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How to choose an alternative health practitioner

I personally know quite a few mainstream and alternative health practitioners now and I find them to be amazing human beings who are generally caring and of high integrity. As complementary and alternative therapies are often new areas for many people, here are some general tips on how to select a practitioner of any kind, whether it be an acupuncturist, ayurvedic practitioner or massage therapist that is a good fit for you. Some of these tips apply to any conventional medicine or allied health professional as well:

  1. Word of Mouth – A referral is often the best way of understanding the practitioner’s methods, particularly when they have you have witnessed results in your friend, family member or someone you trust.  When you seek a practitioner, they should ask you for your reasons for seeking such treatment and in some cases, or check that you have consulted your GP. We are all different and so not everyone gets the same results in the exactly the same way so while referral is good, don’t expect exactly the same approach for your individual situation.
  2. Energy technique (e.g. Emotional Freedom technique, Reiki, Healing Touch) – If you have preference for a certain technique, then naturally you would seek a practitioner skilled in that particular method.  However, a study by Assay & Lambert on counselling has shown that a person’s improvement after a session is 40% due to the motivation and commitment of client and 35% due to their relationship with the practitioners. The actual counselling technique used affected only 15% of the outcome. Hence, while it is not directly related to energy practices, it does provide clues as to how much you bring to the table in any form of therapy. Nonetheless, feel free to experiment and ask your practitioner to explain their technique to you. Don’t worry if it can’t be explained very clearly the first time as some techniques can be a very experiential process. Results speak for themselves.
  3. Physical Contact: Ask if they work with your hands on the body, or in your energy field, or both? (If they do hands-on work, they may require a qualification or license, depending on your country, in which case you should ask them about this.
  4. Delivery: It is good to know the duration of sessions, how many sessions you expect to have and if you will be seated or lying down. This helps with your own comfort and preparation, but note that the length of any therapy varies greatly depending on the issue you are experiencing and the possible outcome you desire.
  5. Training, qualifications & experience:Whilst many alternative health practitioners are formally trained in recognised schools, there are a rare few that are learned their skills from more informal means such as apprenticeships. It’s fine to ask how they have learned their skill and how long they have been practising for. It’s also worthwhile asking if they have qualifications in other areas such as counselling, psychology conventional medicine and if they incorporate it.
  6. Attitude & Compatibility: It is important for the practitioner to understand your needs. A shared goal with your practitioner when starting treatment is important if you are to receive the benefits you want. A grounded practitioner will encourage you to seek and follow the advice of your regular (conventional) medical/psychological practitioner and should not make recommendations outside of her/his area of expertise. They should be able to competently answer your questions without getting defensive.You may choose to inform your regular doctor that you are receiving a complementary therapy such as energy coaching. In addition, ensure that your practitioner is willing to collaborate with your medical professional on your overall health. Your practitioner should not make unrealistic claims or promises to heal you of life-threatening illnesses or conditions, especially in a short period of time. Ultimately, you should feel comfortable and relaxed in their presence and they would not pressure you to make return visits. However, it is good practice torecommend a treatment plan for the sessions and advise on follow up. You should still be allowed to make the final decision.
  7. Informed Consent: The practitioner should provide you with all the necessary information and seek your consent before treating you. Some have booking forms as part of their practice, which includes disclaimers and/ or Terms and Conditions, which are reasonable requests and worth understanding.
  8. Location: If your session is in-person (as opposed to over the phone or internet), ensure they have a clean and comfortable space, whether it is their home or office.
  9. Fees: The right price is whatever you are willing to pay in return for the value you receive. It is OK to compare prices, and like any service, you may occasionally pay more for more experienced or qualified professionals. In some cases there may be a first free introduction so you have a chance to meet the practitioner and ask questions before proceeding with paid sessions.

Which of these tips was most relevant for you?

About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.