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What do Holistic Physicians do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Holistic physicians are licensed medical doctors who combine standard Western medicine with holistic healing principles in the treatment of patients. The goal of holistic therapy is to minimize the pain and suffering associated with common conditions through minimally invasive procedures. In addition to standard medical diagnostic and treatment procedures, professionals might offer acupuncture, chiropractic services, herbal remedies, or aromatherapy for their patients. Most holistic physicians work in private practices or in clinics with other alternative medicine professionals.

A holistic physician is qualified to provide medical treatment according to the established standards of Western medicine. Professionals usually have access to diagnostic testing equipment like x-ray machines, and can prescribe and administer medication if necessary. Holistic physicians usually try to provide natural remedies or alternative treatments before resorting to prescription drugs. A doctor may, for example, provide traditional acupuncture for headaches or muscle pain before resorting to drug therapy. Professionals also commonly provide aromatherapy, herbal medicine, heat therapy, and several other holistic techniques.

Most holistic physicians are primary care providers, meaning that they are the first professionals contacted when patients decide to seek evaluation and treatment. They answer patients' questions about the effectiveness of holistic medicine and fully describe their options before administering treatment. The majority of holistic physicians work in private doctor's offices or joint practices, though some are employed by general hospitals to provide patients with alternatives to standard therapy.

In order to become a holistic physician, a person is required to complete the same educational path and formal training as any other type of primary care doctor. In most countries, a prospective physician must attend an accredited medical school, receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, and complete a residency program that can last between three and eight years. A new doctor is usually required to pass a series of licensing exams before practicing independently. In order to earn holistic medicine credentials, a physician can attend continuing education classes and complete additional licensing exams.

There are many holistic medicine practitioners who do not hold MDs, and are therefore not qualified to medically diagnose and treat patients. In order to ensure quality care, doctors strongly recommend that a person who is suffering from a chronic illness, injury, or another condition consult a licensed physician before exploring holistic therapy options. While many people attest to the power of alternative healing, it is important to receive treatment from a professional who is thoroughly familiar with modern medicine.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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