Natural healing, often referred to as "alternative" "complementary" or "integrative" medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches and therapies.
This discipline offers many natural health careers, treatments and health care practices that are beginning to be recognized in the medical community as natural healing arts that promote wellness through disease prevention. In fact, according to a CDC National Health Statistics report, "Approximately 38 percent of adults in the United States aged 18 years and over, and nearly 12 percent of U.S. children aged 17 years and under, use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)." As these healing methods continue to become integrated with mainstream health care, the outlook for natural health careers remain strong. This is why alternative medicine careers have seen such tremendous growth.
Recognition in Mainstream Health Care
It is exciting to note the increasing acceptance and visibility of alternative, natural health and complementary forms of healing—especially in specialty areas like chiropractic, acupuncture and herbal therapy that are less known by the general public.
A report developed by the Institute for Alternative Futures noted that today, complementary and alternative approaches to health and medicine are among the fastest growing aspects of health care and natural health careers. This reported concluded the following:
- Many doctors and nurses now seek information and continuing education in natural medicine modalities.
- Natural health degree schools and practitioners also promote research to validate and further their professions (for example, some natural healing arts schools now have their own research departments).
- Collaborative healing arts centers and integrative medicine clinics are opening up across the U.S. to address the needs of the whole person from a variety of healing arts perspectives.
- Moreover, patient demand for health insurance coverage for natural therapies is increasing as people want improved access to alternative therapies.
Careers and Alternative Medicine Modalities
Many natural healing modalities focus on treating the root cause of a patient's symptoms, as opposed to the symptoms themselves. The practitioners look at a person as whole, or holistically, considering the physical body, the mind, emotions and spirit of the patient. Many modalities are unique in that they assist the body in healing itself by jump-starting the body's innate healing wisdom. Much of natural healing involves preventative measures as well, with the practitioner educating and treating people to prevent health problems from arising.
These therapies come from many places. Some have been developed over the past 100 years in Western cultures, while others, which are thousands of years old, trace their roots to India and China. Natural healing modalities are used in many ways. Some therapies are used alone; some in combination with other natural therapies, and still others are used in addition to conventional, allopathic medical care.
More Individualized Care
Many natural health career healing modalities incorporate more contact time per patient than the Western medical model. The practitioner often takes more time to learn about the person, conduct the assessment and provide treatment. A natural health practitioner may ask questions that delve into other aspects of the patient's life beyond the physical symptoms. Overall, there is a greater emphasis on the importance of the patient/practitioner relationship.
Natural health practitioners often look at a patient's diet, lifestyle, exercise habits, energy, emotions, dreams, and much more to get the complete picture of one's health. Many times it's a combination of factors that affect one's health: nutritional deficiencies, poor digestion, food allergies, toxicity from environmental pollutants, or mental or emotional stress, overuse of antibiotics. Treatments may last from half an hour to 50 minutes for a massage, or up to 2 hours for a first visit to a naturopath or acupuncturist, compared with seven to 15 minutes for a conventional medicine office visit.
Abundant Natural Health Career Opportunities
Some students of the healing arts find themselves in private practice or in practitioner groups after several months of schooling, while other natural health careers require three to five years of preparation and training. Potential students, as well as practitioners already in the field, are seeing training programs (and continuing education) become more standardized, more schools are gaining accreditation, and many modalities are experiencing increased regulations and licensing requirements in their fields.
Overall, practitioners trained in the natural healing arts are experiencing tremendous career opportunities in a climate of support, growth, collaboration and integration. While some practitioners have a private practice, others work for clinics, wellness centers, and other companies. Some healing modalities, once considered fringe, are now deemed "mainstream," and other ancient healing traditions are enjoying newfound interest, curiosity and acceptance. Natural health is an area to watch as more healing modalities continue to emerge and become an integral part of how we heal ourselves.