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Rhode Island Primed to License Naturopathic Doctors

by Sheila Frodermann

The Rhode Island Association of Naturopathic Physicians (RIANP) has been laying groundwork since 1998, working with state representatives, law makers, the health department and the RI Medical Society to find solutions and pass a law to regulate the practice of naturopathic medicine. There are six registered practicing naturopathic doctors in Rhode Island who offer complementary natural medical and alternative care for individuals seeking a more holistic approach to health and the prevention of disease.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern, scientific and traditional methods.

Naturopathic doctors combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic doctors help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.

A licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D., but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic doctor also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling. A naturopathic doctor takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice doctor.

Naturopathic doctors are trained to treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs are trained to perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.

In states which license naturopathic doctors, a naturopathic practice includes the following diagnostic and therapeutic modalities: clinical and laboratory diagnostic testing, nutritional medicine, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine (including naturopathic manipulative therapy), public health measures, hygiene, counseling and homeopathy. Laws in some states include additional modalities such as minor surgery, acupuncture, prescription medication, intravenous and injection therapy, and naturopathic obstetrics (natural childbirth).

The past 30 years has seen an extraordinary increase in consumer demand for safe, effective and cost-effective natural health care. Naturopathic medicine has emerged as the health-care profession best suited to meet this demand. Although it almost disappeared in the mid-20th century because of the popularity of drugs and surgery, naturopathic medicine now offers safe, effective natural therapies as a vital part of the healthcare systems of North America in the 21st century.

Currently, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing or regulation laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license.

Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and will have a specific scope of practice defined by their state’s law. Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts are actively working to pass bills to regulate and license NDs. States that currently have licensing laws for naturopathic physicians are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, United States Territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

For additional information on naturopathic doctors in Rhode Island, visit RIANP.org. Interest and support is welcomed and appreciated. Sign up for the RIANP’s free health e-newsletter on the website to stay informed about licensing efforts here in Rhode Island or “Like” the Rhode Island Association of Naturopathic Physicians on Facebook. Additional information on naturopathic schools and states that license naturopathic doctors can be found at Naturopathic.org.

Sheila M. Frodermann  is a naturopathic doctor and certified classical homeopath. She is the current RIANP treasurer and past president. Her practice, Providence Wholistic, is located at 144 Waterman St., Ste. #3, Providence. For more information, call 401-455-0546 or visit ProvidenceWholistic.com. See ad, page ??.

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

The following principles are the foundation of naturopathic medical practice:

  • The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
  • Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
  • First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere): Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient: Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and acknowledge, respect and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
  • Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
  • Prevention: Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.