Traditional or Medical Naturopath?

Many people have questions about Traditional Naturopathy. There are a lot of misconceptions about naturopathy in general. We hope this page helps.

Can I get a Naturopathy Degree Online?

Yes, you can get a degree in traditional naturopathy online but not a degree in medical naturopathy.

Traditional Naturopath
In short, a Traditional Naturopath is a practitioner that does not mix allopathic medicine with holistic medicine.  We do not perform surgeries, prescribe pharmaceutical medications or do invasive procedures. You can read more details about traditional naturopathy at the American Association for Traditional Naturopath‘s page.

Medical Naturopath
Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic physicians work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. You can read more about medical naturopathy at the AANP website.

Why These Differences Are Important

While true traditional naturopathy is holistic and embraces many modes of healing (even visits to the doctor when needed) you will notice that many websites for medical naturopathy claim that “medical naturopathy” is the only definition of naturopathy. This is simply not true (as you can see from the AATN page. There is a long history and a lot of detail that goes into this discussion but at the root of this debate is a struggle between traditional healers that are simply doing what they have done for thousands of years and the modern medical establishment that wants to regulate all forms of health care.

How Does This Debate Affect Me?

Will I be able to practice with a degree in traditional naturopathy?

Yes, you can practice in all places around the world with both a traditional and a medical degree in naturopathy. The difference will be in how you practice and not if.  This how will depend on where you live. The debate (mentioned in the section above this) has created a challenge for both traditional and medical naturopaths. As a naturopathic student you will find yourself in one of the following situations:

  1. Unregulated completely: You live in a place where naturopathy is unregulated completely and thus both traditional and medical naturopaths can use the name naturopath in their advertising and practice (i.e.: Kentucky and other states).
  2. One kind is regulated: You live in a place for naturopathy is regulated and only medical naturopaths are allowed to use the word naturopathy in their practice (for anyone who has researched this you will know that only two colleges in the United States issue degrees in medical naturopathy so this is very restrictive). If you want to practice traditional naturopathy you will need to use a different term to describe your practice. You can still practice as a traditional naturopath as long as you are aware of what words you cannot use (this is covered in our Careers and Consulting in Natural Well Being course). (i.e.: California and other states)
  3. Both kinds are regulated: You live in a place where naturopathy is regulated but both traditional naturopaths and medical naturopaths are allowed to use the word naturopathy (i.e.: Michigan and other states).
  4. Both kinds are not recognized: You live in a place where all kinds of naturopathy are not recognized so even if you have a medical degree in naturopathy you will need to practice under a different title (medical naturopathy schools and websites do not mention this) (i.e.: Iowa).
  5. (This applies to most everyone) You live in a place that rotates between options #1 – #4 every year or so. This means that even if you have either a degree in traditional naturopathy OR medical naturopathy you will still need to take some kind of course in Careers and Consulting in Natural Well Being and be able to adapt your practice to the ever changing laws.

How much value does a degree in traditional naturopathy have?

The main difference between the two degrees is that a medical naturopath learns everything a traditional naturopath does (sometimes in less depth) but also learns about prescribing medications, medical diagnostics and other medical techniques. A medical naturopath is usually required to do a 2-year internship at a medical establishment just as a medical student would do. If you goals are simply educational or to provide self-care or family-care your decision making process may end here.

Beyond the value of knowledge, however, you enter the realm of business and the language of business is unique from that of education and practice. This is one area in which more education needs to be focused. Once you earn your degree (of any kind – not just in naturopathy) your success depends on demand, market share, public relations, customer service and more. Success as a practitioner, writer, herbal products creator or other career has nothing to do with your degree and everything to do with your skills as as ethical and creative business person. There are many resources that can help you in this area including The Avicenna Institute.

Will people respect or recognize my degree in traditional naturopathy?

Once again, this respect will not come from a degree but will come from how honest, ethical and professional you are as a consultant, writer or other business person. From over twenty years in the field I have seen a few principles stand the test of time:

  1. There is someone for everyone. Some people need a doctor, a dentist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist or a medical naturopath. However, others simply need someone who knows more than they do, someone to listen to them and understand and a little guidance and education.
  2. There is a great demand for consulting in the area of natural well being – even if you are just a student. I have seen hobbyists and students swarmed with requests for help even when they do not have a degree at all.
  3. Honesty a powerful tool. If you are honest with your clients about what you can and can’t offer them you empower them to make their own decisions and this results in the perfect match every time. Try to connect with other natural practitioners in your area – they may refer people to you and vice-versa.
  4. Referrals and customer service are important. How many times have you heard someone say “I am never going back to that (health care practitioner) – they were horrible”? This happens to everyone from doctors to herbalists. People visit you want to feel relaxed, listened to and understood. This valuable customer relationship is something you must learn beyond any degree you earn.

Let us know if you have additional questions! Write to us at:

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