How To Choose A Naturopathic Doctor.

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate
Medicine Drug Pills on Plate (Photo credit:

One of the most interesting things about my field is that within it we have an extraordinary variety of practitioners.

The best way to choose a Naturopathic Doctor is to get multiple referrals from your friends, to call up the N.D. and talk to them, and to look over their website and get a sense of the scope and focus of their practice.

If you lack any of the above, here are some basic guidelines.  First, do you want a licensed N.D. or a Naturopath?  A licensed N.D. went to four years of medical school, did clinical practice time, etc.  A Naturopath did not.  It can be difficult to tell the two apart.  I recently found an article on a Naturopathic Doctor lecturing in the Philippines.  His name is Dr. Jack Tips, and he has eight degrees.  He has studied under big names in alternative medicine.  But he’s a Naturopath, not a Naturopathic Doctor.  His Naturopathic degrees are from Clayton College, a correspondence program. Because he hails from Texas, an unlicensed state, he can call himself a Naturopathic Doctor.

Now, does the fact that Dr. Tips did not attend a four-year program make his work less valuable?  No, as Jordan Rubin discovered, once you get famous enough you don’t need to hold onto the extra degrees.  Jordan went through a period of using both his correspondence degrees from Clayton after his name, but now has dropped those and remade his story from a biblical perspective.  His Garden of Life products are sold everywhere.  It’s marketing, not substance that prevails.

But if you’ve never been to a program where other doctors looked over your shoulder and corrected you, it is possible to go along in life and never really question deeply held beliefs.  One of Dr. Tips’ quotes is:  “I don’t want to work with conventional medicine, pharmacological drugs and insurance companies.”  That means that patients cannot have their doctors work together.  It is a poor outcome for the patient and is the antithesis to a holistic approach to healthcare.  As a licensed practitioner, I regularly suck up slights to my ego, tolerate dangerous conventional treatment protocols, and just generally deal with a lot of bureaucracy for my patients.  I tell patients I will always talk to their doctors, their doctors just may not talk to me.

Now, there are Naturopathic Doctors that are less likely to talk to conventional doctors, but in four years we learned the medical language.  It should be possible for a licensed Naturopathic Doctor to translate your illness into conventional terms.

The next stage of finding an N.D. is treatment.  In this stage we also deal with money.  If an N.D. requires you purchase hundreds of dollars in supplements from their office every month, you need to know that up front.  I dislike this practice and have put into place that patients can go anywhere for their supplements.  If they choose a company, Emerson Ecologics, that I work with, I have arranged that the costs are less for them than what they would pay retail anywhere.

Let’s be clear that the supplement industry is full of useless and sometimes dangerous mixes.  Without quality control, an N.D. has no idea if a patient is even getting the right herb.  So it is reasonable to want to provide patients with the best quality, which necessitates that supplement being sold in the office.  But it should be possible to purchase one supplement at a time and work through that before committing to ten to twenty different compounds.

The most important factor of dealing with an N.D. is whether you trust the person to take care of your health.  It’s fine to like the person, but nice doctors aren’t necessarily the best for some people.  If you aren’t following the treatment plan, chances are that you are wasting your time and money.  If you won’t follow the treatment plan, don’t try to make your N.D. happy by pretending you will.  My model of treatment is to find what will work for the patient.  There are literally dozens of clever supplements and plans that an individual patient simply will not follow.  Finding that one plan that will work long-term for patients is the critical step to success.

Interview your prospective N.D.s.  Can’t find one? Start at the AANP’s website  Everyone on there is licensed.  Use that as a backdrop and then do a google search for local Naturopaths to differentiate the two for you.  Again, I will not say that a local Naturopath cannot help you.  In many areas of the country there are no licensed N.D.s.

With any practitioner, be very cautious.  Get a sense of what they would do for an illness before you commit to an appointment.  If things at the appointment don’t make you comfortable, as when a practitioner is using some diagnostic technique you don’t believe in, then speak up.  If the practitioner has diagnosed you with a disease, then be sure to understand if that disease is something a conventional doctor would be able to also diagnose using standard procedures.  If not, then the “disease” should be treated with a large grain of salt.  Find out what the simplest and cheapest treatment plan would cost and plan for that to start.  If it doesn’t work, then consider the second plan.  If both of those don’t work, then that practitioner has given it his or her best shot and it’s time to move along.  Never make the mistake of spending time with any doctor, conventional or alternative, who consistently makes you feel worse.  If you stay the same, with minor ups and downs, then credit life rather than your doctor.  It is the doctor that consistently makes you feel better that you want to find.

Finally, and this is important, if you can’t find an N.D. contact one of the online N.D.s or the N.D. schools.  Many N.D.s have what I call “negative advertising” where they aren’t even in the telephone book.  So leave it up to other N.D.s to help you find someone local.  In two seconds I can generally turn up alternative practitioners.  One patient had moved and contacted me that there was no one alternative in her area.  I literally found a dozen practitioners within a twelve-mile radius.  Again, many simply don’t advertise because they receive all their patients via word-of-mouth.


5 Replies to “How To Choose A Naturopathic Doctor.”

  1. This is excellent advice. I have had good and bad experiences with doctors from both realms of medicine. In the end, following my gut has proven to guide me in the right direction…..mostly running away from those who do not have the patient’s best interest at heart. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for stopping by and following my blog 🙂

  2. I’d say that distinction is pretty clear in licensed states. In unlicensed states anyone can pretty much put out a shingle and call themselves whatever they’d like. But in licensed states an N.D. has to have gone through a medical program similar to Ontario and B.C., not correspondence.

    In the interest of clarity, it is common for someone to call themselves a Naturopathic Doctor or a Traditional Naturopath, depending on training. For further clarity, I prefer the terms N.D. and Holistic Health Consultant. It just gives people a sense of what to expect. I get edgy when people take on multiple correspondence titles. I only have two letters after my name, and I’m still trying to live up to the expectations of those.

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