The Job and What's Involved

Naturopaths work with the body's natural healing energies, or 'life force', to promote, restore and maintain health. They recognise that the body has certain basic needs, including the correct nutrition, fresh air, clean water, sunlight, rest and relaxation and appropriate exercise. If there is any imbalance in the body or emotions, the flow of life force can be disturbed which can result in illness.

Naturopaths believe that everyone is unique and that we all react differently to physical, emotional and social factors. They:

  • Take a detailed history of each patient, covering previous health problems and treatments, lifestyle and diet.
  • Carry out a physical examination.
  • May order other tests including blood tests.
  • Use this information to make a diagnosis and design an individual treatment plan for each patient.
  • Work with the patient to identify lifestyle factors which are causing problems.
  • Re-educate the patient to make lifestyle choices which will promote health.

It is important that the patient fully co-operates and is actively involved in their treatment.

The naturopath may also use a range of therapies, including:

  • Hydrotherapy - hot and cold water treatments to encourage circulation.
  • Detoxification - cleansing programmes to allow healing to take place.
  • Physical therapy - to restore balance to the structure of the body and improve tissue tone.
  • Psychological techniques.
  • Diet and lifestyle changes.

Many naturopaths are qualified in other therapies such as homeopathy, medical herbalism, acupuncture and osteopathy. They use these therapies in accordance with naturopathic principles to treat patients.

Naturopaths must be flexible about working hours as many of their patients will have work or other commitments during normal office hours. Evening and weekend work may be necessary. Some practitioners work part time.

Naturopaths usually work in consulting/treatment rooms that are warm, bright and clean. Some are based in their own homes, while others work from therapy or natural health centres. They may share facilities with other complementary therapists. A driving licence will be useful for those naturopaths who visit patients' homes.

Starting salaries may be around £12,500 a year. Naturopaths are self-employed, so their income depends on how many patients they treat and the rates they charge for each session. Most naturopaths charge between £20 and £60 an hour. Overheads, such as rent, heating and transport, will affect income.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

As more people become aware of naturopathy, demand is likely to grow. As naturopaths are self-employed, they can set up in practice anywhere in the UK where there are enough people to use their services. In some areas there is a shortage of qualified practitioners.

Education and Training

The General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN) accredits two courses in naturopathic medicine:

  • The British College of Osteopathic Medicine in London offers a four-year full-time Naturopathic Diploma (ND). This is usually taught combined with a BSc in Osteopathic Medicine.
  • The University of Westminster offers a three-year full-time BSc in Health Sciences: Complementary Therapies (Pathway for Naturopathic Medicine).

Minimum qualifications for entry are three A levels/four H grades, or the equivalent, usually including biology and chemistry, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English.

Courses cover subjects like anatomy, physiology, pathology, nutrition, naturopathic principles and basic medical therapeutics. A substantial amount of practical clinical experience is a vital part of training.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Naturopaths are self-employed and therefore responsible for arranging and funding their own training and development, but as in any health-related profession it is important to keep up to date with new techniques and changes in the law.

Many naturopaths develop their skills and extend the range of services they can offer patients by studying subjects like herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy or therapeutic bodywork. The University of Westminster offers a number of relevant postgraduate courses.

Self-employed naturopaths may find it useful to take additional training in business-related subjects such as accounts or marketing.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A naturopath should:

  • Have good communication and listening skills.
  • Have a good understanding of patients' needs.
  • Be able to inspire trust and confidence in patients.
  • Have motivational skills to encourage patients to make lifestyle changes.
  • Be able to explain treatments and therapies to people with no medical knowledge.
  • Have a logical approach to problem solving.
  • Know when to refer a patient to a conventional medical practitioner.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no formal career progression for naturopaths. Much of the naturopath's time will be spent finding new patients and building a successful practice.

Experienced naturopaths with an appropriate teaching qualification may be able to teach naturopathy. Some write books or articles for newspapers and magazines.

There may be opportunities to work abroad, but individuals should check that their qualification is recognised in the country where they hope to work.

Get Further Information

British College of Osteopathic Medicine,
Lief House, 120-122 Finchley Road,
London NW3 5HR
Tel: 020 7435 6464

The General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN)
/British Naturopathic Association (BNA),
Goswell House, 2 Goswell Road, Street,
Somerset BA16 0JG
Naturopathic helpline: 08707 456 984
Websites: (GCRN)
and (BNA)

School of Integrated Health, University of Westminster,
Headquarters Building, 309 Regent Street,
London W1B 2UW
Tel: 020 7915 5511

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