Holistic Doctor or Holistic Health Practitioner: What’s the Difference?

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Alternative or complementary therapies, those that fall outside of mainstream medicine, have become popular in the past few decades. Consequently, there are both holistic doctors and holistic health practitioners that can help you achieve your health objectives. Although both of these titles sound similar, they are not interchangeable. In fact, there are some subtle – but important – differences between these occupations.

What is Holistic Medicine?
Holistic medicine takes a whole body approach to healthcare. It integrates the mind, body, and spirit into any diagnosis and treatment regimen. For instance, rather than just treating your illness, a holistic doctor or practitioner will analyze your lifestyle to see what factors may have contributed to your illness. He or she may consider your stress levels and even your amount or type of spiritual practices when deciding on the best treatment options for you.

Holistic medicine is considered a type of complementary or alternative medicine and may include such disciplines as:

•Acupuncture
•Aromatherapy
•Hypnotherapy
•Massage Therapy
•Herbology
•Clinical nutrition
•Chiropractic
•Naturopathy
•Reflexology
•Osteopathy
•Homeopathy

What is a Holistic Doctor?
A holistic doctor is a medical doctor who integrates holistic medicine into his or her practice. They go to medical school and get a similar amount of medical training as that of an M.D., but their coursework focuses on treating the whole person rather than just the disease or illness. The two main types of holistic doctors are a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) and an ND (Naturopathic Doctor).

Holistic doctors generally combine holistic medicine with standard medical therapies. For instance, holistic doctors will order lab tests, ex-rays, and prescribe medicines when necessary. They will also refer you to a surgeon or medical specialist as needed.

These days, the gulf that used to exist between MDs and holistic doctors is becoming narrower. Holistic medical therapies have become popular in the past few decades. Statistics show that 4 in 10 adults in the United States use some form of alternative or complementary medicine each year. As a result, regular medical schools have started to add holistic medical courses into the curriculum.

What is a Holistic Practitioner?
A holistic practitioner can be a medical doctor but can also be a professional licensed in one or more of the holistic disciplines listed above. Holistic practitioners use their knowledge of the mind/body/spirit link to apply their specialty – such as herbology, acupuncture, or reflexology – to address your illness or health complaint.

Unfortunately, training and licensing requirements vary quite a bit by profession and state. You can find a holistic health practitioner near you by visiting American Holistic Health Association’s (AHHA) website. Its database allows you to search by state and zip code, which makes it easy to find a holistic health practitioner near you.

Being Treated Like a Whole Person is Worth it
Whether you visit a holistic doctor or a holistic health practitioner, being treated like a whole person – rather than just a diseased part – is worth it. Don’t you agree?

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