What is the Difference Between a Naturopathic Physician and a Naturopath

A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school after completing a minimum of 3 years undergraduate pre-medical studies. A naturopathic physician is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a M.D. but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, oriental medicine, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams prior to being licensed in a jurisdiction that regulates the practice of naturopathic medicine. A licensed N.D. belongs to a regulatory body that oversees standards of practice, complaints and discipline. Naturopathic physicians must carry malpractice insurance, maintain continuing education and practice ethically and professionally.

A naturopath is a term that has been used by the general public and other medical professions to sometimes inaccurately refer to what more accurately is a naturopathic physician. Considered a somewhat non-specific, derogatory expression by licensed naturopathic physicians, the term naturopath nevertheless, has been around for over 100 years. In reality, the words naturopathic physician and naturopath have often been used interchangeably.

In modern times, the term naturopath has been more accurately applied to non-medically trained natural health providers from correspondence/long distance education programs, short term naturopathy schools, and grandfathered in practitioners of varied backgrounds. Typically, naturopaths practice in unlicensed, unregulated jurisdictions and do not have the same training or privileges as that of a naturopathic physician.

There has been a long history of legal and philosophical disagreements between naturopathic physicians and naturopaths that has only undermined the political and medical progress of naturopathic medicine. Unfortunately, the public has generally not been aware of the differences between the two groups, even though large differences exist.

In Canada, only naturopathic physicians are licensed, regulated and able to practice legally in the provinces that acknowledge naturopathic medicine.


Copyright © 2003 by Dr. Garrett G. Swetlikoff