A naturopathic doctor is a medical doctor that mainly practices alternative medicine. They are sometimes referred to as naturopathic physicians or naturopaths. Naturopathy is a natural medical technique that is natural and non-invasive. The natural approach to healthcare has not been in the mainstream for a long time, but natural medicines and natural healthcare, in general, are making a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
Government Regulations and Accreditation:
There is great variation between the education, regulation, and accreditation of naturopathic doctors in different states. A degree from a four-year accredited Naturopathic Medical school will be accepted by some licensing agencies such as the Bureau of Health Professions in California. Licensing for these practitioners varies widely across state lines with some states not requiring any licensure at all. Naturopathic Doctors may refer to themselves as ND’s (Not Doctors), NMD’s (Naturopathic Medical Doctors), or NTP’s (Naturopathic Trained Practitioners). There is no formal standardization among colleges that offer these degrees so when looking for a Naturopathic Doctor it is important to ask about their training.
The National Board of Naturopathic Examiners (www.nbne.org) offers certification in the form of a credential called the NPLEX. This is a voluntary examination that naturopathic doctors may take after graduating from an accredited school. Passage of this exam demonstrates that a doctor has met basic competency standards in 16 areas of practice including clinical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of methods to treat patients which usually include dietary changes, exercise, lifestyle counseling, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and hydrotherapy. They often focus on prevention and treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of an illness. Naturopathic doctors must be well-versed in the art of preventative care because, like other primary care providers, they are often the first point of defense for any given patient.
They Treat Normal Conditions:
Naturopathic doctors usually treat acute conditions such as strep throat or ear infections with natural methods alone. Patients with chronic diseases or who have not responded to traditional medical therapies may receive naturopathic treatment in conjunction with traditional treatments. Treatments used by these practitioners include herbal medicine, homeopathy, and lifestyle counseling. Naturopathic doctors do perform minor surgery which includes biopsies and taking blood samples along with many other invasive procedures that are performed at a clinic or office setting. Some states require them to be supervised by a licensed medical doctor when performing these procedures.
The Cost of Naturopathic Care:
Like other forms of complementary and alternative medicine, the cost of naturopathic care can vary greatly. There is usually a lower up-front cost for naturopathic services, but some patients may need to continue treatment for an extended period. The average cost for a visit to a naturopathic doctor is around $100.00.
Many insurance companies do not cover the cost of naturopathic care, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does allow for coverage of preventive services from these practitioners. Some states have passed laws that make it mandatory for insurance companies to cover the cost of naturopathic services. You can check with your state insurance commissioner’s website to see if this is the case in your state.
Naturopathic doctors are trained to use a variety of methods for treatment, including diet and lifestyle counseling. They can treat acute conditions such as strep throat or ear infections with natural remedies alone but the focus is usually on prevention and treating the whole person rather than just symptoms of an illness. You will need to consult your state’s health insurance carrier if you want coverage from them for naturopathic care.