarding you with questions now. If this email is a little intense and you don't choose to repond, I will totaly understand. Thanks for allowing me to ramble on and on anyway.
Hope to hear from you,
I'm very glad to hear you have an interest in doing this type of work! I hope my letter will help you decide whether or not to pursue this field. (And if you decide to, promise you'll please stay in touch!)
First of all, there are two distinct different types of naturopathic doctors. There are those who work under licensure, and those who work as Traditional Naturopaths. I am a Certified Traditional Naturopath, and I hope my state never adopts licensure laws. That might sound confusing to you, so please allow me to explain.
The practice of natural medicine has been around since the beginning of time. I personally believe it is our God-given right. As a matter of fact, I believe it to such a degree that I'm an ordained minister, too, so that I can help people discover God's healing gifts. I don't believe the State has the right to intervene in these matters. I believe healing is between each individual person and God. While I do believe that everyone should have equal access to medicine, I believe the type of medicine should be each person's choice. Licensed naturopaths have to follow State rule, and they are MUCH more along medical lines, which brings me to a different point...
Conventional medical doctors (MD's) and doctors of naturopathy (ND's) have really not much in common! The State treats them like the two practices are much more closely related than they actually are...or were...until now.
The American Naturopathic Certification Board (www.ancb.net) provides certification on a national level to those wishing to make a profession of traditional naturopathy. Certification is a voluntary acceptance of professional standards as set down by the profession itself, rather than having the government decide how our profession should work. Here is the code of ethics to which we adhere:
ANCB Organizational Policies
ANCB's Code of Ethics is at the heart of our organizational policies: ANCB requires all Board Certified practitioners to adhere to this code. Other policies include a Code of Conduct Policy, and policies covering certification exams. Contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
- First, I will strive to do no harm.
- I will practice the healing power of nature.
- Recognizing that people are physical, mental and spiritual beings, I will treat the whole person.
- Unless properly authorized licensed to do so pursuant to the applicable law for the state in the United States in which I practice, I will not diagnose illness, prescribe drugs or perform surgery.
- I will educate my clients to take full responsibility for their own health, and I will promote the understanding that healing comes from within.
- I will not discriminate against clients or professionals based on race, religion, age, sex, handicaps, national ancestry, sexual orientation or economic conditions.
- I will abide by all state and local laws and will report to the ANCB any criminal convictions regarding myself or regarding any other ANCB certified practitioner of which I have personal knowledge.
- I will not exceed my scope of practice, either in abilities or by law.
- I will strive to be objective in the treatments of clients and performance of duties, recognizing the rights of all persons and my own limitations.
- I will conduct myself in a professional manner with proper respect for each client's dignity; I will not engage in inappropriate relationships or behavior with clients.
- I will pursue education on a continuing basis in order to improve my knowledge and skills as a naturopath.
- I will provide clients with full disclosure regarding the scope of my practice and my training and experience.
- I will keep all information about my clients in strictest confidence, and shall only divulge such information when required by law or when authorized by the client.
- I will not use misleading, deceptive, irresponsible or fraudulent statements or advertising.
Many advocates of licensure (AANB) would have you think that traditional narturopaths have no professional standards, but this is absolutely untrue! I wrote a previous entry in Notes from the Naturopath that will help explain my whole entire position on this: Alert: BOYCOTT NATUROPATHIC LICENSURE!!! IT TAKES AWAY CHOICE FROM THE CONSUMER!!!
Okay...that issue aside...Let me tell you what it's like for me to do the work that I do!
First let me say that I LOVE IT! I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's more of a mission than a career. It's what I believe I came here to do.
You asked about job possibilities. Well...Hmmmmm.....If you want job security with benefits, vacations, and all that, then you're probably going to have to enter into the mainstream a bit more than I like. I'm probably not the right naturopath to ask about all of that! I don't care for the mainstream so much, because to me this job is inspiration inspired!
I think the biggest plus in terms of "job security," is that this job lends itself very well to doing work on your own. You can design your practice around your own interests, and do it however you'd like. For instance, if you have a special interest in children, the elderly, pets, etc., you can focus on whatever area you like. Also, if you want to focus on a particular approach, that is fine, too...accupressure, aromatherapy, herbs, polarity balancing, parasitology...whatever is your cup of herb tea! Some naturopaths that I know have a very clinical looking office, and do really cool stuff like dried blood cell analysis, hair testing, etc., and they have people coming all day. One ND that I personally know sees about 15 clients a day, and they come from two states away! Others have a very laid back approach and just take donations for pay. So it really all depends on what you'd like to offer the world!
