How To Pick a Credible Natural Health Practitioner?

At this time in Australia we do not have mandatory registration of natural therapists such as naturopaths, herbalists and naturopathic nutritionists. Registration is voluntary.  It is a way to ensure that practitioners have adequate qualifications and are held accountable if they ever harm or abuse their Picking a credible and trustworthy natural health practitioner can be difficultpower with clients. Because registration is voluntary, the titles are not protected, which means that, despite having no qualifications at all, members of the public can use any of these titles and open a practice. This is unethical and irresponsible at least, and dangerous at most, as evidenced by the recent case of a naturopath, who incidentally had no naturopathic qualifications, giving advice that caused a significant weight loss in a small child. At present, there has to be significant harm done to a member of the public and the police involved before any great consequence is realised.

Additionally this brings a whole profession into disrepute and makes it harder for fully qualified, evidence based practitioners to promote natural treatment options as credible alternatives and complements to mainstream medicine.  With this in mind I’d thought I’d put together some indicators you can use to pick a credible natural health practitioner?

  1. Most important: They have qualifications in the modality they promote. Most practitioners are proud of the hard work and studies they have undertaken and display their qualifications in their waiting or treatment rooms. If these are missing you are perfectly within your rights to ask to see them.
  2. The practitioner is a member of a national association such as the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA), the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS), the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) or Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA). To join these associations practitioners need to have completed a certain level of qualification for each modality and collect Continuing Education Points (CPE) every year to keep their knowledge current.
  3. You can claim on consultations from your health fund if you have ancillary cover. For most funds this is dependent on association membership but some health funds require the practitioner to apply individually with adequate qualifications. The provider number should be for the practitioner you had the appointment with and not for any other person in that clinic. If this is not clear on the invoice you can check with your fund.
  4. They provide an explanation of the treatment plan in language you can understand. You should not be taking large numbers of supplements unless you have a clear understanding on why this is important and how they will directly help with your condition.  Too many supplements are often unnecessary, as they will just overlap each other.
  5. If they carry out in-house testing it is undertaken in an identical manner each time. The reliability of any test can be affected by conditions such as light, temperature, time taken. So if any of these variables change, you may get very different results, making things look better or worse than what they really are.  In house testing can only be used as a guide and not as a diagnostic technique.
  6. All pre-packaged supplements should be unopened. Medicines compounded on site such as herbal medicines and some powders should be adequately labeled with the ingredients listed and dosage clearly marked. The only exception to this may be herbal medicines where the herbs are listed in the clinic’s dispensary book rather than on the bottle’s label. In this case the practitioner, who should have qualifications in herbal medicine or naturopathy, should be happy to share them with you should you wish to do further reading.
  7. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment. Certain herbs, nutrients and even popular diets such as paleo and veganism do not suit everyone and can even be dangerous to some clients. If you have family members and/or friends visiting the same practitioner perhaps discuss your treatment plan with them. Unless you have the same health problem, no two treatment plans should look exactly the same.
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