How are they trained?
Naturopathic Medical Students attend accredited four year post-baccalaureate doctoral schools. Standard premedical undergraduate courses are prerequisite before entering. Training is extensive---we study all of the medical sciences, including (but not limited to) physical and clinical diagnosis, pathology, anatomy (with dissection lab), microbiology, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology and specialty areas such as pediatrics, gynecology, neurology, cardiology----in short all the courses taught at any medical school. In addition we spend several hundred hours studying courses that have disappeared from most medical school curricula, including counseling, nutrition, exercise therapeutics, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy and physical therapies. Clinical Rotations are also required to allow us to experience doctor-patient interactions. Naturopaths also undergo rigorous national medical science and Clinical Board examinations. Successful passage of this examination (NPLEX) is required for naturopathic doctors to be licensed to practice naturopathic medicine.
What can I expect?
Naturopaths takes medical histories, performs physical exams, orders lab tests, and makes diagnoses(depending on the state). A naturopath differs in how she addresses a prior diagnosed illness, in what she does with the informant gathered. The naturopath, however also has a vast array of potential therapies from which to choose. A wellness plan may include nutritional counseling, homeopathic prescription, and a discussion of how a specific exercise program will benefit the clients health. The discussion may cover job or family pressures and how they are impacting the clients life. If indicated an office visit may involve some form of physical therapy. Occasionally, a condition requires minor surgery, e.g. removal of skin tags or closure of a laceration (which in some states we can perform).
A core aspect of our philosophy, is that care must be individualized to meet the needs of a particular patient. Naturopathic Medicine treats diseases by treating people. Ten people with similar cold and flu symptoms may walk in to a naturopaths office, and those ten patients probably will walk out with ten different treatment plans, each tailored to suit a particular set of needs.
Well to put it at its most basic, in many respects Naturopathy is really common sense applied to health. The basic principle is that we have tremendous innate healing abilities, and our systems will always attempt to overcome an illness and restore balance. In Naturopathy, these attempts are encouraged by utilizing such natural factors as diet, herbs, exercise and relaxation, fresh air and the use of water (hydrotherapy). The general thrust of treatment is really to shift responsibility for health back to ourselves as far as possible, and equally to advocate prevention rather than cure. In addition to these approaches to health and healing, natural therapies range from those that work mainly via the body, such as massage, osteopathy, chiropractic,and physiotherapy, through those that deal with energy balance, such as acupuncture, reflexology,and chakra healing to those that approach from the mental or emotional level, such as Bach flower essence, psycotherapy, homeopathy and craniosacral therapy.