Naturopathy – you’ve heard of it, but can you confidently explain what it actually is? If you’re feeling confused, you’re not alone. Here at Torrens University Australia, we understand that not everyone is familiar with such an incredible practice, so we spoke with Catherine Smith, Program Director and Greg Connolly, Senior Learning Facilitator about the subject and our Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy & Western Herbal Medicine.
So, what is Naturopathy?
G & C: Naturopathic practice is a comprehensive system of healthcare that combines traditional healing approaches with contemporary health science knowledge. Practice emphasises disease prevention and healthy living and believes that in many circumstances, the body has the ability to self-heal using natural methods.
Can you tell us a bit about the background behind it?
G & C: Naturopathy is regarded as a traditional and complementary medicine by the World Health Organisation (2010). Naturopathic principles emerged from the traditional healing practices of ancient cultures from around the world. These included Greek (Hippocrates), Arabic, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese cultures. Over the centuries, North American and European Nature Cure traditions influenced the development of contemporary practice (WNF, 2020).
How do modern Naturopaths practice?
G & C: Central to modern naturopathic practice is the philosophy that health is enhanced by improving the vitality of the patient and using natural methods to restore the innate healing ability of the body. Naturopathy takes a holistic approach to healing the body, mind and spirit and emphasises the importance of treating all aspects of health including lifestyle, social and environmental factors (Connolly, 2014).
We’ve heard that there are seven core principles according to the WHO and the World Naturopathic Federation – could you please tell us about those?
G & C: Yes, absolutely. The seven principles are:
- First, do no harm
- Act in co-operation with healing power of nature
- Seek, identify and treat the fundamental cause of illness
- Treat the whole person using individualised care plans
- Practitioner as teacher
- Focus on disease prevention and health promotion
- Wellness practices
What kind of reasons might cause somebody to see a Naturopath?
G & C: So many different ones! Clients consult with naturopaths to gain assistance managing a range of conditions including cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, mental health, gastrointestinal, respiratory and reproductive conditions (McIntyre, et al., 2019).
Naturopaths often work in conjunction with medical and allied health practitioners offering complementary medicine to clients with a range of acute and chronic health conditions.
To anyone who’s perhaps doubting the practice, what would you tell them?
G & C: Modern Naturopaths utilise traditional, health science and research knowledge to inform practice. Naturopathic practitioners evaluate health via a solid understanding of pathophysiology, symptomatology, biochemistry, physical assessment and functional pathology together with traditional diagnostics. Consultations often take one hour as the practitioner explores the whole health of the individual. Naturopaths use a broad range of natural treatments.
It sounds like it takes a lot of knowledge to become a Naturopath. What kind of people tend to succeed in the field?
G & C: Personal abilities that enhance successful naturopathic practice may include an analytical attitude, interest in helping others and a creative, practical, organised and enterprising approach to work tasks (Commonwealth of Australia, 2019).
What kind of education would they need?
G & C: Things have recently changed and a bachelor’s degree is now the minimum standard of education recommended by the Australian Government. This is precisely why we offer the Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy.
The degree is monitored to ensure graduates achieve a high level of cognitive, technical and communication skills and have the ability to work autonomously in complex and unpredictable environments (Australian Qualifications Framework Advisory Board, 2013). This requires well developed critical thinking, judgement and decision-making skills. These educational standards are in line with the qualifications required for allied and other registered complementary health professions.
Australian Naturopathic educational standards include training in western herbal medicine and clinical nutrition, lifestyle and behavioural counselling and traditional remedies such as homeopathy and flower essences. It is important for students to check their qualification meets current Australian Government Standards.
Once qualified, what kinds of jobs are available?
G & C: Naturopaths have broad career opportunities due to the depth of their training in health science, herbal, nutritional and traditional medicine. Practitioners can either work for themselves or in a huge range of industries and in various health settings. The complementary medicines industry continues to outpace growth in the general economy (CMA Industry Audit, 2019).
Is the industry regulated?
G & C: Yes. Naturopathy is regulated by professional associations, which approve educational and clinical practice standards, represent practitioners’ interests to the public, government and other agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA). They also determine practice standards via providing a code of conduct for members and setting standards for continuing professional education. Practitioners are encouraged to join and adhere to the standards of a professional association to gain professional indemnity insurance and other member benefits.
What is the difference between a Naturopath and a Western Herbal Medicine practitioner?
G&C: A Bachelor of Health Science in Western Herbal Medicine (WHM) is a 3 year qualification with core studies in health science and western herbal medicine with foundational studies in human nutrition. Graduates of WHM are able to prescribe basic diet advice with a comprehensive herbal medicine treatment plan.
A Bachelor of Health Science Naturopathy is a 4 year qualification that has a broader range of studies incorporating clinical nutritional medicine. This means the practitioner will have deeper nutritional knowledge to prescribe therapeutic diets and supplements. The TUA Naturopathic course allows the student to choose elective subjects to deepen their knowledge in a specific area of interest.
Any final words?
G & C: If you are interested in a career where you will engage in lifelong learning, be part of a professional community that is welcoming and supportive, gain skills to create change in health outcomes, and have a positive social impact; then consider becoming a naturopathic practitioner.
Dr Greg Connolly is a senior lecturer in naturopathy at Torrens University. Greg was in full time clinical naturopathic practice from 1988 to 2010 and was a part-time lecturer and clinical supervisor at the Fitzroy Torrens University campus from 1993 to 2012. Greg completed his PhD in Medical Anthropology on complementary medicine and cancer care at The University of Melbourne in 2018.
Australian Qualifications Framework Advisory Board. (2013). Australian Qualifications Framework, Second Edition, Australian Qualifications Framework Council. Australia, 1-111.
Commonwealth of Australia (2019) : Australian Job Outlook: Naturopaths Retrieved
Connolly, G. (2019). Naturopathic case taking. In J. Sarris & J.Wardle, (Eds.), Clinical naturopathy: an evidence-based guide to practice (3rd ed.) [e-book]. Retrieved from World Naturopathic Federation (WNF)(2020). About Naturopathy. Retrieved from /nursing/
McIntyre, E., Adams, J., Foley, H., Harnett, J., Leach, M.J., Reid, R., Schloss, J., Steel, A. (2019). Consultations with Naturopaths and Western Herbalists: Prevalence of Use and Characteristics of Users in Australia. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 25 (2), 181-188
World Health Organisation (WHO) (2010). Benchmarks for training in traditional/ complementary and alternative medicine: benchmarks for training in naturopathy. World Health Organisation. Retrieved from /iris/handle/10665/44355
World Naturopathic Federation (WNF)(2020). About Naturopathy. Retrieved from: /about-naturopathy/
Australia’s Complementary Medicines Industry Audit 2019, Retrieved on 2/3/20 from /resources/Documents/CMA-INDUSTRY_AUDIT-V4.pdf