“So are you like, a real doctor?” This is a question I still sometimes get asked as a Naturopathic Doctor. However, it’s a question that’s not always easy to answer because the definition and perception of a “real doctor” varies depending on who’s asking. It’s also an understandable question, as with so many titles being thrown around in the health and wellness fields, things can get confusing. So, are Naturopaths doctors?? Let’s take time to clear up some of the confusion about what it all means..
What Is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is what Naturopathic Doctor practices. It’s a primary healthcare provider who is trained to:
- Diagnose illness
- Treat illness
- Prevent illness
This is done by getting to know individual patients and their health concerns or goals. Then, using natural modalities that best support the optimal health of each individual patient. Visits with a Naturopathic Doctor are usually quite relaxed.
What’s Involved When Seeing A Naturopath?
- Information gathering through chatting about each patient’s health story
- Any necessary physical exams like taking body temperature, blood pressure, etc.
- Any necessary bloodwork
Typical Treatment Modalities Include:
- Diet and lifestyle counseling
- Nutritional support
- Herbal medicine
Naturopathic Doctors work as a team with patients to come up with a plan to achieve desired health goals. Patients are always in the driver’s seat and a Naturopathic Doctor acts as more of a guide to health.
Day In The Life of a Naturopathic Doctor
How Is A Naturopathic Doctor Different From Other Natural Health Practitioners?
Depending where you are in the world, titles and regulations may vary slightly. For example, in Ontario, Canada, where I practice, a Naturopathic Doctor or ND is a regulated healthcare professional. This means every ND in Ontario has:
- Spent 3-4 years completing an undergraduate degree
- 4 years in naturopathic medical school
- Passed all of the licensing exams required to practice in Ontario
- Continues to be governed and regulated by the College of Naturopaths of Ontario
While other non-regulated natural health practitioners may also be very well equipped to help with your health concerns, there may not be any requirements or governing bodies that hold them to a standard of practice. Therefore, it is important to do your research ahead of time.
How Is A Naturopathic Doctor Different From A Medical Doctor?
In Terms Of Education
Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors both complete an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. However, naturopathic medical students spend a great deal more time learning about:
- Lifestyle counseling
- Botanical medicine
- Traditional Chinese medicine
Thus, less time learning about surgery and pharmacology.
Medical Doctors also specialize by completing a 3-7-year residency depending on the specialization. While Naturopathic Doctors have the option to complete a 2-year clinical residency. Although, many start practice without completing a residency.
In Terms Of Practice
As you may have realized from the differences in educational background, the major difference between Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors lies in their approach for treatment. Medical Doctors are trained to recognize immediate concerns quickly and work with patients to come up with a solution that will act fast.
However, Naturopathic Doctors have the luxury of more time with patients. Therefore visits move more slowly. Allowing patients and ND’s to get to know each other and come up with a long-term treatment plan together.
ND’s have many tools at their disposal to help and patients often notice gentle, long-lasting changes, slowly over time. Along with an improved sense of well-being. These different approaches tend to make MD’s highly skilled at treating urgent, acute conditions. While ND’s tend to be more suited toward treating chronic conditions or optimizing health and preventing illness.
Medical Doctors are also covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan or OHIP while Naturopathic Doctors are often covered by extended health insurance plans.
So Are Naturopaths “Real Doctors”?
So, what Is Naturopathy and are naturopaths real doctors?? Well, it still depends on what you mean by “real doctor” . But now at least now you know what it means to be a Naturopathic Doctor and you can decide whether or not that fits your definition of a “real doctor.” Click here to find a natural healthcare provider near you.
If you want to chat more about this topic or any of your other health concerns, reach out, I’m always happy to chat!
Felicia is a Naturopathic Doctor whose own healthcare experiences lead her to discover the benefits of naturopathic medicine. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2013 at McMaster University, majoring in Biology & Psychology and completed an Honours thesis in behavioural neuroscience, investigating emotional regulation and mood disorders in adolescents. She then went on to earn her Doctor of Naturopathy degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. In 2017, in her 4th year of post-graduate study, she completed a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, which included a pediatric-focused shift, a placement in the Queen West Community Health Centre, as well as a global clinical preceptorship in India.
Felicia aims to share knowledge and experiences gained on her own journey to help others on their health journeys. Gentle curiosity guides her practice and much time is spent in visits exploring symptoms and making connections to discover their root cause. Nutritional and lifestyle counseling are an important part of every treatment. Other tools Felicia uses to help ease symptoms and guide the healing process may include: acupuncture, botanical/plant medicine, homeopathy, and hydrotherapy. She also loves food and gardening and believes both are among the most powerful medicines.