Is there a doctor who can help me understand my health condition? A doctor who can answer my questions? Can I play a role in planning my journey toward well-being?
What if doctors focused on educating their patients about their own health?
That’s what naturopathic doctors do. We see the role of doctor as a teaching role. By teaching our patients how to achieve wellness for themselves, we shift the balance of power back where it belongs—into your hands.
Why Patient Education Matters
When we’re educated about something, we’re empowered to do something about it. Our health is no exception.
Learning about our own health makes us less dependent on the knowledge of doctors to make us feel better. It also makes us more likely to follow through with medical treatments and avoid relapse. Patients who are educated about their health:
- Tend to have more success with completing their treatments.
- Feel more confident about their health.
- Become savvy health-care consumers who are better able to stay safe and avoid mix-ups in the medical system.
- Take more responsibility for improving their health.
- Achieve better long-term wellness.
Various studies have linked patient education to improved health outcomes. For example, when patients admitted to the hospital for heart failure are educated about their condition, their hospital readmission rates drop by an astounding 74 percent. Randomized trials have similarly shown that teaching patients about lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes helps reduce the incidence of the disease.
The 5 Keys to Health Mastery
Reclaiming authority over your body is a lot like walking a spiritual path or mastering a skill. You become a lifelong student of your own health. The naturopath teaches and guides you along your journey, providing the information you need to make empowered decisions for yourself.
What does that journey look like? Author George Leonard spent his lifetime studying what makes people successful at mastering life. After interviewing musicians, Olympic athletes and Nobel Laureates, he boiled the process down to five key traits for mastering any challenge—including your health.
1. Find a guide.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
—William Arthur Ward
The word “doctor” derives from the Latin docere, which means, “to teach.” Whenever a doctor explains what’s causing your symptoms or answers your questions about a medical procedure, they’re fulfilling their role as teacher.
But for naturopaths, the role goes much deeper than that. A skilled naturopath must be able to:
- Break down complex concepts in ways patients can easily understand.
- Teach patients how to make (and keep making) lifestyle choices that will help them achieve wellness.
- Develop strong relationships with patients to understand how they think, what they believe and what motivates them to succeed.
To fulfill our role as guides and teaching partners, naturopaths are taught to walk our talk—it other words, we’re actively engaged in tending to our own health so we can show others how to do it. By helping each other on our respective journeys, we learn myriad ways to help our patients succeed too.
2. Channel your passion.
“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
As you walk your path toward health mastery, you’ll need dedication, curiosity and discipline to stay on track. Passion is the fuel that will keep you going when exercising feels like too much and sticking to your diet seems impossible.
Most naturopaths are drawn to the profession out of a passion for better health—both our own and other people’s. But our passion alone isn’t enough. The most successful patients are those who want to:
- Find out how they got to the place they did.
- Learn how to get themselves out of it.
- Take an active role in making decisions about their health.
- Understand their care every step of the way.
Part of the naturopathic doctor’s role as teacher is to help you find engage your passion for achieving wellness. A student who has no desire to learn isn’t going to get far. A good naturopath will ignite your curiosity about your health and help you channel your passion into making the changes needed to support the healing process.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
“Don’t feel that the little things you have to do day after day are distancing you from your dream. Everything brings you closer to your dream. It’s just a mindset.”
To learn a new skill, you have to get in the habit of practicing. The same is true for improving your health.
Wellness isn’t something you can achieve all at once by making a big decision or getting a certain treatment. It mostly happens incrementally, through the small actions you take and the habits you develop day after day. We influence our health through the choices we make about:
- Spiritual well-being
- Rest and sleep
- Social, occupational and environmental situations.
As you work toward developing habits that will support your long-term health, your naturopathic physician can act as a coach as well as a teacher. We educate our patients about the factors that affect health to help individuals understand the impact of their choices. We also help them stay motivated to continue practicing daily changes that promote good health.
4. Visualize the outcome.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Before you can achieve a goal, you need to be able to visualize yourself succeeding at it. It’s a proven technique athletes use to win Olympic medals—and it also works for achieving better health.
Many people who suffer from chronic disease or poor health get used to feeling bad. They often have trouble imagining what it’s like to be healthy. Sometimes they develop limiting beliefs around their health, becoming convinced that they’ll never feel good again.
Naturopaths are trained to guide patients out of the dark thicket of despair by helping them broaden their beliefs about what’s possible. When patients are unable to visualize a healthy outcome for themselves, it’s the physician’s job to paint a picture of what’s possible. Because we’ve seen countless people turn their health around, we’re able to offer hope to patients who need it.
5. Push your threshold.
“Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
When you start taking charge of your own health, you can achieve things you never believed were possible. But to do that, you need to be willing to think outside the box.
Naturopathic medicine offers a multitude of avenues for treatment, many of which are unfamiliar to modern patients. Some are rooted in medical practices that are thousands of years old. A naturopathic physician can help you explore all of the treatment options available to you—including some you may have never heard of. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more successful you’ll be.
As your teacher and guide, your naturopath is there to give you the tools you need to take your health into your own hands and forge your own path toward wellness.