Holistic health counselors often work with other medical professionals to assist patients in adopting healthy lifestyles. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions, in addition to certification in some states.
A holistic health counselor encourages patients to adopt an active, integrative approach to general healthcare and wellness. The counselor considers core aspects of the entire person -- body, mind, and spirit -- to help clients improve personal well-being through everyday lifestyle choices. The term 'holistic health' generally describes a whole-person healthcare philosophy, though there are some who may apply the term to alternative treatment methods that do not necessarily embrace traditional western medical protocols. A variety of training and degree options exist that are suitable for a career in holistic health.
|Required Education||Generally, bachelor's degree at minimum; post-graduate or doctoral degree, depending upon specialization|
|Other Requirements||In some states, specialized state licensure and/or professional certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||12% (health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$74,710 (health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A holistic health counselor is not considered a traditional medical professional, but he/she may work in conjunction with traditional medical providers. Holistic health counselors address a client's awareness, feelings and attitudes toward treatments designed to achieve individualized wellness goals. Incremental steps are often recommended over the course of several months to help a client change specific behaviors. Personalized lifestyle strategies such as diet modification, meditative practice, alternative health therapies, exercise regimens, and environmental health awareness may be recommended in combination with traditional medical advice.
While there are a few structured holistic health programs, no uniform educational requirements generally exist at this time. There is at least one school in the United States that offers programs leading to a Certified Holistic Health Counselor designation, but this is not a nationally-regulated certification. Therefore, aspiring counselors may decide to pursue one of several specific, licensed fields (such as nutrition, massage therapy, herbalism, or acupuncture) that will allow them to provide formalized, sanctioned healthcare treatment. They can then study holistic principles and philosophies that apply to the chosen specialty.
Not all programs carry the same level of weight or recognition. Since 'holistic' is a philosophy and not an independent field of health, prospective students should be cautious when exploring training or certification that purports to be geared toward holistic practitioners. Certain fields related to holistic health -- such as naturopathy -- may require years of intensive study; while other training may be completed in just a few months.
It is important to explore individual state regulations that relate to a specified field of interest. For example, in some states, massage therapists must graduate from an approved program and pass a national licensing exam to practice. An individual looking to combine holistic health counseling with massage therapy would need to meet these requirements.
The salaries earned by holistic health professionals vary significantly and depend upon a number of key factors, including field of specialty, experience level and location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health practitioners designated as 'other' earned a median annual wage of $74,710 as of May 2015. As of that same date, per the BLS, chiropractors earned a median annual wage of $64,440; whereas massage therapists earned a median annual wage of $38,040.
Those who wish to become holistic health counselors should consider earning at least a bachelor's degree, but may consider earning a post-graduate degree to qualify for some positions. They should also be aware of the licensing requirements in the state they wish to work and hone the skills needed to guide others to a healthier lifestyle.