Naturopaths encourage clients to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through the use of natural therapies which promote and stimulate the body's own ability to improve and thrive

A naturopath is a natural health practitioner who specialises in nutritional therapy, osteopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, or herbal medicine. As a naturopath, you'll use an approach to healthcare which blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional, natural forms of treatment.

You'll base your practice on the belief that the body has an instinctive ability to heal itself and that symptoms can be treated with non-conventional, complementary therapies. You'll focus on addressing the underlying cause of illness and disease rather than simply suppressing the symptoms. Taking a holistic approach, you'll treat the client as a wholebeing, taking into account their individual lifestyle, diet, physical, and emotional wellbeing. This natural form of healthcare follows principles such as:

  • recognise the body's inherent ability to heal naturally
  • do no harm
  • identify and treat the cause, physically or emotionally
  • treat the whole person
  • prevention of disease and optimisation of health
  • educate, teach and empower.

Naturopaths can gain expertise in a range of safe and effective natural practices. You'll use hydrotherapy, fasting, exercise, massage, reflexology, lifestyle counselling, spiritual healing and more, depending on your qualifications.

Methods of assessment and treatment will vary depending on the areas that you've trained in. In an initial assessment you use diagnostic tools such as iridology (looking into the iris), kinesiology, nail analysis and tongue, face and pulse examination (from traditional Chinese medicine). Naturopathic treatment can be used to help almost any health concern which doesn't require surgery. Common ailments that naturopathy is said to help with include chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, skin conditions, anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, and adrenal fatigue. Practitioners may choose to specialise in specific areas.

Naturopathy is an overarching approach in complementary medicine. A nutritional therapist, osteopath, homeopath, or herbalist will chose to train and work with clients/patients using naturopathic principles and treatments. Medically trained professionals, such as doctors and dentists, may also chose specialise in naturopathic practise.

Responsibilities

As a naturopath, you'll need to:

  • carry out initial 60-90 minute consultations to gain a detailed account of the person's condition, medical history, diet and lifestyle, and any conventional treatments that they may be taking
  • carry out more specific assessments using techniques such as iridology, or tongue and nail diagnosis to get a better picture of the complete state of health of the client
  • if needed, carry out pathology testing such as hair, stool, or blood analysis
  • take into account drug/nutrient interactions before making recommendations
  • recommend and give advice on diet changes, exercise regimes, lifestyle, herbal medicine and homeopathic remedies
  • create personalised health programmes or treatment plans which address all areas of the person's life, providing the client with a comprehensive integrative plan which will best enable their body to heal
  • carry out hands-on treatments such as osteopathy, reflexology, or acupuncture, and/or work with the client using hydrotherapy, coaching, meditation or yoga techniques depending on your expertise
  • provide follow up care through additional one-to-one sessions to track progress and review treatments as required
  • occasional referral of clients to other practitioners who can help the client with issues which sit outside of your remit, such as counsellors
  • manage client and financial records and general business administration
  • create social media and marketing content to promote your business and services.

Salary

It's likely you'll work on a self-employed basis. As a practitioner you could charge in the region of £65-£90 for a 60-90 minute initial consultation and £45-£65 for 45 minute follow-up appointments. The higher fees are typically charged by more experienced or specialised practitioners so expect to start at the lower end.

Practitioners often offer packages such as a 6-8 week programme of an initial consultation and one follow up, or a 12-week programme with an initial consultation and two follow up appointments.

Self-employment will require indemnity insurance cover and other overheads such as the cost of room hire which would need to come out of your hourly earnings. Naturopathy is frequently carried out on a part-time basis and so you may need additional work to supplement your income.

There are a few employed roles which may command an annual salary of approximately £18,700, although some roles could be seasonal, such as working on retreats.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Most naturopaths are self-employed and run their own practice. This means that you can choose your own working hours, although you may have to offer evening and weekend appointments to meet client need. Follow-up and continued support of clients is likely to involve answering phone calls and emails, which may be outside of regular working hours.

You would normally work from consulting and treatment rooms that may be at your home or an alternative therapy/wellbeing centre, or a natural health shop. You may also visit people in their own homes.

Working hours for employed naturopaths will vary depending on the business. Health spas and retreat work are likely to require some weekend and evening working.

What to expect

  • Self-employment is common and comes with the responsibility of paying for overheads like room hire and indemnity insurance, but also allows for a more flexible working pattern and location which can suit many people.
  • It can be extremely rewarding to help people improve their health and wellbeing, but it's also a big responsibility.
  • Continual developments in science, medicine and research requires a commitment to keeping up to date through attending further training, CPD events and webinars, and carrying out personal research.
  • Practices/businesses can be set up anywhere where clients can be sourced. Working with clients through online consultations and developing a purely online client-base is also an option, or you could offer a combination of online and face-to-face sessions.
  • Practitioners need to be at ease and confident working with clients face-to-face on a one-to-one basis, including administering hands-on therapies where required.
  • Identifying a niche, and creating effective branding and being proactive about promotion will be essential in establishing a successful business.
  • There may be opportunity/scope to work with groups in the community to educate the public on achieving good health and wellbeing through naturopathic approaches.

