There are two main schools of thought as to how a naturopath should practice. Some prefer a traditional approach as defined by those who first coined the term in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
“Naturopathy is a distinct school of healing, employing the beneficient agency of Nature's forces, of water, air, sunlight, earthpower, electricity, magnetism, exercise, rest, proper diet, various kinds of mechanical treatment, and mental and moral science. As none of these agents of rejuvenation can cure every disease, the Naturopath rightly employs the combination that is best adapted to each individual case.”
Quoted from the father of Naturopathy, Benedict Lust in the book Naturopathy for the 21st Century by Robert J. Thiel, Ph.D.
These traditional naturopaths (like myself) believe that poor health is a result of a departure from healthful living according to Nature's laws and prefer to focus on helping their clients to make dietary and lifestyle changes to get at the root cause of a person's illness.
Others practice naturopathy as an alternative to conventional medicine's use of pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. The public flocks to these naturopathic practitioners looking for something “more natural” than drugs with less side effects. And increasingly naturopaths try to fill that role by recommending isolated nutrient supplements, potent herbal extracts, essential oils and whatever else will provide the quick fix that clients demand. They may pour over blood tests and lab reports and read up on medical diagnoses hoping to fill in the blanks where medical doctors left off. Schools have since sprung up to fill the educational needs of these types of naturopaths by combining a pre-med degree with herbal and nutritional education and pushing for licensing and legislation to make their version the only legal way to practice naturopathy.
It's a fine line between these two types and I find myself swaying dangerously on occasion out of my original education and scope of practice in my efforts to keep my clients satisfied (and coming in the door!) It's time to sit back, take a deep breath and think about whether this model is really helping people. A quick fix may be what most people think they want but traditional naturopaths must be the parental voice that points out what people really need. We need nutritious food, fresh air, clean water, deep rest, meaningful relationships, and a spiritual connection. We need to relearn how to be human beings living on the planet Earth.
The problem is how do we keep our clients interested on self-improvement? How do we keep them focused on the long-term goal in a society of short attention spans? Is there still room for traditional naturopaths?
There is no doubt in my mind that a traditional form of naturopathy is the only form that will produce lasting health. “Prevention is the best medicine” as they say and teaching others how to live according to the laws of nature is needed more now in this present day and age than ever before.
Human beings (particularly in the United States) are working hard toward extinction. Increased rates of chronic degenerative diseases and cancer, increased rates of infertility and infant mortality, increases in cognitive and behavioral disorders, increases in pollution of our environment and decreases in the nutritional value of our food... we are in serious danger here.
I'm not advocating for turning back the clock and living like Amish people (though I really like and respect my “plain” friends) but we have changed so much in so short a time – our bodies can't keep up! We have more technology giving us more free time and more entertainment and yet we are more stressed and depressed than ever. Making drastic changes to our lives is very difficult and people need someone to guide them, encourage them, be a role model for them, and most importantly - keep them accountable. That is the role that I believe naturopaths are best suited for. That is how I want to teach, how I want to practice, and how I want to live. I hope you will join me.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.