As more and more evidence shows that naturopathic medicine is an effective tool on its own or in conjunction with conventional medical care, many people are integrating visits to naturopathic doctors (NDs) into their regular healthcare regimen. 1 2 If you are new to naturopathic medicine, here is what you can expect from the ND-patient relationship and why it is so crucial in yielding effective treatment.
Core to the practice of naturopathic medicine is an individualized, root-cause focused approach to patient care. 3 4 A strong, therapeutic doctor/patient relationship can improve patient outcomes. It is helpful when the patient or their care team thinks of seeing a naturopathic physician as a partnership towards health goals. Patient involvement may take the form of honest sharing about the condition and aspects of one’s life as well as taking ownership of execution of some of the therapeutic options. The patient has a large role in the healing process, so it is most helpful when all are engaged and open regarding assessment, treatment and health maintenance.
Collaboration is an important part of naturopathic medicine. The relationship between a naturopathic doctor and patient is not simply one where the patient is passive and the ND actively treats the patient with minimal input. Instead, the patient is expected to take an active role in their own treatment and engage in learning about their health and prevention of future illness. This collaborative process is why the first visit to a naturopathic doctor tends to be a relatively long session.5 During this first session, the patient is asked a series of questions about their health, lifestyle and symptoms including those they are currently experiencing, and those that they have experienced in the past. 6 The doctor and patient also may explore what treatment paths may be the most beneficial.
Because collaboration and open dialogue are crucial to the naturopathic care process, NDs work hard to create patient relationships built on trust. In order to collaborate fully and receive the most benefit from naturopathic care, it is vital that the patient feel safe, secure and comfortable sharing personal details with their naturopathic doctor. They also must trust that the ND will take their concerns seriously and work towards finding a solution that fits the individual patient. This trust is essential to the practice of naturopathic medicine because it allows for the most effective treatment, so naturopathic healthcare practitioners take extra care to make sure that their patients are given a safe space to speak openly without fear of judgement or dismissal. 7
Doctor as Teacher, Patient as Student
One of the six principles that naturopathic medicine is built on is the concept of “doctor as teacher.” The word “doctor” comes from the Latin docere, which means “to teach.” Naturopathic doctors see themselves as teachers who empower their patients to take charge of their own health through education. 8 The focus on education as well as treatment allows patients to gain a better understanding of their bodies and how to take the steps required to achieve increased health and wellbeing.
If you are interested in the practice of naturopathic medicine, the ND-patient relationship, and are considering a career in the field, get in touch today.