Qualifications

The General Naturopathic Council (GNC) is the regulator for naturopathy in the UK. Along with the government agency Skills for Health, the GNC has developed the National Occupational Standards for naturopathy in the UK, which describes the minimum competencies for naturopaths. A practitioner must have completed a standard level and amount of training. The GNC sets the curriculum for UK courses, so you should seek out training from a GNC accredited provider.

The qualifying course in the UK is to take a diploma in naturopathy, or one of the fields within naturopathy: nutrition, acupuncture, or homeopathy. Each provider will specify their course entry requirements - you don't need a degree, foundation degree or HND to apply. Usually you'll study biomedicine (anatomy, physiology, and pathology) in the first year of your course. The qualifying path is open to all, including career changers.

There are two main professional bodies for naturopathic practitioners, and the courses they support include supervised clinical practice.

The General Naturopathic Council (GNC) has a list of accredited courses, which includes courses in naturopathy, herbal medicine and naturopathic nutritional therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine.

Some naturopathy courses are available online, however you should check to make sure that any course includes the core element of clinical practice training. Courses which are based entirely on distance learning do not meet regulatory standards.

For naturopathic medical practitioners, full membership of the General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN) does require training to degree level standard, often in separate disciplines such as osteopathy, nutrition or medicine, a minimum of 1,500 hours of academic study which includes medical subjects, and 400 hours of supervised clinical practice. Degrees courses purely in naturopathy are rare and generally fall under complimentary therapy, nutrition, some health sciences, and medical disciplines. 

Skills

You'll need:

  • a warm and friendly approach to build a rapport with clients and put them at ease
  • confidence talking to people of all ages from a wide range of backgrounds
  • excellent listening skills to effectively gain client history and check personal facts
  • the ability to influence, support and encourage clients to follow their programme or plan
  • a diplomatic, patient and non-judgemental approach
  • a passion for the natural approach to health and wellbeing
  • the proactivity and self-belief to self-promote your business and services
  • organisation skills, to manage and maintain financial and business records.

Work experience

Gaining work experience in a role supporting people from diverse backgrounds on a one-to-one basis would be helpful. Any work which involves listening to people, assessing needs and helping others to plan actions is a good basis. Demonstrating an active interest in using food as medicine and the use of natural remedies would also be an advantage.

You can find out more about the profession and the routes into it by arranging information interviews with naturopaths - find locally practising naturopaths by using the membership registers on professional bodies' websites. With the permission of the client, you may even be able to sit in on consultations. You could also seek work shadowing at alternative therapy centres.

Work in health food shops and experience of cooking wholefoods and plant-based diets also provides a good basis of knowledge.

Employers

Naturopaths usually work on a self-employed basis. Running your own practice requires self-marketing through a website, social media, recommendations from previous clients, talks to local groups, and presence at wellbeing events.

If you establish your own niche, such as eating disorders, skin problems or fertility, it may be possible to build relationships with local healthcare providers and support groups to generate referrals. If you've completed a course which is accredited by one of the professional bodies, you can apply to register with the GNC or GCRN to feature in their searchable database.

Some practitioners develop a purely online client base conducting consultations and follow-ups using Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp. This would depend on the types of assessment and diagnosis being used.

There are a few roles in paid employment, or freelancing within establishments. These could be based with luxury health spas, wellbeing centres, health shops, companies hosting wellness retreats, hospitals, and other healthcare settings.

Job search under 'complementary therapist' will return more results than searching specifically for naturopath roles. Following companies on social media may enable job seekers to find opportunities when they arise. The College for Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) advertises its own and nationwide vacancies at CNM Jobs and Opportunities.

Professional development

It's important for you to continue to develop your practise and to stay up to date with new scientific technologies and research through continuing professional development (CPD), which is also likely to be a requirement of professional memberships. For example, the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA) requires 30 hours of CPD each year.

Activities range from webinars, short courses, online courses and sector events to day-to-day research, personal development, and work shadowing. Discover opportunities at:

Career prospects

In the first few years after qualifying, you're likely to be mostly building your business and clientele. You may find that you adapt and adjust your business and practice as you gain experience and start to recognise themes of need from clients and/or your local community.

You might start to identify specialist areas, build partnerships and establish strong referral routes. As you become established you may look for opportunities to develop your professional practice and expertise through further training.

Besides one-to-one work with clients you may also seek to promote your field and reach out to more people through presentations, blogs, videos and articles.