Many people feel drawn to the healing professions, but not all are comfortable with the Western medical approach. Holistic health practitioners offer an increasingly respected and centuries-old alternative that emphasizes total wellness of mind, body, emotions, and spirit. They treat people not as collections of parts and diseases, but as whole individuals.
This is an exciting time to pursue a holistic health education. Many ancient healing traditions, such as acupuncture, Ayurveda and herbal medicine, are enjoying renewed popularity. Newer healing modalities that were once dismissed are now being researched and respected. People are taking responsibility for their personal wellness and looking to trained professionals to help them on their path.
Successful holistic health practitioners usually possess the following attributes:
- Committed to lifelong learning
- Curious and open-minded
- Sensitive and compassionate
- A good listener and excellent verbal communicator
- Highly observant and detail-oriented
- Attentive to their own health and wellness
If you are interested in pursuing a career in holistic health, you can choose from an enormous range of holistic health education options. You may choose to seek an integrated degree in holistic health or to specialize in a specific healing approach.
Holistic Health Practitioner Education
Most holistic health practitioners have knowledge in some or all of the following areas:
A general holistic health certificate program will offer a cursory education on most of these topics. Depending on your interests, you will probably want to pursue deeper learning in one or more specialty areas. For example, a massage therapist will need an advanced understanding of anatomy, physiology and massage techniques. An herbalist will learn the properties of many plants, including methods for preparation and contraindications. You may decide to develop multiple specialties, so you should be sure that your holistic health education prepares you for any licensing requirements in your state.
Some holistic health practitioners follow an established tradition, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Ayurveda. If you choose this path, you may wish to attend a holistic health school that focuses specifically on your area of interest, where you can learn the history of and diagnostic and treatment methods specific to that healing tradition.
Since many holistic health practitioners practice independently, even if they work in a spa or wellness center, business management skills are essential.
Average Length of Study
Holistic health school programs vary widely in length and style. It is important to take the time to research your program carefully because your future clients will be very interested in your background. You will need to demonstrate that you received a legitimate education and earned any certifications or licenses appropriate to your work.
Depending on your focus and program choice, your holistic health training may take as little as a year or more than four years. Most programs offer a diploma or certificate. Some offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition, Natural Health or Natural Health Studies. Master’s degrees are also available, and you can even complete post-graduate education to become a Doctor of Naturopathy, Doctor of Natural Health, or Doctor of Philosophy in Holistic Nutrition.
The cost of your training will depend on the specialty you choose; the length of the program; and the degree, certificate or license you pursue. You can complete training in many healing modalities for less than a thousand dollars. On the other end of the spectrum, a degree as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) requires a post-graduate program nearly as extensive and expensive as medical school.
Many holistic health practitioners start with training in one modality and continue their studies with other specialties. For example, a massage therapist may learn reflexology and aromatherapy to offer a more holistic experience to clients. In this way, you can develop your career over time without spending a lot upfront.
Certification and Licensing
There are many certification and licensing options in the holistic health field. Some areas of focus, such as massage therapy, require you to obtain a valid license in the state where you will practice. Other fields, such as aromatherapy, are not regulated.
Certain schools and organizations have begun offering broad and inclusive certification in holistic health. One popular option is board certification as a Holistic Health Practitioner through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.
Holistic Health Practitioner Career Outlook
Modern society is rife with pollution, stress, and disease, and people are concerned about their health and increasingly aware of the limitations of Western medicine. Because of these reasons, the demand for holistic health practitioners has increased dramatically in recent years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) current Occupational Outlook Handbook expects above-average growth rates through 2028 in alternative medicine professions such as chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy, and nutrition. Meanwhile, the salon and spa industries are booming like never before. It’s a great time to join the wellness industry.
Holistic Health Practitioner Salaries
Your income as a holistic health practitioner will vary depending on your specialty, your experience, your place of employment, and the work that you do to earn credibility and build a strong client base.
Salary information is not available for the full range of holistic health careers, but there are statistics for some career types that show how competitive incomes can be in the alternative health field. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for chiropractors is $71,410; dietitians and nutritionists earn $60,370, and massage therapists earn $41,420. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.
With hard work, skill, and determination, you can make an excellent living as a holistic health practitioner. And perhaps more importantly, you will enjoy the priceless personal satisfaction of helping others achieve optimum health.