What's in a Title?

Today, you can go to school for just about anything, and everything. People can call themselves anything they want, and they do. Not everything is as it seems. In many unregulated natural health modalities, you can call yourself a doctor without having to attend actual medical school. The question is.... would you, or even, should you?

Before you get upset, or think I am off my rocker, it's true. We have so many unaccredited online schools in this country. You can get a "degree" in just about anything. You can go to herbal school, aromatherapy school, homeopathy school, earn your PhD, or even "medical" school. All from the privacy of your own living room. While I love that we don't have the government breathing down our necks trying to control everything we do. We need to be very careful in how we represent ourselves.

A while ago I conducted a poll on my Facebook page. It was titled "If someone told you there were a naturopathic doctor; would you think they were a licensed medical professional that went to medical school?" There were 63 votes. 63% (40 people) voted yes, while 37% (23) voted no. What surprised me most, were some of the comments. Some people didn't even know that you could be a naturopath and not be licensed. Others didn't care. While some were downright adamant that to call yourself a doctor you need to be licensed.

Naturopathic Doctor/Physician

The term "doctor" is defined by meriamwebster.com as "a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (such as a PhD) conferred by a university. A person skilled or specializing in healing arts; especially one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice".

The term "physician" is defined by the same site, meriamwebster.com as "a person skilled or specializing in healing arts; especially one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice".

As you can see, the 2 titles are pretty much the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

Using the term doctor implies you attended some sort of medical school. In order to do that, you received your bachelor's degree, sat for your MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test - even in naturopathic medicine), or NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam) attended medical school (at one of the 7 accredited naturopathic schools in North America), and obtained your license to practice medicine. You may have even taken your board certification exam. In traditional naturopth school I was taught that doctor means educator. It's ok to use the term doctor, just not physician. Physician implies medical doctor.

No. I do not agree. In my opinion, this is a slippery slope. To be a CPA, lawyer, massage therapist, stock broker or many other professions, you must be licensed with the state. To be a doctor you do as well. Unless..... you are in the unregulated natural health side of things. There are many states that are fighting for the regulation of this profession. In order to use the term "naturopath" in those states, you must be a licensed physician (see above). 3/4 of the United States doesn't have a say on the matter, YET.

(photo source)

On the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges website, they state, "In order to be licensed as a primary care, general practice physician by a state or jurisdiction which requires licensing, one must:

  1. Graduate from a four-year, professional-level program at a federally accredited naturopathic medical school.

  2. Study a curriculum which includes current medical science and traditional naturopathic theory.

  3. Take and pass national board exams: Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX). This rigorous exam covers basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical science.

This is the one TRUE governing body of naturopathic doctors/physicians. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Fake Boards offer Certifications

To make matters more confusing, there are also many fake certifying boards. Not quite as many as unaccredited schools, but there are a lot. I am not saying these tests are easy, if there is even a test at all. What I am saying is, it doesn't really mean anything to anyone but you. People are paying thousands of dollars to sit for a board certification from a paper mill. These organizations are not credible in any way. You are not registered with a true national database.

The Palm Beach Post wrote an Article titled, Warning On Fake Board Certifications in which this questions was asked. "I had CO2 laser which caused scarring. My cosmetic surgeon belongs to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, but I’ve learned it’s not a real board and he is not even a plastic surgeon. How can you know if a plastic surgeon is certified by the right board?"

GetEducated.Com is sharing their List of Accreditation Agencies Used By Fake Colleges. Has the school your practitioner graduated from been accredited by any of these agencies?

Credential Watch also has a ton of places you need to be wary of in their Be Wary of Nonrecognized Accreditation Agencies article. There are many fake boards attached to these agencies.

This story on the Seattle Times website is extremely disturbing. "“Naturopathic doctor” is one of the most coveted credentials in alternative medicine. Fourteen states, including Washington, consider naturopathy a licensed profession and require degrees and clinical training through four-year colleges accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. But in the other 36 states — including Colorado, where Brian O’Connell practiced — naturopathy is not considered a government-regulated profession. In those states, anyone can call himself or herself a naturopathic doctor with no training." It goes on to say, "One of the framed certificates on O’Connell’s wall was from the American Naturopathic Medical Association (ANMA). Impressive-sounding, to be sure — but it comes from a Las Vegas post-office box.... Donald Hayhurst, 71, is the godfather of mail-order health-care credentials. He has issued thousands of credentials to practitioners, and he accredits some schools. Hayhurst has doled out 4,000 ANMA memberships, at a cost of $350 apiece. Each year, its members attend a convention in Las Vegas."

In that same article.... "Becoming a member of the association (The American Association of Drugless Practitioners) is as easy as faxing in a brief application with a photocopy of a driver’s license and $260. In return, applicants are issued certificates that declare them a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. For schools wanting accreditation from this association, the process is just as simple. They are required only to mail a copy of their curriculum, and a fee. No one visits the school or interviews owners, instructors or students, he said."

