Natural education

How to get involved in the industry

With the growing disillusionment towards Western medicine, Australia’s natural therapy industry is thriving.

Christina Bulbrook investigates treatment and education options to get involved in the industry.

Growing popularity

The suggestion of natural therapy in decades past would have triggered a hailstorm of scepticism and disapproving frowns. In 2014 however, the hailstorm of cynicism has subsided into a light drizzle, and seems to be on the verge of disappearing altogether.

With its roots steeped in the healing power of nature, it is unsurprising that natural therapy’s popularity is growing.

The flexibility natural therapy affords patients is thanks, in part, to the wide selection of treatments that are encompassed in the natural therapy circle, such as naturopathy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, yoga, homeopathy and others. The main benefit of natural therapy is its multi-disciplinary and all-inclusive approach to treating countless health conditions of varying severity.

“Natural therapists use a holistic approach to treat health issues,” says Brian Coleman, executive officer at the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). “They provide advice on making healthy choices, address lifestyle issues, nutrition, herbal remedies, body mobility, movement and pain management using a variety of natural therapy disciplines.”

The holistic nature of natural therapy, and the vast selection of specific treatments available, could go some way towards explaining the spike in popularity, with people becoming increasingly interested and invested in gaining and maintaining good health.

But there is more to it than that. According to Coleman, the profession – and those working in it – are seeing the positive results they achieve shared through social media and other forms of widespread communication, contributing to the shift in the public’s attitude.

“The natural therapy profession, over many years, has embraced continuous quality improvement and practitioner training,” Coleman says. “Professionalism has been at the forefront of that process and is achieving quality outcomes for the public.”

Should it still be classed as 'alternative'?

So with such a shift in attitudes and the ongoing growth of the natural therapy profession, is it still fair to categorise this as alternative medicine?

“Naturopathy support can be offered as an alternative to mainstream approaches in some cases, and in many cases, as a complementary therapy where the client is safely using both approaches,” says Deb Ashton, committee member for the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association (ANPA).

“Naturopaths often identify and treat health problems early on, long before pathology is diagnosed. This is what we call treating sub-clinical condition.

“Clients report they have visited the doctor, having been told all their tests are normal, but they’re still having symptoms.

“They also visit my clinic wanting to change to natural therapies because they are experiencing unwanted side effects from their medication. Ashton says naturopathy encourages and empowers a client to take responsibility for their health and every client is treated as a unique individual; no two clients are ever the same.

How to get involved

With increasing numbers of people taking the natural therapy route for greater control over their health and wellness, there is a growing need for natural therapy practitioners. So how can you get involved?

Coleman advises completing a recognised course is the best way to enter the profession. “Natural therapy courses provide graduates with specialised skills to assess conditions and to be able to treat underlying causes and not just the symptoms” he explains. “ANTA assesses courses to ensure they meet high criteria and standards.”

Practitioners are required to become a member of a professional association like ANTA on completion of their qualification. This accreditation is important as it provides confidence for those interested in studying that their chosen course is of good quality. It also provides patients with peace of mind that their natural therapy practitioner is qualified and the treatment is legitimate. Check the ANTA website for accredited courses.

Thanks to the dynamic nature of the profession, ongoing education is a necessity in order to stay abreast of new developments and emerging trends.

Ashton agrees with the importance of being properly educated to work in the field of naturopathy as a primary care practitioner. “Naturopathy is moving towards a Bachelor degree and there are many programs on offer around the country,” she says of obtaining proper qualifications.

“Working as a naturopath demands significant responsibility, the ability to deal with many varied acute and chronic conditions and, importantly, knowing when a client needs to be referred for more specialised care.”

She also warns against self-diagnosis.

“Doctor Google is a blessing and curse,” she says. “The public is researching and that is commendable, but often people don’t have the background to assess if the information is applicable to them or not.

“This is exactly where a consultation with a properly trained naturopath can help to clarify fact from fiction.”

With the profession in need of more practitioners to meet the growing demand of clients, now is unquestionably the time to become involved.

If you would like to explore natural therapy treatment or educations options, it is best to check the ANTA website for an accredited course or practitioner and visit them to discuss options.

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