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What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

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You may have seen a naturopathic doctor, or know someone who has. Learn the definition of an ND, what’s included in ND education, and where NDs practice. 

What Kind of Doctor is an ND?

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained as holistic primary care physicians that focus on prevention and wellness, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

What is Naturopathic Doctor Training?

NDs attend post-graduate training at accredited naturopathic medical schools for four to five years. They learn the standards of conventional medical care as well as traditional and innovative naturopathic therapies. There are three foundations that guide naturopathic medical practitioners: the principles of Naturopathic Medicine, the Therapeutic Order and the Determinants of Health. The Naturopathic Principles are a set of rules or guides that provide the overarching approach that NDS take with patients.

These principles include:

  • Treating the whole person
  • Finding and treating the cause of disease
  • Trusting in the healing power of nature
  • Doctor as teacher
  • Do no harm
  • Prevention

The Therapeutic Order outlines the actual treatment planning for an ND.  NDs attempt to bring about a cure by starting with the least invasive, least toxic approaches for a particular patient, such as diet, sleep and exercise recommendations, and moving, as needed to more forceful interventions, such as supplements, medications or surgery.

Naturopathic doctors work to find the right level of intervention that will make positive, long-term changes happen for their patients.  The Determinants of Health is a listing of the core components that NDs see as key to individual health. They include genetics, nutrition, patterns of exercise and rest, past illness and medical interventions, physical and emotional traumas, stresses and exposures, to name a few. An ND explores the determinants of health with all patients, and this leads to a full, curated view of how to bring about wonderful health.


Where Do Naturopathic Doctors Work?

NDs may work in private practices, hospitals, integrative clinics and community health centers. They can be utilized as general practitioners to perform annual wellness exams and provide care for chronic disease and acute illnesses. They can also serve as specialists in areas such as pediatrics, women’s health, cardiovascular wellness and diabetes care. In many states, NDs are able to prescribe pharmaceutical medications. NDs are experts in natural medicines such as herbs and homeopathy. Nutrition and exercise counseling, stress reduction techniques, and specialized diets are also often used in naturopathic practice.


What to Expect From Your Visit

Many people are surprised by how much time their ND spends with them. You can expect your first visit to last 60–90 minutes and return visits to last 30–60 minutes, depending on the practitioner. Typically, a very thorough family and medical history is taken. You will likely be asked about your diet and exercise, and stress and sleep habits. These questions can help your doctor determine the underlying cause of your complaints.

To find a licensed ND in your area, visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website at If you happen to be in the Seattle or San Diego areas, consider a visit with our clinicians and student clinicians at our teaching clinics. For more information, visit  in Seattle and in San Diego. 

For more information about how you can engage in healing and long-term, holistic health for those around you, download our eBook, How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor.

Want to know more about how Bastyr is leading the way in natural medicine? Request more information today.

If you’re ready to change the face of healthcare, apply now.


Jeanne Galloway, ND

Written by Jeanne Galloway, ND