Naturopathy is simply another word for natural medicine. It is a very old science (the word ‘science’ means knowledge) which has its roots in Indian and Chinese healing traditions. In the west these traditions have branched out into many different disciplines, but the core of them all is naturopathic nutritional therapy, or simply naturopathic nutrition.
Naturopathic training nowadays fall into two types. The first type is sometimes known as ‘natural hygiene’. It is all about eating fresh, natural (often raw) food, internal cleansing, detoxification and fasting. With this type of naturopathy, little has changed since pre-antibiotic times, when naturopathy was practised by Harry Benjamin, Henry Lindlahr and similar leaders of the natural health movement. It was a very real and frequently effective treatment choice for killer infectious diseases. Before the advent of antibiotics, diseases like scarlet fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis were the biggest public health problems of the day.
Nowadays, chronic ill-health in the form of arthritis, heart disease or hormonal problems is our greatest challenge. Traditional naturopathy can sometimes help these conditions, but it is a ‘one diet fits all’ approach which can be limited in its effect.
The other type of naturopathic school tends to model itself on conventional medical schools, with an ever-stricter adherence to what is known as the ‘evidence-based’ model. The teaching of important therapeutic knowledge gleaned by masters over many decades, is often left out of these courses in favour of teaching the results of clinical trials on nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.
These schools may also phase out older editions of books and include only texts which have been rewritten to omit so-called ‘unscientific’ therapeutic insights, leaving only references to clinical trials and similar research. A notable example is the wonderful original edition of Rudolf Fritz Weiss’ book ‘Herbal Medicine’ which was bursting with pure gold for a practitioner whose priority is to help sick people. I have a copy of this book which I would not trade for 1,000 copies of the latest ‘scientifically censored’ edition.
Getting People Well Again
Sadly it is all too common now for the most famous schools of naturopathy to follow this so-called ‘evidence-based’ route. After a student has spent 100,000 dollars and four years of his or her life on this type of training, the student may find that he or she is actually lacking a basic grasp of holistic health, and does not understand why many patients are not responding to the treatment.
After all, if your practice is based on the principle that a ‘significant percentage’ of women with premenstrual syndrome respond to a particular vitamin supplement, then by copying this treatment you are only going to help the same proportion of your own patients. In medical practice a ‘significant percentage’ only means those who did better than the patients who were given a dummy treatment.
On the other hand if you study with a master who is dedicated to finding the most effective clinical approach for everybody – whether from their own experience or by also studying advice from past masters – you may be more likely to achieve what you originally wanted when you signed up for your course: to get people well again.
Distance Learning Naturopathy: A New Training Solution?
As I wrote my books over the years, I wanted very much to start a training course which would help to rectify some of the problems I have described. But starting a school is a major project, not to be taken lightly. I did teach many short ‘skills development’ courses for already-qualified naturopaths, and these courses were always well received. One thing I learned from my students was how stressful it was for them to travel to classes. The UK is not a large country, but even so, the distance and expense of travel was prohibitive for almost everyone who lived more than 100 miles away.
But would a distance-learning course be acceptable? After much thought and planning I believed that I could make a distance learning naturopathy course just as good as a course taught in class. The more I thought about it, the more advantages I saw for the student. Not only greater affordability and convenience, but also greater ease of learning, and better student-teacher contact.
When you think about it, how much student-teacher contact do you get in a classroom? You travel 100 miles to listen to a couple of days lectures and put your hand up to ask questions. You can get the same information online and ask your questions in an online forum, where you would probably get a better answer because the teacher has had the chance to think about it. In class you have to try to write down the teacher’s answer and decipher it later. In an online forum the answer is written out for you in full.
Online courses can now easily include video content to vary the learning experience – much better than listening to a lecture droning on. It is well known that the average student starts to lose concentration after about 25 minutes and needs a break. If you have to attend lectures for a whole day or a whole weekend, frequent beaks are not possible. But online they are. Just pause the video and have a cup of green tea.
Accreditation For Distance Learning Graduates
After qualifying, graduates of a naturopathy course need to be able to join a national professional association. This allows them to get the practitioner insurance that they need in order to set up legally in private practice. Naturopathic health advisors also need professional insurance if they work for health food stores, health clubs or vitamin companies.
This is why all practitioner training courses need to be accredited by a national professional association that is recognized by insurers. Recently, many forward-thinking professional associations are beginning to recognize that a distance learning qualification from a good school can produce good practitioners. (See the link at the end to find an accredited course.)
Modern naturopathy does need to incorporate knowledge gained from modern research. But I don’t believe that this means forgetting what our predecessors taught us. Naturopathy is about understanding the human body and how it becomes ill. Only then can the most appropriate treatment be applied. Sadly this basic principle is being eroded away in the mainstream schools of naturopathy. I believe that some of the best training can now be found in smaller schools and by learning from well-respected master teachers. Naturopathy distance learning may well be the way forward.