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Doctor as teacher (Docere)

Once a naturopath has identified the cause of disease, patients need to be educated on what this means to their health.
An image of a practitioner educating a patient on the results of their recent pathology tests.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

“The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease” (Thomas Edison, 1847-1931).

Simply, Doctor as teacher Docere means to teach and for naturopaths this means educating and empowering patients to advocate and manage their health care and well-being. The origins of Docere can be traced back to comments made by Henry Lindlahr and other Nature cure practitioners, who stated that doctors will do more in teaching patients than prescribing Lindlahr, 1913; World Naturopathic Federation, 2017.

While the definition of this naturopathic principle appears simple, there is a lot that underpins this principle – for instance, it requires ongoing collaboration between the naturopath and patient. Naturopaths play a role in educating patients about health, disease and illness, but also about identifying, understanding, and modifying contributors to disease and illness. Importantly, naturopaths need to be able to identify modifiable factors in patient’s lives and educate them on how to implement changes to maintain or optimise their own health. Examining patients’ choices to diet and lifestyle approaches is an essential and modifiable aspects of Doctor as teacher World Naturopathic Federation, 2017

Imagine a patient is seeking help from a naturopath about a condition that they have had for a few months which appears to be getting progressively worse. Instead of solely focusing on prescribing treatments, the naturopath will take the role of an educator. Naturopaths will invest time in explaining the underlying causes behind the presenting health issues (identify and treat the cause – Tolle causam) and the mechanisms at play in the human body. The naturopath will then use their knowledge to offer insights about what is occurring and how, what dietary and lifestyle choices have impacted the presentation of the condition, and how naturopathic treatments and approaches can contribute to the healing process (the healing power of nature – Vis medicatrix naturae). This empowers patients to have a full understanding of the origins of their health concerns and ways to collaborate and work through them together. Naturopaths can support patients in managing their health and disease by providing them with appropriate, relevant, and tailored information on what they can do to modify their health-related choices and behaviours. The benefits of the principle, Doctor as teacher – Docere, goes beyond supporting disease management, by also providing support for the prevention of disease onset and progression.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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