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How to Become a Holistic Health Practitioner: Education & Career Info

Learn how to become a holistic health practitioner. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career as a holistic health practitioner. View article »

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  • 0:00 Holistic Health Practitioners
  • 0:46 Career Overview
  • 1:34 Training and Licensure

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Video Transcript

Holistic Health Practitioners

Holistic health practitioners are professionals who provide holistic health-related services and include counselors, doctors, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, therapists, and other healthcare professionals. Holistic practitioners take into consideration the whole person, including physical, mental and spiritual aspects, when treating a health condition or promoting wellness. Holistic health practitioners employ complementary methods and alternative approaches to health in their practices.

Some holistic health fields are physically demanding, such as physical therapy or massage therapy. Health practitioners may have to deal with demanding or difficult patients and customers, which may require a great deal of patience and tact.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree depending on modality
Degree Field(s) Counseling, nutrition, psychology, physical therapy, bodywork, nursing, naturopathy, massage therapy, acupuncture, herbology, medicine (MD), osteopathy (DO)
Licensure/Certification All states require physicians and many health-related practitioners to be licensed; optional physician certification in holistic health
Salary (2016 median) $73,412 (for naturopathic physicians)
$48,735 (for acupuncturists)
$29,863 (for massage therapists)

Source: PayScale.com

Depending on what modality of holistic health you practice, you could need a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. Possible degree fields are counseling, nutrition, psychology, physical therapy, bodywork, nursing, naturopathy, massage therapy, acupuncture, herbology, medicine, and osteopathy. Typically, licensure is required by the state. There is also optional certification in holistic health. As of January 2016, the median annual salary for naturopathic physicians was $73,412, for acupuncturists was $48,735, and for massage therapists was $29,863, according to PayScale.com.

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Training and Licensure

One can take many paths to becoming a holistic healthcare practitioner. Let's look at five general steps someone might take in this career path.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Generally, aspiring holistic healthcare practitioners first choose a healthcare modality and get the proper training in that area, often starting with a bachelor's degree. Holistic healthcare training is available for a wide range of health-related fields including therapeutic massage, acupuncture, nutrition, counseling and psychology, nursing and nurse practitioners, medicine, osteopathy, naturopathy, herbology and more.

For those wishing to advance to master's and doctoral degree programs, students must be sure to fulfill prerequisites for graduate programs. For example, medical degree programs require an extensive background in chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy and physiology. Students should research the desired graduate or professional degree program and obtain those credits in their bachelor's degree programs, maintaining the minimum required grade point average in the prerequisite courses.

Step 2: Obtain Graduate Degree

A graduate or professional degree is not necessary for all modalities, but for physicians and many health practitioners, it is a requirement. This can include training in a wide variety of treatment practices from traditional Western medical doctor (MD) or nurse practitioner education to naturopathic doctor (ND), acupuncture training or psychotherapy.

Step 3: Obtain Required Licensure

Holistic healthcare practitioners are not licensed as such. They generally practice under the license of their chosen modality and include holistic practices in their licensed practice. A psychologist who wants to include holistic practices, for example, should first fulfill the requirements to become a licensed psychologist, including passing licensing examinations and fulfilling other legal and professional requirements. Most states require most health-related practitioners to be licensed and to meet certain professional standards before being allowed to practice.

Step 4: Complete a Holistic Health Post-Graduate Program

The prerequisites for holistic healthcare graduate programs vary. The minimum requirement for these programs is typically a bachelor's degree, although some schools simply call for applicants to have earned a certain number of undergraduate credits.

Holistic health practice is based on the concept of treating the whole person (physical, emotional and spiritual) and coursework for these programs reflect that philosophy. Common class subjects include holistic nutrition, culture and community, spirituality, stress, body movement, alternative medicine, herbology, energy healing, psychology and death and dying. Coursework in these programs often combines lecture, class discussion and hands-on learning experiences. Such programs can typically be completed in about one year.

Step 5: Obtain Professional Certification

The American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM) offers voluntary holistic care certification for physicians. This credential is only available to MDs and DOs licensed to practice medicine in the United States. Certification requirements include completion of post-graduate medical education and passing an exam that requires broad knowledge of holistic healthcare. The certification must be renewed after five years and requires the physician to have completed 120 continuing medical education hours, with 60 being in integrative holistic subjects. Physicians must also submit a personal growth log, pass an examination and submit a clinical case describing holistic medical diagnosis and management of a patient.

Holistic health practitioners may follow various career paths, including naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, counselor, acupuncturist, herbologist and massage therapist. Education varies from a bachelor's to a doctoral degree and licensure is typically required.

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