Updated: Aug 28
Let's end the confusion on who is who and what each practitioner can do
Welcome to the confusing world of holistic medicine, where practitioners have similar titles and credentials listed at the end of their names. Grab your popcorn- or carrot sticks. I will try to make this as painless as possible. Practitioners are listed in no specific order.
Quantum Medicine and Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)
Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM, PhD)
*What we are at Basha Holistics*
This is a newer field, about 50 years old, and holds by no other credentials. This is perhaps the broadest medical field, where doctors take classes such as Bioelectronics, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Immunology, Energy/Quantum Medicine, Neurology, Herbalism, Nutrition, Ayurveda, Taoist Medicine, Auriculotherapy, Naturopathy, Psychology, and more. We are super generalists, not specialists. We can make connections between many different symptoms and look at the entire physical and energetic body as a whole. Those who attain their DNM usually also obtain their PhD in Natural Medicine. There is only 1 school in the world who offers a dual DNM, PhD program in Natural Medicine, and it is International Quantum University of Integrative Medicine (Quantum University) with thousands of online attendees from a multitude of countries. One must have at least 60 accredited college credits to enter. Chemistry and Physics are not required to enter. Graduates are doctors (medical educators), but not physicians. They do not palpate clients. They are therefore not required to have licensure. The professional doctoral degree (DNM) demonstrates the ability to evaluate, synthesize, and apply knowledge within a field. The PhD degree gives authority to use research skills to advance theories within the field. All DNMs are board certified under their specific scope of practice. They do not adhere to mainstream hierarchy of the physician-patient relationship or tell them what to do. They guide and educate. They do not diagnose, treat, or prescribe, as this is the arena of the physician. They can assess clients, determine root causes, suggest healing modalities, and provide therapeutic protocols. They are well-versed in holistic and eastern medicine, and are familiar with some conventional medicine. They are required to do lifelong learning, just like the physician. There are other various online schools of natural medicine offering varying credentials, but none do so in such a way as Quantum University, where the medical philosophy is based on empirical and clinical evidence while resting on the foundation of quantum physics.
Pros: DNMs are board certified doctors with over 1,000 hours of practice who can discern the root cause of a condition, and are not limited to only physical conditions. There are 5 options, and they can decipher all of them; if a condition stems from the physical (body), vital (energetic + organ blueprints + feelings), mental (right/wrong meaning given to events), supramental (laws of biological function), or bliss (consciousness + connectedness). Treatment is also highly individualized, thus healing (VS simply curing) is more likely. They are preventative and therefore have few relapse clients. The five fundamental advantages of Natural Medicine are: Safety, efficacy for some conditions that respond poorly to conventional medicine, fewer drugs and less surgery, potential for substantial cost savings, and the advantages of self-care (empowerment and enhanced motivation).
Cons: They are not physicians, and it can be difficult to determine if you need a doctor or physician. DNMs do not perform surgeries, diagnose physical diseases, or prescribe pharmaceuticals.
Because many DNMs are already healthcare workers or doctors, they can call themselves different things such as:
A term used by the doctor of integrative medicine/ integrative doctor. It is not a credential, but more of a title earned by a doctor who is already licensed as a regular medical doctor (MD) or similar, (such as NP, PA, DDS, DAOM, RDN, R. Ph., etc.), PLUS they have a holistic education. Their education and practice 'integrates' both forms of medicine. Functional Doctor is also a permissible term.
A looser term used by any practitioner who focuses on holistic modalities. They do not need to necessarily have a doctoral degree. One can be a functional nutrition counselor, or functional nurse if they attend additional holistic programs.
*It is widely agreed that those who want to be considered integrative must already be licensed doctors, but many are certified in a field, or are doctors but not licensed physicians. There are many functional/integrative schools and academic programs of varying durations with different focuses and philosophies.
Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
This is also referred to as 'Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine' and can- but SHOULD NOT (in my opinion) take on the credentials of DNM or more commonly NMD, despite how the title can be said. This can be confused for "Doctor of Natural Medicine."