As for me, I'm approaching it from several angles. I work online, for one thing, and I also do consultations by phone. I'm getting ready to open a physical location real soon. I work with people and animals, both...including farm animals, which is nice, because I live in a rural town. I focus a lot on teaching. I teach research and also traditional and folk medicine ways. I can teach people to make their own natural health items, and I can also help them with obtaining the top of the line quality products on the market today, depending on what it is that they're looking for.
You always have to be very careful that people know you're not a medical doctor or a veterinarian, because they will assume this oftentimes and it is contrary to law for us to promote this misconception. We are also not permitted to prevent, mitigate or treat any disease, nor are we allowed to prescribe anything. What we are permitted to do is to educate people in natural health ways, present research to them, and help them to find ways of supporting their body's own healing efforts using natural means.
We live in a different world than do the medical doctors. They focus on combatting the disease, whereas we focus on what brings about health.
There's no doubt about it, however, we are under attack as a profession. They want the whole ball of wax. More and more you will see "complimentary" or "integrative" medicine offered. This is nothing more than a take-over attempt as far as I am concerned.
Oh, maybe that was a little bit harsh. Let me retract part of that statement, please. Complimentary medicine does have it's place, because so many people are using medical drugs. Not many in our society today go solely the natural route. That is my preferred approach, but I am not in the majority there. I am an advocate of alternative medicine, which means "other than" the conventional, whereas complimentary means "along with." So, yes...I practice "complimentary" medicine, too, although it's not my favorite way. Of course I can't advise anyone to get off of their meds. That is something we never, never are permitted to do! But to my way of thinking, more often than not, the meds just make healing take longer than it usually takes without the complications presented by drugs.
You see a lot of people think chemical drugs are superior to natural ways, but I don't. A lot of people think the more serious the illness, the more the need for conventional medicines, as if they work better. This is not at all the way I believe. Yet, with the laws how they are, I have to go with the flow and the best I can do is to provide help that will counteract side effects from the drugs and hopefully overcome the damage they do.
Drug medicine is good in my opinion when a person doesn't know what else to do, or doesn't have access to what that they need in an emergency type situation. We do have very good emergency medicine in this country, as far as that goes. But for diseases? Modern medicine isn't doing so great.
Sooooo...how does all this pertain to your question(s)? I guess it is to say that to start out with, you would be entering a VERY controversial field! There has been government opposition to natural healers since way, way back in history...back as far as when they first figured out that the world wasn't flat! In Galileo's time there was an order that no one but the Church could work with the Spirit or Life Force in healing, or else they'd be put to death. So that was the beginning of using chemical drugs, taking the body over as if it were an inanimate object, instead of working with the life force and bringing balance and harmony to our whole being according to Perfect Design.
And so here we are today, with our heads still on the proverbial chopping block. Do you love this work that much? That's what you have to ask yourself when you go in.
Can you make money? YES! Can you make lots? YES YES!!! Can it be the main motivating factor in this type of work? No. I mean, well, I'm sure for some people it is, but it really does need to be sincere in order for you to fully develop your gift. Healing is a very intuitive art.
So some naturopaths open up offices and do consultations all day, and other naturopaths go out and teach or give workshops, and still others go out and get jobs working in somebody else's office...but that's the exception I'd say, not the norm. FOR TRADITIONAL NATUROPATHS. Now for licensed folks, that may be different, because they're more entwined in the medical field, and they also probably make bigger bucks due to that...PERHAPS. On the other hand, maybe they don't. In someone else's office there is a ceiling...in your own, there is not. Also, on your own you are more likely to make money in a variety of ways. I use the combined approach of offering services, education and products all three.
Something else you can do is make formulas. That's another very rewarding and potentially lucrative part of this work we're trained to do. You can make herbal tinctures, powdered mixes, aromatherapy blends, homeopathic preparations, flower remedies...the list goes on! It's one of my favorite parts of this work! Everyone doesn't opt to do it, but I think it's very worthwhile and FUN! I also like to help others to learn. When you know what to do with the herb from the ground where you're standing and turn it into a useful medicine, that's a really powerful thing.
