Tools, Treatments and Techniques of the trade: How is naturopathy unique as a profession?

Naturopathy is a profession that has been practiced in Australia for well over 100 years. The definition of a Naturopath (as taken from the World Naturopathic Federation – link to page) is “Naturopathy is a system of healthcare with a deep history of traditional philosophies and practices, medically trained practitioners and a breath of natural treatment options to serve patients.”

It is based on the following principles: (from WNF – link to page)): First, do no harm; The healing power of nature; Treat the cause; Treat the whole person; Doctor as teacher; Disease prevention, Health promotion; and Wellness. All of these are not unique to naturopathy however it is the combination of them all that makes naturopaths a unique profession.

Naturopaths are trained in these principles and are also taught various treatments and techniques (sometimes referred to as modalities) in order to bring about healing in their patients. These techniques are broad, and their therapeutically eclectic nature is what defines naturopathy and makes it distinct from other single-modality complementary medicine practitioners such as herbalists, nutritionists, and homeopaths. As this is a core element of naturopathic practice, this is to be protected. 

Often it is these treatments and techniques that are perceived as under threat if statutory registration takes place; especially those treatments which are traditional vs evidence based. There are worries that the government will take away these treatments and techniques from the registered professional. However both traditional and evidence based treatments are equally important parts of naturopathy and would continue.

When a profession is statutorily registered, it is the profession that is registered, not the treatments and not the techniques. These treatments and techniques are part of a naturopath’s education. ARONAH has set out minimum education standards going forward for the profession, (link to ed standards) but these are purposefully broad so that a wide range of skills and training are encompassed. As long as the practitioner has been trained in these areas, they are free to use them. This is called the practitioner’s scope of practice. (link to scope of practice) For example: years ago, many naturopaths were trained in the use of massage. If this was part of the training the naturopath received, then they can use massage as part of their clinical practice, if not then they can’t unless they get further training in that area.

There has also been no precedent set from any other registered health profession under AHPRA where their tools and techniques have been restricted, reduced or eliminated due to registration. And in fact in some professions – such as Traditional Chinese Medicine registration has actually instilled minimum levels of training in traditional philosophies and practices for the first time.

So there is no need to worry about the profession changing once statutorily registered. The tools and techniques of this wonderful profession will be well protected. And the tradition and history may well be enhanced in the process.