If you are seeking a naturopathic doctor, you are seeking a physician who incorporates holistic modalities. Because they are physicians, they are licensed and can palpate (touch) patients. They can treat and diagnose. They go to medical school for 4 years and are required to have a Bachelor's degree to enter. They also need to take science prerequisites. They study classes like Biology, Herbal Science, Chemistry, and Physics in undergrad, and in ND school, they study classes like: Diet and Nutrient Therapy, Constitutional Assessment, Critical Evaluation of the Medical, Literature, and Clinic Observation. They can work in private practice, for other clinics and hospitals, and in conjunction with other doctors, as can all the other practitioners here. They are legally allowed to work in somewhere between 16-22 states. There are only 8 legitimate naturopathic schools in the world. Five of them are in North America, 2 in Canada, and a new one in Puerto Rico as of 2020.
Pros: They are physicians with both eastern and western medical knowledge, and can prescribe both holistic and conventional treatments. They can also perform minor surgeries.
Cons: They closely compare themselves to regular, conventional medical school, and thus resemble a conventional doctor. They might spend similarly limited time with patients, often abiding by what insurance companies dictate, and mainly look at the physical body for disease manifestation.
Naturopathy (not naturopathic)
Naturopath/ Traditional Naturopath (CTN)
Certified Traditional Naturopath
A certified traditional naturopath does not indicate that someone is a physician or doctor. They are usually well-educated health practitioners/ coaches. Do not confuse this with naturopathic doctor. [An ND can say they are a "naturopath", I suppose, but it only confuses. They are more a "naturopathic" (doctor)]. There are two different kinds of people who are referred to as naturopaths. Their scope of practice varies from state to state.
Traditional naturopath: Can serve as a health consultant, but may not diagnose/treat. To my knowledge, there is only one board certification organization that regulates this field and provides a study guide/course and exam. This is the ANMCB. In some states where naturopathic medicine (the field of previously mentioned licensed ND physicians) is not yet regulated and regarded, a naturopath may legally decide to call him/herself a 'naturopathic doctor,' but this would be very incorrect. Be aware in America; there are green states where naturopathy is recognized and respected as a legitimate field. This will allow you to practice more safely. There are only a few states that still see this field as 'witchcraft,' as ridiculous as that sounds. To my knowledge, Tennessee remains as one state (or the only one) that does not accredit naturopathy as of 2021. I'm sure this will change soon.
Licensed naturopathic doctor AKA naturopathic physician: This is an ND, as aforementioned in paragraph 1. Both a naturopath and a naturopathic doctor can take classes in botanical medicine and homeopathy, and can see clients in unregulated states/provinces.
Homeopath/ Homeopathist (CCH)
Certified Classical Homeopath
This is a very specific field that people often misuse to represent anyone in the alternative healthcare field. It actually only refers to practitioners who study homeopathy, as originally designed by Dr. Hahnemann (1755-1843). It is the oldest system of CAM (complementary alternative medicine) originating in Europe. Dr. Hahnemann was a physician so distraught with the potential side-effects of his prescriptions, that he aimed to dilute his medicine enough as not to cause side-effects. He began to discover that with succussion- vigorous shaking of medicine in the dilution process, the energetic signature of the medicine/ plant essence was imprinted into the water, and had the same positive effects on his patients as the original medicine did. Homeopathy states that the more diluted the tincture, the more potent it is. Physical molecules of the medicine are not needed to have an effect; the succussion with each dilution brings the strength of the dosage. It is my personal (and ever-evolving) opinion that a good quantity of homeopathy works, as I look at all the peer-reviewed studies. However, I am uncertain about all of it, and its body type description accuracy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese medicine is a broad field,
offering a few different career paths. In this realm,
practitioners are either an acupuncturist, doctor of acupuncture,
doctor of oriental medicine, or doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine.
