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Melissa Gifford

By: Melissa Gifford on October 4th, 2023

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Holistic Doctor vs. Naturopathic Doctor: Understanding the Difference

Lifestyle & Wellness | Concierge Medicine

If you’re looking for a holistic medicine approach to your health, you’re likely to run into several options. There are a few different types of medical providers who offer a bevy of holistic medicine services.

First, you’ll want to think about what you’re really looking for when it comes to holistic care.

  • Are you looking for someone to serve as your primary care physician? Some holistic practitioners won’t do that (or can’t).
  • Or are you looking for an additional resource to add to your healthcare team?

Once you settle on what exactly you’re looking for from a holistic medicine provider, you’ll want to research your options. And pretty quickly, you’ll find holistic primary care physicians and naturopathic doctors.

As a concierge medicine practice with a few physicians who make holistic and functional medicine a piece of how they practice, we’ve discussed these options with many patients. What should you know about each option?

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What is a Holistic Medicine Doctor?

Holistic primary care doctors combine traditional medicine with a holistic approach, addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a patient's health.

Holistic primary care doctors typically hold an MD or DO degree from an accredited medical school and may have additional certifications in integrative or functional medicine.

These doctors offer a broad range of services, including preventive care, chronic disease management, nutrition counseling, stress management techniques, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture or herbal medicine.

In addition to offering holistic care, they still serve as the quarterback of your healthcare like any other primary care physician. They can be a resource for specialist care and serve as the first point of contact when it comes to changes in your health.

If you’re looking for a primary care physician who combines traditional medicine with holistic care to serve as your primary care physician, then you’ll be looking for a holistic primary care doctor near you.

You’ll want to consider their experience in holistic primary care, their communication style, and their approach to personalized treatment plans.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

Naturopathic doctors attend accredited naturopathic medical schools, not traditional medical schools, and they receive training in natural therapies, nutrition, botanical medicine, and more.

In the United States, naturopathic doctors are licensed to practice in some states, but not all states, and are regulated by naturopathic medicine boards, not traditional medicine boards like the American Board of Family Medicine or the American Board of Internal Medicine

Naturopathic doctors focus on holistic healing through natural therapies and prevention, aiming to stimulate the body's self-healing abilities. They provide a range of services, including herbal medicine, nutrition counseling, lifestyle recommendations, homeopathy, and physical medicine techniques.

If you’re open to naturopathic doctors, make sure the naturopathic doctor you choose is licensed in your state. However, it’s important to note, there is significant debate about the quality of care one might receive at a naturopathic doctor. That’s why they aren’t licensed in all 50 states. 

Naturopathic remedies

Choosing between a Holistic Primary Care Doctor and a Naturopathic Doctor

When deciding between these options, determine whether you need a primary care physician or someone to complement your existing healthcare team.

One other thing to think about is the cost. Most holistic medicine practitioners require out-of-pocket fees for certain services that may not be covered by insurance.

What’s our recommendation? As a concierge primary care practice, we recommend opting for a holistic primary care doctor who is trained as an MD or DO, graduated from an accredited medical school, has experience in holistic primary care, and has completed relevant training and education.

Holistic Primary Care at PartnerMD

At PartnerMD, we offer holistic primary care through doctors who have expertise in this field.

While most of our physicians support holistic principles, Dr. Rakesh Sarma and Dr. Rob Norris in Sandy Springs, GA,  and Dr. Mandana Shafai in Mclean, VA are three physicians in particular who make holistic care a big part of how they practice.

If you’d like to learn more about concierge medicine and how it can benefit your care, download our free guide to Understanding Concierge Medicine

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