Reiki, acupressure, reflexology, and other forms of healing where you don't need anything outside of yourself are also wonderful healing practices to learn. Breathing exercises, for instance. These are things people can use anywhere...in jail, on an airplane, anywhere! Imagine the power in those types of methods! I enjoy helping people to learn these types of things.
What we do in this work is to empower people to take control of their health, and to positively affect the health of those whose lives they touch, as well. There are no words to describe the feeling of usefulness and humility and gratitude that come with helping someone find answers that were there all along...so simple...yet so much larger than you and I. We're not using man made ideas, we're making use of ancient wisdom and universal laws which are much bigger than any of us! It's something given by God.
I'm sure there are many naturopathic doctors who only focus on physical health, but I think mostly you'll find a lot of us who practice holistic healing as part of our work, which also involves the spirit and mind. This makes it very interesting work, and it really does take a personal investment on our part to be a clear channel for healing good. We have to stay on our own healing path, for if we get lost we can't lead anyone else. It's a whole-life commitment, for sure.
This profession can be challenging in many ways that aren't common to other professions, but it's rewards are uncommon as well. The more you believe is possible, the more you will see of so called impossible things happening...things being healed that supposedly did not have any cure, and things that you've always heard couldn't be done. It is amazing when you really open up to this field, because wow, the power of everything living is there!
I think you'll find it to be a profession which lends itself to your own likes, dislikes, areas of interest and personality style. IF you go into practice yourself, and don't get hung up in the medical world. I can't really tell you what you'll find on that side of the fence, except a lot of rules, and a lack of understanding that it's something bigger than science at work. My advice if you really want to feel the power of the work that we do is to not water it down with institutions and too many rules! Let the rules of nature be your guide, not of man, and always factor God in!
I don't know if my answer helped you or not. It's really hard to answer that question for somebody else, because I only know my own experience here. I do know a lot of other naturopaths, though, and we come in all varieties and sorts! Many of us are very scientifically minded, some spiritually minded, most a little or a whole lot of both. There are some of us who are doing it on a shoestring, giving most of our work away, and others who are making money hand over fist, writing books, teaching seminars, and traveling all over the world. I tend to keep one foot in each of those worlds! It's very exciting work!
Hmm...What else should I tell you...let's see....oh! People will test you and challenge your knowledge, and make fun of you and ridicule you even sometimes. Sometimes people will put you under a microscope and expect you to live up to their idea of what a naturopath should look like and say. They'll call you a phony if they see you eating a potato chip ever, and for goodness sakes what they sometimes say if you ever should get a cold! My advice on all that is...forget it! Hahaha! People will do what they do and think what they think and there's no way we can please them all! We're an odd duck in their minds.
BUT other people give us great respect, and so it all balances out! TRUE!
The important thing is to not allow yourself to become vulnerable to other people's judgment of you, and at the same time do not allow yourself to try and pretend you're something your'e not, and to stay your genuine self. It's okay if you get a cold! The cold's not the problem, afterall, which you'll learn...the cold is actually the cure! (There's something to think about there!)
You'll find there are a lot of people who feel threatened by us. The whole medical industry, for one. For another, people are afraid sometimes to have hope, and we challenge them to do that when they've already been conditioned to give up all hope, and they don't want to be let down again. This can be very emotional work, and so much of healing is helping people to open their emotions up in order that the healing energy can properly flow. This takes a lot of spiritual trust. Holistic healing at work again. It's not conventional by any means. We're great hand holders, we are!
But we can be pretty tough, too, because if people don't do the work they won't heal. That's another reason people are resistant to us....They want someone to just give them a pill and that's it. Yes, we can give herbs, but if we use them in the way of just giving a pill and that's it, then we really are doing an injustice to our clients, because healing takes a little more than just that....real healing does, anyway. Well, not everything. I suppose a bump on the knee could just be physically healed with some salve, but a mother's kiss and a prayer never hurt! ;-) In essence that's what I mean. It takes an all around approach. Hmm...was that the point I was trying to make? Maybe not exactly...I think I jumped topics, but that point is just as true!
