The Difference Between all the Holistic Types of Practitioners

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Let's end the confusion on who is who & what each practitioner can do

Welcome to the confusing world of holistic medicine, where practitioners have similar titles & 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.


Nauturopathic Doctor (ND)

This is also referred to as 'Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine' & 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 & can palpate (touch) patients. They can treat & diagnose. They go to medical school for 4 years & are required to have a Bachelors degree to enter. They also need to take science prerequisites. They study classes like Biology, Herbal Science, Chemistry, & Physics in undergrad, & in ND school, they study classes like: Diet & Nutrient Therapy, Constitutional Assessment, Critical Evaluation of the Medical, Literature, & Clinic Observation. They can work in private practice, for other clinics & hospitals, & 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, & a new one in Puerto Rico as of 2020.

Pros: They are physicians with both eastern & western medical knowledge, & can prescribe both holistic & conventional treatments. They can also perform minor surgeries.

Cons: They closely compare themselves to regular, conventional medical school, & thus resemble a conventional doctor. They might spend similarly limited time with patients, often abiding by what insurance companies dictate, & mainly look at the physical body for disease manifestation.

Quantum Medicine & Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)

Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM, PhD)

*What we are at Basha Holistics*

This is a newer field, about 50 years old, & 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, & more. We are super generalists, not specialists. We can make connections to many different symptoms & look at the entire physical & 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, & 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 & 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, & 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 & 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, & provide therapeutic protocols. They are well-versed in holistic & eastern medicine, & 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 & 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, & are not limited to only physical conditions. There are 5 options, & 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 therefore preventative & have few relapse clients.

Cons: They are not physicians, & 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 & 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 & academic programs of varying durations with different focuses & philosophies.

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 2 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 1 board certification organization that regulates this field & provides a study guide/course & exam. This is the ANMCB. In some states where naturopathic medicine (the field of previously mentioned licensed ND physicians) is not yet regulated & 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 & 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 & a naturopathic doctor can take classes in botanical medicine & homeopathy, & 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 caught to dilute his medicine to be so subtle 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, & had positive effects on his patients. 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 (& 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, & 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 & oriental medicine.

The ones with a * are the most common.

Licensed Acupuncturist (L.A.c)

Generally, one must obtain a masters & complete the licensure exam for acupuncture. One needs a masters degree to obtain licensure & 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, & other technologies.

*Doctor of Oriental Medicine (D.O.M. / O.M.D.)

This doctor is an eastern physician, & in America, can serve as someone's general doctor. These doctors emphasize the utilization of Chinese herbs. They should be able to diagnose illnesses & prescribe Chinese herbs. They look at physical, mental, & psychological stress, & can also address one's spiritual concerns.

*Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM)

The DAOM combines practices of the DOM & 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 & receive openly. I question the relevance of the seasonal aspects but revere its evaluative questions & ability to heal where other forms of medicine cannot.

(Information obtained from:

A final note on TCM practitioners:

So many patients are seeking affordable & easy access to incredible TCM modalities like acupuncture, & now, physical therapists & other kinds of practitioners can now legally do dry needling, cupping, & 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 & 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 & acupuncture techniques. Meridians (energy channels) vary from person to person & fluctuate throughout the day, & 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 & leave the room (at least for very long). Please see licensed acupuncturists for acupuncture & 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, &

psychiatry, just to name some. According to, there is strict

licensure & standards in place for Ayurvedic practitioners practicing in

America. According to this source, there are 3 types of practitioners:

Ayurvedic Health Counselors, Ayurvedic Practitioners, & Ayurvedic Doctors.

"Ayurvedic Health Counselor (AHC): Ayurvedic professionals trained to focus on preventive healthcare as well as health promotion, with a specific focus on diet & lifestyle.

Ayurvedic Practitioner (AP): Ayurvedic professionals with additional training in pathology & disease management beyond that of the AHC. These professionals also practice preventive healthcare & health promotion, using diet & lifestyle.

Ayurvedic Doctor (AD): Ayurvedic professionals with additional training & 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, & possess substantial research skills. The AD has significantly more clinical experience based on a more extensive internship."

(National Ayurvedic Medical Association, 2017)

Holistic, Alternative, & Complementary Alternative Medicine

These are typically synonymous terms & 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 & '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, & 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 & becoming familiar with their credential abbreviations, AND by reading their website & medical philosophy, as credential abbreviations can confuse.

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