Here we will explore some of the health education programs that take a holistic approach to medicine. We will look at where theses programs are offered, common courses and career options.
Holistic medicine is health care that takes into account the 'whole person', meaning all aspects of a person's mental and physical state, diet, lifestyle and all other external and internal factors that may affect health and well-being. Holistic treatment emphasizes the need for the patient's taking personal responsibility for lifestyle changes needed to optimize health, and although 'natural treatments' (including herbal remedies and dietary modification) are preferred, prescription drugs and surgery are embraced as needed.
Various types of adult education programs in holistic training are available at medical schools, as well as natural health centers. The types of programs available range from acupuncture training designed for licensed physicians to naturopathic doctoral programs for those who want to start practicing holistic medicine. There are also integrative medicine programs for licensed doctors and medical students, as well as training programs in chelation therapy, functional medicine and massage therapy. Some courses may be found online, while others may require on-campus sessions.
Programs At a Glance
Bachelor in Holistic Health Sciences
- This is a four-year degree program that may be offered online.
- Applicants need to have a high school diploma or an equivalent.
Post-Baccalaureate in Naturopathic Medicine
- This on-campus program may take one year or three quarters to complete.
- Applicants need a bachelor's degree in any field with courses in general chemistry, biology, and college algebra.
Integrative Medicine Fellowship
- These are typically two-year distance learning programs.
- These programs are designed for those with a degree in medical field who want to incorporate integrative medicine into their practice.
The kinds of courses you'll take in a holistic medicine training program depend on your specialty, such as oriental medicine or naturopathic medicine. Many of the classes help students prepare for hands-on clinical training. Programs in naturopathic medicine or acupuncture usually have a clinical component that can last up to a year. Holistic training programs might cover some of the following topics:
- Alternative healing methods
- Alternative diagnostic methods
- Eastern medicine
- Body-mind medicine
- Herbal medicine
- Drug-vitamin-herb interactions
- Hydro massage
- Natural childbirth
- Emergency medicine
- Law and ethics in medicine
Practitioners of holistic medicine can receive certification as nutritional consultants, as energy workers, as herbal healers or as holistic nurses. Holistic medicine practitioners are found in private practice, working at spas or alternative health centers, and even serving as staff of major hospitals and centers of traditional or mainstream medicine.
As alternative healing practices are more widely accepted these days, many such techniques and practices are even covered by insurance providers, and this has, of course, led to expanded career opportunities for those in the holistic medical field.
Some of the many professional organizations for the holistic health practitioner include the American Holistic Health Association or AHHA, the American Holistic Medical Association, and the American Holistic Nurses Association. Some of the resources these organizations offer include online magazine subscriptions, career information, events, membership opportunities, conferences and educational resources.
Whether you are wanting to start a medical career using holistic practices or incorporate holistic practices into an existing medical career, you may find a program that will teach about integrative medicine. These programs are offered at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate levels and may be available through online study.