The ones with a * are the most common.
Licensed Acupuncturist (L.A.c)
Generally, one must obtain a master's and complete the licensure exam for acupuncture. One needs a masters degree to obtain licensure and these credentials. Then, one can go on to earn their doctorate. Options below.
Doctor of Acupuncture (D.Ac / D.Acu)
One must first obtain the aforementioned masters degree in acupuncture. Doctors of acupuncture primarily focus on various techniques in acupuncture such as needles, cupping, and other technologies.
*Doctor of Oriental Medicine (D.O.M. / O.M.D.)
This doctor is an eastern physician, and in America, can serve as someone's general doctor. These doctors emphasize the utilization of Chinese herbs. They should be able to diagnose illnesses and prescribe Chinese herbs. They look at physical, mental, and psychological stress, and can also address one's spiritual concerns.
*Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM)
The DAOM combines practices of the DOM and acupuncture doctor.
It is my ever-evolving opinion that TCM is an incredible time-tested practice, although some people find difficulty in finding its relatability. For instance, summer is associated with the fire element, where specific questions ensue regarding vitality, ability to give and receive openly. I question the relevance of the seasonal aspects but revere its evaluative questions and ability to heal where other forms of medicine cannot.
(Information obtained from:https://www.online-phd-degrees.com/doctor-of-oriental-medicine-dom-omd/)
A final note on TCM practices:
So many patients are seeking affordable and easy access to incredible TCM modalities like acupuncture, and now, physical therapists and other kinds of practitioners can now legally do dry needling, cupping, and other various techniques. It is a tremendous shame that the highly complex field of acupuncture is being watered down by these practices. This is not an objurgation in any way towards PTs, who are themselves extremely intelligent doctors and diagnosticians, but rather distain aimed towards the way acupuncture is now casually used. Furthermore, it takes away from the true professionals in this area, those who go to school for years to study the subtle nuances of meridians and acupuncture techniques. Meridians (energy channels) vary from person to person and fluctuate throughout the day, and the mark of an excellent acupuncturist is that he/she will continuously tweak the needle position to accurately locate the desired meridian. They will not just stick the needle in and leave the room (at least for very long). Please see licensed acupuncturists for acupuncture and help preserve an ancient art which takes years to truly master.
Ayurveda ("knowledge of life")
This field can include such specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, and
psychiatry, just to name some. According to ayurvedanama.org, there is strict
licensure and standards in place for Ayurvedic practitioners practicing in
America. According to this source, there are three types of practitioners:
Ayurvedic Health Counselors, Ayurvedic Practitioners, and Ayurvedic Doctors.
Ayurvedic Practitioner (AP): Ayurvedic professionals with additional training in pathology and disease management beyond that of the AHC. These professionals also practice preventive healthcare and health promotion, using diet and lifestyle.
Ayurvedic Doctor (AD): Ayurvedic professionals with additional training and knowledge beyond the AP. Although an AD is not permitted to diagnose a Western disease entity, they are taught to refer out appropriately. They interface with Western medicine, are well versed in all branches of Ayurveda, and possess substantial research skills. The AD has significantly more clinical experience based on a more extensive internship."
(National Ayurvedic Medical Association, 2017)
Holistic, Alternative, and Complementary Alternative Medicine
These are typically synonymous terms and are very nondescript. Alternative medicine has more recently come to be known as C.A.M. (complementary alternative medicine). It is no longer thought of as an alternative to other forms of medicine, but one that goes along well with and 'complements' regular western medicine.
There are so many amazing kinds of holistic practitioners. We must also give credit to craniosacral therapists, auriculotherapists, reflexologists, aromatherapists, herbalists, reiki practitioners, and so many more. We do not go in depth here because these are not usually confused with other degrees. The best way to discern what your practitioner does is by researching and becoming familiar with their credential abbreviations, AND by reading their website and medical philosophy, as credential abbreviations can confuse.