If you are just joining us, we are beginning a series that I introduced last week about naturopathic healing in substance abuse recovery (Part I available here). I am glad you have decided to join in the discussion again. (To read the introduction to this series, click here!)
As we return to this conversation allow me to introduce the context: opening the door to naturopathic healing. This blog series is working to understand what a Naturopathic perspective on healing is, and how it helps the client to maintain health and even thrive during early substance abuse recovery.
In order to be able to delve into the complexity of this topic, we have to explore a piece of the larger puzzle to gather a foundation. Here’s the question we will answer today: what is the Naturopathic view of healing?
As we progress, we will talk about different modalities that can be used in a Traditional Naturopathic practice. We will also delve into some of the principles of Naturopathic healing that will lay a framework we will return to often.
What is a Naturopath? There are two forms of Naturopathy that exist in the U.S. Some Naturopaths are trained as family practitioners and medical doctors with Naturopathic philosophies and modalities.
There are also Traditional Naturopaths who are trained in nutrition, Naturopathic philosophies and modalities, but do not perform surgeries, diagnose, prescribe, or practice medication.
The latter instead teach an individual how to manage their health through food and nutrition, herbs, homeopathics, acupressure, mindfulness, and healthy lifestyle habits, along with other non-invasive healing modalities. In this series we will be discussing the role of a Traditional Naturopath working with someone in early recovery.
A Naturopath’s primary guiding principle is “do no harm.” The second guiding principle is the belief in the Medicatrix Naturae or the healing power of nature. More specifically, the body’s ability to heal itself.
“This healing power is an inherent self-organizing, ordered healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains, and restores health.”Naturopaths seek to harness the organism’s own natural healing energies, by applying therapies that are in harmony with nature and in harmony with the needs of the client.” 1
Another way to say this is that Naturopaths and the modalities that are employed do not cure. The body “cures” itself. Naturopaths are facilitators. We try to “identify the cause of problems, eliminate toxins, recommend substances to deal with deficiencies, and stimulate the body’s own natural healing abilities.”2
Naturopaths believe that the body tends toward healing if given the resources.
The person’s own natural healing energies, is described as his/her vital force, [this is what does the work], and can be described in a much larger and more complete way as vitalism.
“Vitalism [is a] core philosophy of Naturopathic practice. Vitalism or vital force, describes the intelligence that animates each and every person. It refers to forces beyond the physical self that govern life, health and healing. Vitalism postulates that there is a self-organizing principle within all life (some say within all matter). The vital force is an invisible power which is discernable only from its effects… Vitalism is also associated with concepts of personal essence, spirit or soul. Early practitioners supported vitalism by assisting nature in the process of health and healing using food, exercise, hydrotherapy and herbs and promoting the elimination of internal wastes.” Naturopathic practitioners are trained in a similar fashion. They are taught how to assess and work with a person’s vitality versus suppressing it or over-riding it. Naturopathic treatment includes: food, exercise, hydrotherapy and herbs. It also can include homeopathy, acupuncture, meditation, mindfulness exercises and other modalities that support a person’ vital force.” 1
Naturopaths work with an individual to treat the cause or tolle causam of the individual’s disease. The Naturopathic understanding is that health is improved by reducing the number of factors that strain the body. These factors interfere with its normal functioning and ability to heal.
Furthermore, naturopathic treatment involves teaching clients that a return to a more simple and health promoting lifestyle is the best medicine.
Identifying and treating the root cause of dis-ease does not imply causality between events in a person’s life and disease. Human beings are a complex, dynamic and integrated system and it is the accumulation of multiple factors that contribute to health and disease.1
A Naturopath’s role is to educate as a teacher, on the factors that affect health and disease. They inform individuals about the impact of their choices and how to gain more control over maintaining their own health. It is the client’s small, daily choices about many areas of their life, that influence the totality of their health.
Areas such as nutrition, exercise, spiritual well-being, their posture, hygiene, rest, sleep, fostering a healthy peace of mind, social connections, occupational satisfaction and environmental situations build a healthy or unhealthy mind body and spirit.1
Naturopaths also operate with the principle of “’Holism’ based on the understanding that all entities and systems in the universe exist as a unified whole. The parts of the whole are dynamically interdependent and interrelated. The holistic approach of Naturopathic practice recognizes that the spiritual, psychological, functional, and structural aspects are interdependent one and the same and that to treat an individual you have to treat the interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics, as well as the interaction of individuals with their environment, external and social factors.”1
Naturopaths believe that, “the best medicine is disease prevention and health promotion, and it is a continual process. It starts at conception and continues throughout all of life it is maintained through the homeostatic mechanisms of the body. It involves every aspect of a person – their lifestyle, emotional and mental health and family and community, and it takes into consideration a person’s environmental and how to live in harmony with nature.”1
The concept of well-being is essential to a Naturopath’s work with a client. It allows the client to create a picture of what their best life would look like and appropriately sets the end goal that the client and Naturopath work towards.
“Wellbeing is composed of the two words ‘well’ and ‘being’. The concept of “wellbeing” indicates that it is not only ‘wellness’ that is required for health, but also ‘being-ness’. It is not just physical health but psychological and spiritual health that creates total wellbeing. The criteria for “well-being” varies. It includes concepts such as passion for what you do each day, financial security, physical vitality, sense of pride in contributing to your communities, and the quality of relationships. As part of the Naturopathic encounter, especially the initial visit, it is advisable to ask clients about their up- bringing and how they define well-being. It is the client’s concept of well-being that is the most important.”1
One could think of the Naturopathic view of healing like the rings in the cross section of a tree. A series of concentric circles spreading from a person’s spiritual center or internal force… through their structure and organs… onward out to encompass their energy, relationships, and life.
Additionally, one must support the inner most vital workings of the body and move outward with support to encourage, stimulate, and revitalize a person so that their soul or vitality may regain its luminescence, and an individual can find his path forward.
As with healing in nature, lasting sustainable change takes time. Changes made, modality added or supplements recommended may bring immediate effect and relief so that discomfort is eased. However, lasting healing is created through the ownership that the client takes to initiate change to live a life that promotes well-being.
It happens in layers, takes work, energy, integration, and time. It is a rewarding journey to learn to live well, and be well. A Naturopath comes along side this individual to teach, encourage, and recommend healthy steps that help an individual find their way.
As we continue on this journey through answering these questions we will explore many facets of addiction and recovery and where the Traditional Naturopathic Doctor fits. As unusual as this occupation may seem to you, I am glad you are willing to join us for this discussion. I think you will find the coming segments of conversation informative and hopefully enjoyable. Please join us then! Let me leave you with this question; How you would define well-being in your own life?
Click here to Part III!