Eric Bakker N.D.May 12, 2022

Have you visited a naturopath before? What should you expect? Read this article on the ten important things to consider if you are going to visit a naturopath near you.


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 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 repeatedly, and somebody you would almost certainly recommend family and friends to? Or was your experience not the best, and the health-care practitioner you saw was rather unprofessional?

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 new patients we like, because they have been recommended to us by somebody who has had a positive experience. It can take many years, sometimes several decades, 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 exactly why I wrote this article. The article was not intended to offend any naturopath or health-care professional; it was written to inform new prospective patients about what qualities to look out for in their naturopath.

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 about 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 certificates, diplomas or degrees of qualification. 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,  you are entrusting them with your most precious asset: your health.

4. Performs Regular Basic Screens

Basic health checks such as blood pressure and weight are important. It is surprising to me that some patients never even had their blood pressure checked by their natural health practitioner. When did your naturopath last ask you for a copy of any blood test results?

Certainly avoid practitioners who don’t write things down or don’t take any notes each time they see you. They should be able to grab your file in a mere few seconds and be familiar with what they recommended previously. I kept paper files for over 30 years, and later in my career, moved into computer and paper files. Does your naturopath keep neat files? is the room tidy? What is their appearance like? Your sixth sense will tell you if something doesn’t quite add up.

5. Can Explain What Is Wrong, Takes Time To Answer Concerns

Your practitioner should 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 powerful effect from something prescribed to you? 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 paracetamol or Advil (Ibuprofen) including any herbal and 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 of 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, Willing To Discuss All Charges

You should be able to get 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. If you are asked to pay for several appointments “in advance”, it’s time to look for another clinic.

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 a wonderful improvement in your health. If you have shown no 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 medical doctor, your natural medicine practitioner is showing you he or she is a true health care professional. Many professional natural therapists today have Bachelor of Health Science degrees. This differs from the days when diplomas were sufficient. However, you may find that your medical doctor could show reserve or perhaps even mock your treatments with your natural medicine health care practitioner.

A study from 2010 revealed that nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including taking herbal medicines or dietary supplements. Other studies show that pharmacists and physicians currently lack the knowledge, confidence, and training to provide proper guidance to the increasing number of patients who are using complementary and alternative forms of medicine.

Don’t let your doctor put you off; you decide what healthcare is right for you. You may need to find a doctor who will accept your stand to embrace the healing powers of nature. The choice is ultimately yours.


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