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Why does licensing for a naturopathic provider matter to your choices and health freedom? Dr. Karlfeldt, ND, PhD explains why licensure for established naturopathic practitioners who have been in practice for years would provide necessary legitimacy for the field including why licensure could affect the ability of choice in health care as well as some historical perspective on the practices of naturopathic and conventional medical practice. 

One of the issues we’ve discussed earlier in the show is the licensing of a naturopathic doctor. As a consumer, if you so choose, you want to have freedom to use your insurance benefits to use your health dollars to seek care from a holistic-minded choice such as a naturopathic care provider instead of a conventional care provider. 

Living in America, competition is something that brings forth more optimal alternatives. Any type of monopoly, even medical, has the potential to limit your ability of choice.

In the naturopathic profession, there are two groups:  

  1. There is a group whose members are graduating from reputable universities, but are institutions that have been established or have been recognized only within the last few years.
  2. Then there are doctors that have been around for sometime in a multi-generational respect, practicing naturopathic practice. For example, one generation of naturopathic doctors Dr. Karlfeldt knows personally, where the grandfather was a naturopathic doctor, the son is a naturopathic doctor and then the grandchild also chooses to be a naturopathic. Some of these individuals have been practicing naturopathy for 20 or 30 years, before these universities existed.

This is similar to what was happening in the early 1900s when the medical profession was attempting to gain legitimacy, and there was an attempt being made to determine who to license. At that time there were a lot of medical universities being established, but there were also numerous family doctors that would go from home-to-home; doctors with plenty of experience and common sense, treating people for various reasons including broken bones, surgery and others. They had established reputations, medical common sense, and taught at the universities that were being established, although they themselves had not attended those same universities since they had been working in the field prior to the establishment of institutions that would subsequently educate, train and permit the licensing for medical doctors.  

The same is true of the long-practicing naturopaths that have been in practice for years prior to the establishment of these newer educational institutions that are now offering training and education in naturopathic care.

In Dr. Karlfeldt’s has been in clinical practice of naturopathy since 1987,  which is far before naturopathic institutions existed. As a result, he has logged hundreds of thousands of clinical hours. He’s studied for seven years with one of the leading naturopaths in Sweden. He has a long history of clinical training, as well as all the book learning.

So the important question to ask is: is someone like Dr. Karlfeldt considered less reputable and / or less experienced than someone who has graduated from one of these institutions? Attending a university you will earn a four-year degree, but you will only earn a limited amount of clinical hours required for graduation from these programs. Is that amount of clinical hours required by these newer universities considered superior to the tens of thousands, or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of clinical hours and experience achieved by the practitioners that have already been in clinical practice for many years, and in some cases, decades? Should only the university-attending group receive the official license, or should there also be the inclusion of other practitioners who have been in practice for awhile, in some cases, decades? 

This is an important question that Dr. Karlfeldt is asking the audience and clients to consider as it will be an important issue within the legislative environment and come up for a vote in the state of Idaho, as well as other state legislatures. Dr. Karlfeldt advocates for a “grandfather clause” for those who have been in practice, for say, ten years. This would then provide the opportunity for practitioners with many hours of clinical experience in their own practices to receive licensure.

Dr. Karlfeldt encourages residents to become educated and involved on this topic, and to communicate your opinions to those around you, including the legislators who vote on these issues. In Idaho, Senator Todd Lakey has advocated for this topic to be voted upon in the Idaho legislative environment. Dr. Karlfeldt emphasizes the importance of knowing senators and representatives in your district, and communicating your opinions to them on this and other pertinent issues.

Learn more about the political push for Naturopathic Licensing that passed the Legislature in 2019. 

Currently, there are about 25 naturopathic physicians in Idaho that would benefit from this legislation, which accounts for less than 10 percent of practicing naturopathic doctors in Idaho. Their desire is to prescribe medications and have access to becoming an insurance approved provider.

Naturopathic medicine is not about prescribing medications nor doing surgery. The medical profession already has that covered. It is to offer a more holistic and restorative solution to all types of imbalances that may not, may, or do manifest as a physical ailment. It is not about just prescribing a steroid cream to suppress a rash.  It is about recognizing that the body uses symptoms to communicate imbalances, and rather than suppressing that communication with a pharmaceutical drug, exploring the underlying cause and addressing that in a restorative fashion to bring the body back to health. We don’t need more people prescribing medications. 

The Consequences of Naturopathic Licensing

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash.