One of the most common questions that people want the answer to is, "does a holistic medicine doctor need to be a real doctor." Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn't as clear as it could be. To start, alternative medicine isn't as organized as traditional medicine, due to its only recent boom in popularity and understanding.
Yet, it goes deeper than that. There are a lot of doctors that claim to be holistic doctors when they aren't. In the same manner, there are many traditional doctors that also use holistic medicine. Finally, there is a path for specifically holistic doctors to take, yet, it's not often taken.
The Dangers of Fake Doctors
First, fake holistic doctors. As a health care profession, holistic medicine has a path to becoming a doctor. Called naturopathic doctors, these physicians have continuing education and medical school just as traditional doctors. However, some "holistic healers" don't have this naturopathic medical training and thus can cause harm rather than heal.
The most important thing that you can do for your health is to make sure that you are seeing someone that is licensed to practice medicine. Licensed naturopathic doctors should be able to tell you where they got their degree just as traditional medical doctors. Without this training, they are not equipped to deal with you as a patient and could be missing important knowledge to help you.
Traditional Doctors that Also Consider the Holistic Approach
The most common route that a holistic doctor can take in the United States is to get a traditional physician's license and start their own practice after becoming a traditional doctor. Doctors like this will have a traditional Ph.D. with side classes and education in naturopathic medicine.
As traditional doctors, they will understand far more than a holistic doctor. They should come to the table with a full understanding of both modern medicine and holistic approaches, meaning they are the best equity to tell you what you need regardless of the approach. However, they often view holistic and traditional equal or holistic as less. This can be a turnoff if you are looking for holistic only practices.
True Holistic Doctors Are Trained in Schools
If you want to find a real holistic doctor, then there are options depending on where you live. A naturopathic doctor, or N.D., required the obtaining of a Ph.D. To start, you can get either a biology degree or a bachelor's of science (B.S.) degree in alternative medicine. Through this, the doctor will learn the basic sciences, math, and other topics.
From there, they obtain a master's in a focused field and a Ph.D. as well. By the end, they should be trained in both complementary and alternative medicine as well as all the normal understandings a doctor should have.
Keep in mind that not all states will honor an N.D. and give a license. Only 21 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, offer this license to practice. However, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is a proponent of licensure in all 50 states. This is the main reason that true holistic doctors are hard to find, depending on where you live.
In summary, holistic doctors are real doctors so long as they have had the training and have a Ph.D. just like any other doctor. However, the field is still small and not found in every state. As such, many doctors go into traditional schooling then take later classes focusing on holistic medicine. Never should a doctor be unlicensed or without a Ph.D.
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