Definition and Overview
A naturopathic follow-up is a visit or a series of appointments with a doctor who specialises in natural treatment methods. Although it’s usually carried out after a treatment plan has been completed, it can also be performed in between therapies.
Naturopathy has a very long history. It is believed that its concept originated around 400 BC and is based on the principles of Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher who is also considered as the father of medicine. According to him, a patient should be treated holistically, which means that other than his illness, other aspects such as his mind and spirit, must also be healed so he can be completely cured.
Naturopathy is rooted in the belief that the body has the ability to heal itself and its first rule is to do no harm. Thus, naturopathic doctors do not recommend interventions such as medications and surgery that may only introduce more health problems. Naturopathy also believes that to heal a person, the expert should be able to diagnose and treat the root cause of the problem. For example, a constant headache may be brought about by feelings of guilt.
Although naturopathy has been around for centuries, it is not recognised by the scientific and professional health care community based on the assumption that most of its techniques are not based on evidence. Also, any person with an expertise in any subspecialty of naturopathy can be called a doctor even if they do not have the same educational background as doctors in conventional medicine. They also don’t participate in residency training unless it’s offered by the schools and naturopathic hospitals, which can be very limited.
Nevertheless, there are at least 17 states that certify naturopathic doctors. Organizations such as the American Naturopathic Association (ANA) help establish practice standards and guidelines.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A naturopathic doctor follow-up is performed to:
Assess the effectiveness or success of the treatment – Because the treatment plan is highly customised, the results can greatly vary. A follow-up is one of the best ways to conduct an evaluation. Depending on the outcome of the follow-up, the treatment plan may be adjusted, changed, or stopped.
Prevent or manage potential conditions – A follow-up will allow the doctor to identify potential or ongoing issues or conditions that can worsen the illness or delay or prevent the healing process.
Encourage the active participation of the patient – One of the principles of naturopathy is that patients are responsible for their own healing. The follow-up establishes an avenue for both the patient and the doctor for a dialogue. The doctor can identify negative behaviors (e.g. smoking or poor diet) that may hurt the patient’s health and provide steps to overcome or change them.
Refer patients to other professionals – If necessary, the naturopathic doctor may recommend visits to other professionals such as a nutritionist, dietitian, acupuncturist, or herbalist to further enhance the effectiveness of the treatment plan.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Naturopathy patients discuss the follow-up schedule with their doctor even before the treatment officially begins. This is part of setting expectations, allowing the patient to plan his future activities and days accordingly.
The follow-up may occur after the treatment has been completed or in between therapies while the interval of these visits may be between a week and a month. Usually, if the condition is serious or the treatment is intensive, the follow-up visit intervals are much closer.
Compared to the initial consultation, follow-up sessions are often shorter. If a consultation takes about an hour to complete, it may be only 30 minutes or even less for the follow-up, especially if the outcomes in each visit are positive.
During the follow-up, the naturopathic doctor is expected to review the results of the previous visit. In some cases, the doctor may provide suggestions, treatments, or referrals. These will be evaluated in the next follow-up. The doctor will also determine if the treatment has worked, if the patient’s condition is improving, or if there are no changes to the health and the patient’s prognosis. This is accomplished through a short interview, during which the doctor may ask the following questions:
- How are you feeling?
- What concerns you right now?
- Do you feel pain in areas that you have not mentioned before?
- Have you noticed any new symptom?
- How does the diagnosis or prognosis affect your activities or thoughts?
It’s not uncommon for doctors to request certain tests to investigate the concerns of the patient.
Possible Risks and Complications
The body can react differently to each of the naturopathic technique used. This may mean that one method may work while the other doesn’t. This can be modified in each follow-up, but if the modification is ineffective too, the patient may only end up feeling frustrated and avoid the succeeding appointments. The controversy surrounding the practice may also increase the patient’s doubt and anxiety.
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
- American Naturopathic Association