5 Steps to Becoming a Holistic Health Practitioner

What is a holistic health practitioner? Explore holistic health practitioner degree requirements, job duties, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Holistic Health Practitioner?

Holistic health practitioners, also known as holistic healers or holistic doctors, are health professionals who treat patients by addressing the individual's physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Holistic health practitioners have a more integrated approach to the treatment of illness and disease than traditional Western medicine, focusing on the use of herbs, nutrition, and healthful practices, such as yoga, in order to maintain and treat wellness problems.

What Does a Holistic Health Practitioner Do?

Holistic health practitioners are responsible for combining different alternative health remedies to help cure or lessen problems a patient may be experiencing. Some of these alternative approaches to healthcare include yoga, Chinese medicine and reflexology. They may apply therapies such as acupuncture. Holistic health care professionals also emphasize mental health, focusing on it as much as they do on a patient's physical health.

Degree Required Varies by field, minimally a postsecondary non-degree award
Key Responsibilities Explore client/patient's medical history and symptoms
Develop treatment plan
Keep and maintain accurate records
Other Requirements Licensure and/or certification required, specifics vary by state and field
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10%-14%* (health diagnosing and treating practitioners); 22%** (massage therapists);
Median Salary (2018) $73,960** (health diagnosing and treating practitioners); $41,420** (massage therapists)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Holistic Health Practitioner Salary

Salaries for holistic health practitioners will vary based on location, years of experience, specialty, and place of work. Someone working as a health diagnosing and treating practitioner can expect to make around $73,960 while a holistic health practitioner who primarily works in massage therapy would make around $41,420.

How to Become a Holistic Health Practitioner

There are several steps to becoming a holistic healer:

  1. Research holistic health practitioner responsibilities and education
  2. Choose an area of study within the holistic health field
  3. Complete a holistic health practitioner degree or program of study
  4. Consider getting holistic health practitioner certification
  5. Determine where you'd like to work

Step 1: Research Holistic Health Practitioner's Career Duties and Education

To become a holistic health practitioner, you should first learn more about what a holistic health practitioner career entails. Holistic health practitioners integrate conventional and alternative medicine to treat the whole person. In this career, you may evaluate a patient's emotional, environmental, physical and spiritual well-being to determine the best treatment option.

You may take a hands-on approach by providing treatment using acupuncture or massage therapy or by offering nutritional counseling, stress management techniques and guided imagery to influence positive lifestyle changes that can help eliminate or reduce ailments.

Holistic health practitioners typically need to complete at least a training program to work in the field. Depending on the types of treatment you desire to provide, you may need to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Some professionals in the field are also nurses or physicians, which requires state licensure and board certification.

Step 2: Choose an Area of Study for Holistic Health

The holistic healthcare field offers diverse career opportunities. You may choose to provide services in a specific area, such as neuropathy, nutrition or acupuncture. In order to select a training program that best suits your interest, you must first decide what area of study to pursue. You may find schools offering holistic health programs on the American Holistic Health Association website.

Step 3: Complete a Holistic Health Practitioner Degree or Program

You have many choices if you are looking for holistic health programs, including holistic health certificates and holistic health degree programs at the bachelor's and master's levels. Options include:

  • A certificate in holistic health
  • A minor in holistic health in conjunction with a degree
  • A Bachelor of Arts in Complementary and Alternative Health
  • A Bachelor of Health Science, with concentration in specific treatments
  • A Master of Arts in Holistic Studies

Those who don't want to get a degree specifically for holistic health can take courses to earn a Certificate in Holistic Health or a minor in holistic health in conjunction with a degree. Some schools may require completion of prerequisite classes on such subjects as human anatomy and physiology prior to being accepted into a certificate program.

For those who want a degree program focused in holistic health, there are bachelor's degrees and master's degree options. A Bachelor of Art in Complementary and Alternative Health or a Master of Arts in Holistic Studies program can teach you a broad range of holistic health practices, such as energy medicine, homeopathy and reflexology.

Future holistic health practitioners that want to focus on a specific form of treatment, such as Asian alternative medicine, may want to earn a Bachelor of Health Science in Asian Holistic Care and Massage or a Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine.

Step 4: Consider Getting a Holistic Health Certification

There are several holistic health certifications that might be of interest to an aspiring holistic healer. Two major national bodies that offer certificate and certifications include:

  • The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Certificates and certifications related to holistic health include:

  • Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.)
  • Diplomate of Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.)
  • Diplomate in Asian Body Therapy (Dipl. A.B.T.)
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Clinical Rehabilitative Massage
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Massage Therapy for Integrative Healthcare
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Military Veteran Massage
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Oncology Massage
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Pain & Palliative Care
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Reflexology
  • NCBTMB Certificate in Sports Massage

Holistic health certifications offered that are geared towards Chinese medicine and body therapy include the Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.), Diplomate of Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.) and Diplomate in Asian Body Therapy (Dipl. A.B.T.). These certifications are offered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Completion of an accredited master's degree program in Oriental medicine is required to take the Dipl. O.M. certification exam, and completion of an acupuncture master's degree program is required for the Dipl. Ac. exam. Exam requirements for the Dipl. A.B.T. credential include the completion of 500 hours of Asian body therapy coursework from a formal school.

You may also obtain certifications from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). The NCBTMB offers specialty certificates in Clinical Rehabilitative Massage, Massage Therapy for Integrative Healthcare, and Pain & Palliative Care, among others. Prior training, based on minimum number of hours, and completion of related coursework is necessary to sit for the certification exams.

Step 5: Determining Where to Work as a Holistic Health Practitioner

Once you complete your training to become a holistic health practitioner, you'll most likely need to decide if self-employment is right for you. According to the Institute of Holistic Health Careers, holistic health practitioners are generally self-employed, while some work in the education and consulting field. You also have the option to work in facilities such as massage therapy clinics, sports medicine treatment centers or hospitals.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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