Naturopathic Doctors are Primary Care Physicians in the state of Oregon. Their scope of practice includes diagnosis and treatment of disease. They are licensed to do procedures such as IV nutrition therapy, trigger point injection therapy, minor surgery, physical medicine techniques similar to Chiropractic, and pharmaceutical medicine. Their understanding of human physiology and biochemistry allows them to apply a variety of therapies in a safe and effective way.
Naturopathic Physicians are known for their compassion, their listening and communication skills and their knowledge of the body. They are thorough in their physical examination, laboratory and imaging diagnosis skills. Because of the wide variety of therapies available, they are able to offer therapies that are both effective for the current condition and preventative in nature.
To become a Naturopathic Physician, one must have first undergone 4 years of undergraduate studies, fulfilled medical-science based prerequisites and subjected themselves to a rigorous application and admissions process before attending any single naturopathic training institution. The naturopathic medical education is at the graduate level and requires 4 years (minimum) of studies to complete the required course work. Following the successful completion of the course work, doctors are then required to sit and pass the Naturopathic Board Exams.
Not all states license Naturopathic physicians. To determine if your state is licensed, or to get involved in licensing your state, visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at http://www.naturopathic.org.
The 5 tenants of naturopathic medicine are derived from the Naturopathic Medicine Oath. The tenants serve as the cornerstone for the practice of naturopathic medicine. They are an integral part of naturopathic care and require close, individual consideration.
1. First of all, to do no harm
The naturopathic practitioner’s first responsibility is to use as little force, or treatment, necessary to stimulate the patient’s own “vital force” or innate ability to heal. For example: if a bladder infection can be treated using botanical formulations and increased water intake, the practitioner will implement these therapies first. If the infection appears to be severe, the practitioner may implement ‘conventional’ therapies like antibiotics, but then also utilize therapies like botanicals, nutrition and hydrotherapy, to heal the damaged tissues and support the healthy function of the weakened urinary system. Healing tissues that may be damaged or weak helps to prevent recurrence of the disease and leave the tissues less susceptible to recurrent infections.
2. To act in cooperation with the Healing Power of Nature
All organisms have a vital force within them. The vital force is the drive and desire to live and grow and heal. Stimulating the vital force to achieve the highest possible level of health happens on a physical, mental and spiritual plane. A healthy body can effectively handle stress and eliminate toxic chemicals and metabolites that it may encounter. A healthy mind can generate positive thoughts, problem solve and synthesize information. A healthy spirit is capable of living in harmony with the relationships between self and others can sit in peace while exploring emotional situations of any magnitude (including death) and can calmly accept with joy the place it holds in the world.
3. To address the fundamental cause of disease
The root cause of a disease can be attributed to a variety of factors or any combination thereof. Environment, relationships, mental or emotional stressors, spiritual conflicts, heredity or the body itself are examples of factors that can cause disease. Addressing the fundamental cause(s) provides many answers to the practitioner and to the patient and can allow them to implement effective changes restore health.
4. To heal the whole person through individualized treatment
Providing individualized treatment requires the physician to listen to the patient. Listening to the patient provides the practitioner with valuable information that can help heal the whole person. Developing a treatment plan that optimizes the patients vital force and is in accordance to the patient’s motivations can potentially generate much stronger compliance than otherwise. Finding treatment options that fit the individual patient’s wants and needs brings greater success for both the physician and the patient.
Naturopathic treatment includes providing the patient with information about their condition, their treatment options and alternatives, and the potential risks and success rates of each treatment option. The patient is welcome to ask questions, supporting their right be informed and understand their situation. This act of educating the patient empowers the patient, placing the choice of their care in their hands. This process is called PARQ (Procedure, Alternatives, Risks, Questions) and has been traditionally used for surgical procedures. Naturopathic practitioners utilize the PARQ format for each patient.
5. To teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine
Naturopathic physicians motivate and educate patients to fully remove unhealthy habits and make choices that support wellness. Full removal of unhealthy habits does not revolve around shame or guilt (ie “I have to give up cigarettes because they cause cancer”). Rather, the teaching of preventative medicine is at a deeper level (“I started smoking when I was 16 years old, the day after my dad died”). The naturopathic practitioner looks at the motivations behind the habits. If one is not motivated to change, lifestyle changes are probably not going to occur. If one is motivated for all the wrong reasons, the changes they make are most likely not going to last.
For those who find their motivations and are ready for change, Naturopathic Physicians are experts in healthy living. Lifestyle choices such as dining in a quiet place, resting peacefully, exercising regularly, choosing healthy foods and appropriately challenging the mind and body with stresses one feels capable and has tools to handle are a few of the essential ways of restoring health. Interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions are also a vital component to the patient’s quality of life and health. Teaching the patient communication skills, problem focus and solving techniques, stress management, etc., can shift the emotions of the interactions from anxiety or anger to love and compassion. In doing so, teaching healthy living and preventative medicine will not only affect the patient, but will also affect the patient’s family, friends, co-workers and community.
The five tenants of naturopathic medicine are the cornerstones to the naturopathic practice of restoring health. The third tenant: addressing the fundamental cause, will be considered further. The causes presented are theoretical. Laboratory evidence or double blind trials have yet to support most of them. However, clinical, antidotal and individual experience has proven to be too significant to ignore.
Naturopathic Medicine Oath
- I dedicate myself to the service of humanity as a practitioner of the art and science of Naturopathic Medicine.
- I will honor my teachers and all who have preserved and developed this knowledge and dedicate myself to supporting the growth and evolution of naturopathic medicine. I will endeavor to continually improve my abilities as a healer through study, reflection and genuine concern for humanity. I will impart knowledge of the advanced healing arts to dedicated colleagues and students.
- Through precept, lecture and example, I will assist and encourage others to strengthen their health, reduce risks for disease, and preserve the health of our planet for ourselves, our families, and future generations.
- According to my best ability and judgment, I will use methods of treatment which follow the principles of naturopathic medicine:
- First of all, to do no harm
- To act in cooperation with the Healing Power of Nature
- To address the fundamental cause of disease
- To heal the whole person through individualized treatment
- To teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine
- I will conduct my life and the practice of naturopathic health care with vigilance, integrity and freedom from prejudice. I will abstain from voluntary acts of injustice and corruption. I will keep confidential whatever I am privileged to witness, whether professionally or privately, that should not be divulged.
- With my whole heart, before this gathering of witnesses, as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, I pledge to remain true to this oath.
(Adopted by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) in 1992)