The original point I was trying to make is that deep down healing takes CHANGE. People have to drink water, exercise, eat right, and all that, before anything we do can really help. Sometimes people don't want that kind of responsibility. They just would rather take a pill and then they get mad at us because we say what the side effects are!
Plus I think sometimes people get mad because they just paid their doctor $50,000 and didn't get better and so what could a jar of leaves possibly be able to do! Hahaha!
But I've seen so many miracles come from things as simple as the simple things nature provides...leaves...flowers...roots...berries...twigs...barks...all sorts of things even nuttier than that. I've seen people get well on COLOR or SOUND or so many things...people who had been told that nothing would work. Being a naturopath means believing that nature provides!
Oh...and something else to consider....you'll have to deal with people sometimes who are stubborn, I mentioned that one already. But you'll also have to deal with people who want to pick your brain like crazy and then go to the discount store and purchase something they think is close to what you were talking about and then tell the whole town that what you said didn't work. Yep! You'll run into that kind of thing, too! Hahaha!
But if it's in your heart to do this, then none of that will disuade you a bit. You just find which aspects of the work attract you, and then focus on providing those types of services. If there are other things you think are useful but can't really do all that well yourself, then that's when becoming part of a network is good. I can give massage, for instance, but I'm not a massage therapist, so if someone could benefit from ongoing massage, I refer them to somebody else for that part of their program, and I continue to help them with their overall plan. You don't have to do everything there is to do all yourself. NONE of us knows it all. I don't know diddly squat about the Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type whole thing, but I'm very good at what I do know about. If someone wants to know about how certain blood types should eat, I send them to Tony Mazzola, ND...one of my classmates and good Michigan friends!
It's really important to have an open mind, though. You have to throw a lot of common misconceptions away. For instance, you have to be willing to believe that civilized people in this country really do get parasites, because if you do this long enough you're sure to see one of them, if not thousands of them over the years. You'll have to get used to talking about bowel movements a lot, and you'll have to learn when to speak up and when to be quiet when people talk about their health all the time. Suddenly you'll hear it on elevators, on busses, in hallways...everywhere that you go. You'll start being able to tell which people are constipated and which people have liver stress just by standing in line at the store. It consumes you and you can't help it...it becomes so much of who you are. That's what you have to decide...are you a naturopath in the making right now? If you are, you won't be able to walk away, because it will call to you from deep down within!
There now...the rest of the answer to all of your questions lie deep down inside of you!
I am proud to say that I got my degree through the Trinity College of Natural Health, and that I supplemented it with the CNHP program for Certified Natural Health Professionals. I think both programs are very good. Excellent, in fact!
Other than that I've self trained throughout the years and attended (and presented or taken part in) many, many classes, workshops and seminars on various aspects of natural health, plus I've worked in this field now for years.
I also had training in related areas...family and child development, alcohol and drug addiction services, etc. I've worked in a very, very wide selection of settings, such as court houses, nursing homes, schools, churches, public health agencies, treatment centers...I've been involved in holistic healing studies and work since back in the 60's....LONG TIME. Can you start from where you are at without all those years behind you? YOU CAN! The coursework is easy...it's all in the commitment you make.
You can read my bio by clicking here to see where I went to school, and who I'm credentialed through. I'm very pleased with the route that I chose. You can also read the letter I wrote upon graduation to family and friends introducing them to my work.
Welp, that's about it for now! The rest is up to you! Please let me know what you decide, and if you decide to be a lawyer, please let me know that as well, because it's always good to have good legal advice!
Feel free to ask any more questions you'd like, and I hope you don't mind that I let everyone see this. There are a lot of people who have written similar letters to me, and this gives me an easy way to answer them all. If you write to me any more I promise it will be just between you and me! I'd be happy to help you all that I can.
Best of luck to you in whatever you do, I'm sure you'll make the right decision for you, and I'm sure you're destined to help a lot of people in this lifetime....I know!
Mary Jo Eshelman, ND, CTN, CNHP, D.D.
P.S. I really love what I do! All Natural Health REALLY DOES WORK!
P.S.S. The opinions expressed in this letter are just the opinions of me! I am not a medical doctor or veterinarian. I am a doctor of naturopathy and ordained minister at present time, and I am not licensed to practice medicine in any state.
P.S.S.S. Naturopathic doctors have to where a disclaimer stamp on their head! Hahaha!