How to Choose a Naturopathic Doctor

In this blog post you'll learn what to look for in selecting a naturopathic doctor and also have a resource for finding one in your area.

By The Institute for Natural Medicine

The most important criteria in selecting a naturopathic doctor (ND) are that the doctor:

  1. has a naturopathic medical degree earned from an accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical college
  2. has passed rigorous board exams as part of a licensure or certification process

There are currently seven accredited naturopathic medical programs in North America. They are: Bastyr University, National University of Natural Medicine, National University of Health Sciences, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, University of Bridgeport—College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.

Twenty-two states and U.S. territories permit access to safe, effective, and affordable licensed or certified naturopathic doctors. These include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. For a map of regulated states and states seeking licensure, click here.

What happens during the first visit

Licensed NDs will take the patient’s health history, ask questions about diet, stress levels, lifestyle habits and exercise, use of tobacco and alcohol, prescription drugs and supplements they may be taking, and discuss the reasons they are seeking care from an ND. The doctor might also perform a physical examination and order diagnostic tests. Based on their findings, they will work with the patient to set up a customized treatment plan and health management strategy. If necessary, the doctor may refer the patient to other health care practitioners.

Naturopathic doctors understand conventional medicine and use many of its diagnostic tools and treatments in their practices. They are also well-versed in treatment plans and health management strategies that are not normally taught in conventional medical schools, and may not be available from a conventional medical doctor. One example is the use of plant-based medicines (botanicals). Used correctly, these medicines, along with lifestyle changes, can improve many aspects of a patient’s health.

An ND will focus on understanding the root causes of health symptoms patients may be experiencing as well as their overall health and wellness goals. This takes time. As a result, the first visit might last an hour or more and follow-up visits could last 30 minutes or more, depending on the patient.

How to find a naturopathic doctor

Licensed NDs work in a variety of clinical settings, including private practices, hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. As a service to consumers, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) provides a naturopathic doctor directory of its members and a finder tool on its website, available here.

This information has been provided by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM).

About the INM

The INM is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides public education about naturopathic medicine and increases consumer access to naturopathic doctors. As a close partner to the AANP, the INM strives to increase consumer and physician choice in safe, effective healthcare that improves patient outcomes and lowers costs. For more information visit www.naturemed.org or call 855-799-4490.

About the AANP

The AANP is the professional association that represents licensed naturopathic physicians. The AANP strives to make naturopathic medicine available to every American, and to increase recognition of naturopathic physicians as the identified authorities on natural medicine. Learn more at www.naturopathic.org.

About the Author

The Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides public education about naturopathic medicine and increases consumer access to naturopathic doctors. As a close partner to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the INM strives to increase consumer and physician choice in safe, effective healthcare that improves patient outcomes and lowers costs. For more information visit www.naturemed.org or call 855-799-4490.