The conscious naturopathic practitioner (reflective practice)
The definition of conscious is “to be present, or to be aware (of oneself, and/or of something)”. What are we aiming to be aware of as naturopathic practitioners? Are we aware of our motivation for choosing this form of therapy (and not another, like modern “allopathic” medicine)? Are we aware of what health means to us? How can we achieve this conscious state – for ourselves and for our clients? Do we take time to review the way we think about, practice and integrate our naturopathic modality (or modalities)?
I try to be aware of and reflect upon (review and update) my:
- way of connecting and interacting with clients
- own abilities, knowledge and application of the naturopathic principles
- understanding of (the philosophy of) health
1) How do we connect with clients?
I presented the factors I found most useful in practice during one of the NNA (Naturopathic Nutrition Association) mentoring sessions that I run for new graduates on a monthly basis.
Be in good time, relax, centre yourself (open up your “caring” side), be confident. Prepare room to make sure client is comfortable and at ease and knows what to expect (explain timeframe, procedure, naturopathic philosophy).
Note where you start from (rate severity of main symptoms); gauge client’s goals and expectations and how committed they are.
Remember to “meet clients where they are”, adapt to each client:
- Refrain from giving too much to do at once – but explain your reasoning and the “longer term plan”
- Prioritize what you think will make the biggest difference, to encourage compliance for longer term
- Allow time and encourage questions and feedback
- Try to make an appointment for follow-up, or mark in your calendar to contact client in 3-4 weeks
- Keep safe/do no harm (always check for red flags, interactions)
- Know when to refer to GP or another practitioner
Ask for feedback (e.g. SurveyMonkey, anonymously), testimonials, referrals – gauge the right timing.
Keep a reflective journal to check what is (or is not) working for you.
2) Our abilities and knowledge, application of the naturopathic principles
We all continue our professional development – attend seminars, research, prepare lessons, teach, interact with other practitioners etc. However, we sometimes tend to get lost in the sea of new information, and may lose sight of the philosophy of our practice – the Naturopathic Principles:
- The healing power of nature (body’s innate ability to heal itself)
- First do no harm
- Identify the root cause
- Educate the client (emphasis on self-responsibility towards wellness and optimum health)
- Look at the whole person (mind, body and spirit)
- Prevention (education, self-responsibility) is better than cure
In particular, we should remember our main role of health educators, and make clients aware of their own responsibility in achieving health. As naturopathic practitioners, we are not the ones who make changes or bring healing. We are just instruments to bring understanding and change. We may be excellent technically, but we must not forget the foundation of our practice. Are your clients aware of the naturopathic philosophy and of what we mean by health?
3) What is Health? The triad of health – or is it the tetrahedron of health?
Reviewing our understanding of what health means will help explain this concept to clients and bring about the changes that we (and they) are looking for.
I see health as a dynamic state of equilibrium (homeostasis) – both within the body, and with its surroundings. This means it has to depend on the balanced integration of the various levels of function: structural, biochemical and emotional. These are also interacting, and influencing each other – a good balance giving a state of good physical energy. A state of good physical energy, together with a healthy interaction on a spiritual level will give the state of abundant vitality that we call health. The “spiritual level” mentioned means different things to different people. For now, I would just define it as the bond that links us together as human beings – feeling as part of humanity.
As far as I have come to understand, our state of health is a reflection of our state of harmony with the world. I see it as feedback we receive, and learn to interpret, to find how we need to adjust our habits, thoughts and maybe even life philosophy, in order to be able to contribute our little piece of the puzzle to the greater humanity picture.
Cora Weekes ND, DipNT CNM, MNNA, CNHC
Cora is a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath with a busy practice in Kent. She is a tutor for the Natural Healthcare College and a council member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA), running the NNA mentoring programme for newly qualified naturopathic nutritional therapists.
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