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What does contemporary naturopathic practice look like?

Let's unpack what contemporary naturopathic medicine looks like.

Naturopathic medicine is a health care profession in its own right, but also sits within traditional, complementary and integrative medicine more broadly.

In contemporary practice, naturopathic medicine is a healthcare service that sits within the umbrella term – complementary medicine. In this context, complementary medicine is defined as healthcare practices and approaches outside conventional healthcare Zollman & Vickers, 1999. While naturopathic medicine sits outside conventional practice, it is a primary healthcare practice involving multidisciplinary, interprofessional, and integrative care. Naturopathic medicine can sit within these models of care by delivering person-centric care and using naturopathic modalities and treatments. But before we unpack these topics, let’s explore what naturopathic practice may look like.

The consistent characteristics of naturopathic practice come from using naturopathic philosophical frameworks and the similarities in the consultation process. At the same time, the diversity in naturopathic practice stems from using approaches and treatments that are individualised and may encompass multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary care. Naturopathic medicine can involve various modalities. In Australia, naturopaths are commonly trained in four core modalities: botanical medicine, clinical nutritional medicine (e.g. vitamins and mineral supplementation); lifestyle recommendations; and dietary recommendations (e.g. food, beverage choices and dietary plans) Ooi et al., 2018. There can also be differences in training depending on which higher education institution delivers the naturopathic medicine degree, and, in these instances, there may be training in other health modalities. The differences in training can influence diversity in the tools of the trade for individual naturopaths, but in Australia, the core four modalities are consistent. To incorporate naturopathic modalities into practice, naturopaths need to adhere to the naturopathic philosophical frameworks and use clinical decision-making frameworks to ensure the delivery of safe and effective care.

Person-centred care approach

As we have already covered, naturopathic medicine is a health care profession that delivers care through a patient-centric approach Lloyd, 2021. This next section will examine how this model may be delivered within naturopathic practice. Through the combined application of naturopathic principles, naturopaths use a patient-centric approach to clinical practice. What do you think a patient-centred care approach may entail? Let’s take a look at a short video by the World Health Organisation that provides a succinct definition of person-centred care.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Patient-centred care is a multi-dimensional and evolving concept that has progressed from its inception in the late 1960s and continued to change until the essential foundations were identified in 2001 Santana et al., 2018. As a healthcare concept, it is a systemic whole-person approach to healthcare that addresses patients’ needs, values, and preferences. It acknowledges and promotes the delivery of safe and effective care by emphasising patient and practitioner partnership Delaney, 2018.

Patient-centred care is a universal concept that has gained movement in implementing patient-centred care approaches into other healthcare professions. However, there can be differences in patient-centred care due to diversity in healthcare practices and approaches and the lack of consistency in patient-centred care definitions. Understanding a person-centred care approach to naturopathic medicine is valuable in many ways, including ensuring the delivery of safe and effective care that upholds naturopathic philosophical frameworks and ensuring patients receive individualised and holistic care that meets their values, needs, and preferences.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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