In the United States board-certification applies to medical PHYSICIANS, nurses, dentists, accountants, teachers and a few other professions that don't apply here. Physicians, either naturopathic or allopathic, not "doctors". I use the term doctor loosely. Doctor and physician have been interchangeable in the past. However, many are calling themselves doctors, even board-certified doctors for which they have not truly earned that title. It comes from a certification mill which you will see below. According to wikipedia, "Prior to taking the examination, a physician must graduate with a degree, either MD, DO or DPM and meet all other prerequisites to certification as set out by the certifying agency or "board."

Board certification is usually earned through the state government or a national certifying board. Not just any "board", of which there are many. A physician is generally board certified by the AMA (American Medical Association), ABMS the (American Board of Medical Specialties), or if they are specialized, one of the following: (1)

American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS) American Osteopathic Association

American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS)

American Association of Physician Specialists

A naturopathic physician is certified by the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians). Not to be confused with the ANMA (American Naturopathic Medical Association) which is a fake certifying board. The ANMA is NOT through a state government or a national certifying board recognized by any entity other than itself. According to Learn.org, "An individual who chooses to become a specialist in a particular field is expected to go through additional residency training in her or his chosen area of expertise. They can then choose to take the specialty board exam to gain board certification. According to the American Medical Association, 24 medical specialty boards exist; these boards cover 37 general medical specialties and 128 subspecialties."

Accredited School vs. Non-Accredited School

According to the website, Collegeanddegrees.com, "Accreditation is an incredibly important facet of your education. However, many people do not understand even the basics of the accreditation process. Before choosing a school, it is important that you have a clear picture of exactly who accredits the school and what that accreditation means for your future. Without accreditation, you will find yourself with a degree employers do not respect."

What if you don't want to work for someone else, but want to be self-employed? Great! More power to you. However, by attending a non-accredited school, your "degree" still in not recognized by anyone but the school, and yourself. I am not saying the education you received from the non-accredited school is lousy. I am sure it was a lot of work. However, it is not governed by any agency with authority that will give you credibility. "The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes the agencies believed to be reliable authorities on accreditation and lists these agencies on the US Department of Education's website. Making sure the agency your school is accredited by is on this list is the easiest way to ensure the accreditation is legitimate." (source) A university or college also requires high school transcripts, copies of ACT and/or SAT tests, application with fee and possibly an interview process. Every unaccredited school I have attended in natural health only requires registration and payment.

(Information source)

PhD and Doctorates

To make matters even more confusing, you can earn your doctorate or PhD in many things. This designation signifies doctor also. According to the University of Liverpool, doctorates and PhD's are different in how they are used. "Questions frequently arise about the differences between professional doctoral degrees and traditional degrees such as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and the various terms are often confused. First of all, to clarify: a doctorate is an umbrella term for a degree rank, denoting the highest degree awarded by a university. A PhD is a specific type of doctorate". You can read more at their website.

My father in law has his PhD in Organizational Management with an IT Specialization and my son's best friend from high school is a doctor of musical arts in clarinet performance. I also have friends who have the PhD's. and are also herbalists or something else in the medical field. THEY ARE NOT MEDICAL DOCTORS. If you have you PhD. in science, that doesn't equate to being a medical doctor, physician or "doctor," as in I made an appointment to see my doctor. They are academics, not generally someone you would see should you become ill.

I am not saying these people didn't work REALLY hard on their education, I am trying to explain that doctor means many different things. And there are fake holistic doctors out there.

Be True to Yourself and Your Education

Attending an unaccredited school for a couple months or even a couple years and spending $4-5,000 doesn't make you even close to being a doctor. Nor does it make you a lawyer, massage therapist, etc. If you want to call yourself a doctor, attend an actual accredited medical school. You don't need to pretend to be something you are not. There is no shame in any sort of education. You are opening yourself up to litigation.

As you can see above, I call myself a traditional naturopath. I am no doctor. I didn't attend medical school. That wasn't the route I was interested in. To me, doctor implies sickness, as does patient. As a traditional naturopath, I don't diagnose or prescribe anything to you. I see the body as a whole and use my education to guide YOU in helping to find the best options based on your need. There is no one size fits all here.

I am also a clinical aromatherapist, herbalist and homeopathy student. Aromatherapy is another field in natural health where the title is severely abused. Sales people are saying they are aromatherapists. Even people who have studied for 100 hours are calling themselves aromatherapists. What you choose to call yourself doesn't give you the actual education or knowledge. Any misrepresentation is a huge disservice to yourself, your clients and the entire natural health industry. We get upset when food manufacturers misrepresent the ingredients in their products, yet many don't seem to care about actual education in many fields.

I strongly urge all of you to do your research on any natural health modality you choose to use. If you are seeing someone at a hospital or true medical clinic, chances are the person you are seeing is legit. If they are renting a space in a chiropractic office or massage therapy office, chances are they are not licensed. Does this mean they are uneducated? Only you can be the judge of who you deem acceptable to assist you in making decisions on your health.

If you should have any questions about anything I have stated in this article, drop me an email at melissa@sweetwillowspirit.com. I'd be more than happy to discuss your concerns with you. As always, have a wonderful day!!!

Love and light, Melissa

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