5 Steps to Becoming a Holistic Health Practitioner

Research what it takes to become a holistic health practitioner. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook 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 take a different approach to the treatment of illness and disease than traditional Western medicine. Holistic medicine tends to focus on the use of herbs, nutrition, and practices such as yoga in order to maintain and treat wellness problems. Therapy such as acupuncture may also be incorporated. Furthermore, mental health is emphasized in the holistic approach just as much as 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
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure and/or certification required, specifics vary by state and field
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 9%-13%* (health diagnosing and treating practitioners); 22%** (massage therapists);
Median Salary (2015) $74,710** (health diagnosing and treating practitioners); $38,040** (massage therapists)

Source: *O*Net OnLine; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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. Typically, holistic health practitioners have completed courses of study in holistic health before working in the field.

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

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.

Typically, holistic health practitioners 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

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 (www.ahha.org).

Step 3: Complete a Certificate or Degree Program

You can take courses to earn a Certificate in Holistic Health or as a minor in conjunction with a degree. Some schools may require completion of prerequisite courses on such subjects as human anatomy and physiology prior to being accepted into a certificate program.

Completing a Bachelor of Arts 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.

If you would to provide a specific form of treatment, such as Asian alternative medicine, you may earn a Bachelor of Health Science in Asian Holistic Care and Massage or a Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine.

Step 4: Consider Certification

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). Prior training and completion of related coursework is also necessary to sit for the certification exams.

Step 5: Decide if Self-Employment Is 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 (www. holistichealthcareers.com). You also have the option to work in facilities such as massage therapy clinics, sports medicine treatment centers or hospitals.

What Are Some Alternative Career Options?

Many other healthcare careers exist in alternative approaches to medicine. Massage therapists seek to relieve stress through a direct approach to muscular tension and nerve healing. If you wish for a more traditional focus in medicine, physicians and surgeons specialize in a number of areas, including anesthesiology, cardiovascular health, neurosurgery, or pediatrics.

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