Naturopathic and Holistic Medicine Programs In America
Areas of Study
You've probably seen ads for naturopathic and holistic medicine and healers and wondered how they get started. Helping people with natural techniques sounds great! Naturopathic and holistic medicine is something that affects people's lives, and is therefore a field that is becoming increasingly popular and regulated. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government's lead agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). NCCAM is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within US Dept of Health and Human Services. And as of November 2007, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have passed regulations to license, certify or register massage and bodywork practitioners. So don't think you can just hang out your sign and be ready to go. Whether you hope to be self-employed or work in an established clinic or wellness center, you need the proper recognized training to be certified and licensed to work in naturopathic and holistic medicine. Here are some of the education options:
There are a handful of universities and 4-year colleges offering 4-year accredited programs in naturopathic and holistic health. These institutions often offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, and it may be possible in some cases to take a concurrent bachelor's/ master's. Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees are available in acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM), nutrition, herbal sciences, health psychology, holistic health, exercise and wellness. Within the health psychology major you may be able to take a human biology/ pre-med track, and often one major allows you take courses in the other areas as well. Many of these programs prepare students to sit for national certification exams. Some universities also offer two-year associate's degrees, such as the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Massage Therapy, which is a huge field of its own. Within massage therapy there are many different massage therapy styles from different cultures around the world, including acupressure massage, deep tissue massage, Swedish, Thai, Shiatsu, Lomi Lomi, reiki, prenatal massage, sports massage, chair massage, infant massage, hot stone therapy, energy therapies, spa therapies and mind-body therapies among others.
University programs are generally geared towards training students for graduate studies and, often, toward designations such as Master of Science in Acupuncture (MSAc), Master of Science in Oriental medicine (MSOM), Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine (DC) or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND). However, there are other options for those students not wanting to spend years earning their master's or doctorate.
A number of career-focused colleges are devoted exclusively to the field of naturopathic and holistic medicine, and you might find massage therapy programs offered at beauty and cosmetology schools, allied health and technical institutes, or even business colleges! At the 2-year college level you will find diploma and certificate programs like Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritional Consultant, Master Herbalist, Massage Therapy and Massage Therapy Technician. Graduates may be eligible for certification by The American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board. Community and career college programs are often eligible for credit transfer toward a Bachelor's program.
Curriculum for all naturopathic and holistic medicine programs at all levels emphasizes "hands-on" training. You won't just read textbooks and sit in classrooms, but will participate and practice what you learn all along the way. That way you'll learn the technical and communication skills necessary to treat your future patients with confidence. Community and career college programs also often focus on business skills to prepare you for opening your own practice, should you want to do so.
Traditional medical schools get a lot of attention and publicity, but the field of naturopathic and holistic medicine is a challenging and rewarding alternative for a meaningful health care career.
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