10 Things To Look For When Visiting A Naturopath


Have You Seen A Natural Healthcare Professional?

Many patients we see as naturopaths have seen been coming to natural healthcare professionals before, some for many years, but many others are taking the plunge and are are coming for the first time. Some have seen chiropractors, massage therapists and herbalists, others have been frequenting reflexologists, colon hydrotherapy practitioners or acupuncturists. But what are the things you look out for that will tell you who is average, and who is a true healthcare professional? How can you discern who is worth visiting time and again, and somebody you would almost certainly recommend family and friends to? Most professionals in my field don’t need to advertise to attract new patients, they just keep coming into their clinic because they have been referred by family or friends. These are the kind of new patients we like, because they have been recommended to us by somebody who has had a positive experience. It takes many years to gain trust and authority in the natural health profession. But how do you discern who is worth visiting only once, and who is worth going back to for many years to come? I’m glad you asked, and that’s why I wrote this article. Here are ten simple tips to guide you in what to look for when choosing a natural medicine health-care professional:

1. Spends Enough Time With You

A typical initial consultation with a natural health care practitioner is anywhere from 45 minutes up to 1 ½ hours. You should have enough time to describe all your complaints, as well as being able to ask all the questions you have. Your practitioner will be relaxed and make you feel at ease, not keeping a constant eye on the clock. Does he or she make or take personal calls, or appear to be preoccupied with other business?

2. Takes A Complete Medical History

On your first visit, your practitioner should ask extensive questions on your medical history and take your case thoroughly. Your practitioner should be competent enough to at least have a greater knowledge of your disease and their treatments than yourself, the person actually presenting with the complaints! Does she enquire into what medications you are taking, ask for blood-test results and perhaps even check out any specialist reports you may bring with you? This shows a high regard for your current medical care, and will certainly put you more at ease right from the beginning.

3. Is Professionally Qualified And Registered

Does your health care practitioner have any professional registrations? These should be displayed, along with the appropriate certificates, diplomas or degrees of qualification. Feel free to enquire where he or she qualified from, if they are professionally registered and how long they have been in practice for. You have a right, after all, you are entrusting them with your most precious asset: your health!

4. Performs A Basic Screen Each Visit

Basic health checks such as blood pressure and weight are important. It is surprising to me that some patients have never even had their blood pressure checked by their natural health practitioner. Avoid practitioners who fail to write things down or don’t take any notes each time they see you. They should be able to grab your file in a few seconds and be familiar with what they recommended previously. Does she keep neat files; is the room neat and tidy? What is their appearance like? Your sixth sense will tell you if something doesn’t quite add up.

5. Will Help Explain What Is Wrong, And Takes The Time To Answer Your Concerns.

Your practitioner should be willing to discuss all aspects of your illness, helping you to understand what is going on, what the diagnosis means if one has been made and help to allay any fears or anxieties you may have. Be aware of instant or snap diagnoses, claims of a cure, or practitioners who ridicule other practitioners or treatments in the health care field.

6. Can See You In Emergency Situations

A good and caring practitioner will keep some time free for patients who need attention with urgent health problems. Can you call him or her two days later with a concern regarding the treatment, and have a quick word about a strong effect from something prescribed? Are you not even giving two minutes on the phone to allay your concerns, and told rather to make another appointment? Do you find that he or she won’t return your call, not even after a few weeks? It may be time to look elsewhere for healthcare.

7. Keeps Track Of All The Medications You Take

Your practitioner should review all medicines you are taking, including any prescribed or over the counter drugs like Panadol, herbal as well as nutritional medicines. Any conscientious practitioner will understand drug-nutrient or herb interactions and will always be on the lookout for potentially harmful interactions and ask you if you are experiencing any side-effects. Does your practitioner do this? This is a very important aspect of any natural medicine practice. I find regularly in my practice that patients on several drugs approach me with strong symptoms, of which many are the side effects from their prescribed drugs!  What a waste of time and their hard earned money when they try to counteract these drug-induced complaints with vitamins and mineral supplements.

It is prudent to remember that the fourth leading cause of death in America is from the conventional Western medical health care system and particularly from pharmaceutical drugs. (Journal of American Medical Association July 2000) Do we have any reason to believe that such statistics are any different in NZ?

8. Makes Fees Available, And Is Willing To Discuss All Of The Charges

You should be able to obtain a list of all the charges for various procedures, appointments and tests. If there is any reluctance or confusion when you enquire about fees, this is a warning sign that your practitioner may not be right for you.

9. Arranges Follow Up Visits Periodically

Not every health problem is solved the moment you leave your practitioner’s office. A caring practitioner should like to see you periodically so that he or she can monitor your progress. Follow-up appointments are important and should be scheduled regularly until you show good improvement in your health. If you have not shown any progress in your condition after several treatments, you should be able to discuss this freely and decide with your practitioner if their treatments are really right for you. You are not obliged to “book ahead” for ten treatments and expect to pay fees upfront for treatments you have not had.

10. Is Willing To Work In With Your Medical Doctor

Professional natural health therapists embrace medical science, rather than ridicule it. By willing to work in with your GP, your natural medicine practitioner is showing you that he or she is a true health care professional. Many professional natural therapists today have Bachelor of Health Science degrees. This is quite different from the days when diplomas were sufficient. However, you may find that your Doctor could show reserve or perhaps even mock your treatments with your natural medicine health care practitioner. I like the saying: condemnation without investigation is the highest form of arrogance.  Don’t let your GP put you off; you decide what healthcare is right for you. You may need to find a Doctor who is willing to accept your stand to embrace the healing powers of nature. The choice is ultimately yours.