For ‘Naturopathic Doctors,’ Licensing Is a Tricky Issue

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Only 15 states and the District of Columbia currently license naturopaths — requiring practitioners to attend a four-year accredited, specialized school, pass an exam and log a certain amount of clinical training — but with the burgeoning popularity of naturopathy, at least 11 more states are trying to pass licensing legislation, according to an article in Monday’s New York Times.

In states without licensing laws, naturopaths — people who focus on diet and lifestyle changes and use natural herbs and botanical remedies to treat medical conditions — may practice without meeting a set standard of training and may freely refer to themselves as “naturopathic doctors.” But while the establishment of state licensing laws sounds like a positive move for consumer safety, a bill proposed in Colorado has met with staunch opposition. The Times‘s Dan Frosch reports:

The Colorado Medical Society has lobbied against licensing, arguing that it would allow naturopaths to treat and diagnose illnesses in patients beyond their level of expertise.

“They want to diagnose medical conditions, and we don’t believe they are qualified and that they have the education to do that,” said Diana Protopapa, the medical society’s director of political affairs and education, adding that there is little evidence naturopathy is either safe or effective.

The other main organization opposed to licensing in the state is the Colorado Coalition for Natural Health, a group of natural health practitioners. Many members of that group did not attend one of the few accredited naturopathy colleges in the United States, and they fear they could be out of work if they were suddenly required to do so. The Colorado proposal would prohibit people who did not attend one of the schools from calling themselves naturopathic doctors.

Read the full Times story here.