Holistic Physicians and
Licensed Practitioners

Holistic physicians and licensed practitioners are becoming more widespread and accepted by the medical community as alternative medicine gains a foothold in the mainstream. 

These medical professionals are a boon to patients who know there is more to healthcare than what conventional medicine alone has to offer. Their holistic practices provide a valuable service, especially to patients with complicated and serious health challenges.

The number of doctors who add holistic medicine specialties to their practices, as well as acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, and massage therapists are growing, making their services available to more and more people.

As the demand for holistic medicine grows, and different types of alternative medicine successfully pass the rigors of scientific research, medical institutions and doctors aim to give consumers what they want by offering these types of services to their patients.

Not only can you find holistic doctors and licensed practitioners in some medical facilities, you may also see them writing books and wellness programs, appearing on TV and video, and blogging on-line.


Types of Licensed Practitioners

Holistic Physicians, or integrative medicine doctors, are educated and trained in conventional medical institutions. They are licensed as either Medical Doctors (MD) or Doctors of Osteopathy (DO).

In addition to their medical degree, they have several additional years of study in one or more alternative medicine therapies. These therapies, such as acupuncture, are recognized and accepted as safe and effective for certain conditions.

Holistic physicians approach health from a holistic, or whole person, philosophy. When a doctor uses both conventional and alternative medicine to treat a patient, it is called integrative, or integrated, medicine. The number of holistic doctors, and medical institutions that incorporate integrative medicine is growing due to public demand and supportive research. If you are lucky enough to have a holistic physician in your area, he or she can be a great asset to you, especially if you have chronic or serious health concerns. 

Search the databases of the American Holistic Health Association, the Academy of Environmental Medicine,and the American Holistic Medical Association for holistic physicians near you.

Dentists and nurses also have the opportunity for holistic training to enhance their skills. Holistic dentists are sometimes called biological dentists.

Acupuncturists attend an intensive three year on-site program that includes training in oriental medicine, herbs, acupuncture and other modalities. My neighbor went to acupuncture school so I got to see a little glimpse of how involved and intense her program was.

Not all states require licensing of acupuncturists. If you live in one of these states, be sure to check the practitioner's credentials before booking a session.

Look for certification by the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. In Canada, look for certification from the Acupuncture Foundation Institute of Canada.

Acupuncture has gained widespread acceptance in the West in recent years. Some holistic physicians train in acupuncture and offer it as an option to their patients for a variety of conditions. Some insurance companies cover acupuncture.

Naturopathic Doctors, sometimes called naturopaths, have met training and licensing requirements of a particular state. Doctor of naturopathy, or ND. is a protected designation. Training is offered through four-year on-campus programs at seven certified colleges in the United States and Canada. 

As of this writing, at least fifteen states, Washington, D.C. and five Canadian provinces recognize naturopathic doctors as licensed health care providers. Insurance coverage may be available in states that license them (check with your carrier).

Naturopaths are trained in natural or naturopathic medicine. They favor a holistic approach, using natural remedies to foster the body’s ability to heal and balance itself. ND's emphasize preventive methods such as lowering stress, healthy living, and self-healing.

A doctor of naturopathy also receives training in medical imaging, blood testing, and minor surgical procedures. Some naturopathic methods are not accepted in conventional medicine.

There is some confusion about unlicensed naturopaths and licensed practitioners. Individuals trained at correspondence or on-line schools may receive a good, comprehensive education, but they do not have the same level of education as those trained certified colleges. In order to be a primary care provider, a doctor of naturopathy must complete a four year on-site program, take board exams and practice in a state or locale that licenses them.

Note that some holistic practitioners complete this rigorous training, but are not able to practice under a license because their state has not passed necessary legislation. They can be a valuable asset to you when you need a skilled holistic health practitioner.

Chiropractors, or Doctors of Chiropractic (DC), are licensed medical professionals who focus on diagnosing and treating problems related to the muscles, skeletal system, nervous system and spine. There are different types of chiropractors. An Atlas Chiropractor uses a device to correct misalignment of the atlas and axis at the top of the spine. If you have neck problems, I highly recommend you locate a chiropractor in your area. My atlas chiropractor has helped me immensely.

Massage therapists offer a variety of massage styles. Massage has become one of the most popular forms of hands-on holistic healing. It does not access the mind or emotions directly, but it does help relax the mind as muscles release tension. Sometimes repressed emotions surface and are released when  associated muscles are massaged.

As part of, or in addition to their formal training, massage therapists often learn reiki, cranio-sacral therapy, shiatsu or other alternative hands-on techniques.

Currently, 37 of the 50 states in the U.S. have training and licensing requirements for massage therapists. Training requirements vary widely from state to state.

When deciding whether to partner with natural health practitioners or holistic physicians using a whole person healing approach, it is wise to be aware of your state or country's requirements, as well as their level of training and expertise. Also be aware that not all alternative licensed practitioners are holistic or knowledgeable in areas outside their specific training. 


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Related Pages

Holistic Health and Healing Guide


What is Holistic Medicine and Healing?

Types of Complementary Alternative Medicine

About Holistic Practitioners