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What Happens at Your First Visit to a Naturopathic Doctor?

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 11, 2023

If you've ever considered seeking the expertise of a naturopathic doctor (ND) but aren't sure what to expect, you're in the right place. Many people are curious about naturopathic medicine's holistic approach, which blends traditional healing methods with modern scientific knowledge. In this post, we'll delve into what typically transpires during your initial visit to a naturopathic doctor.

Understanding Naturopathic Medicine

Before diving into the first visit, it's crucial to understand the principles guiding naturopathic medicine:

  1. The Healing Power of Nature: Trusting the body's inherent wisdom to heal itself.
  2. First Do No Harm: Utilizing methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful effects.
  3. Identify and Treat the Causes: Finding and treating the root cause, not just alleviating symptoms.
  4. Doctor as Teacher: Educating and supporting patients in achieving and maintaining health.
  5. Treat the Whole Person: Recognizing the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual.
  6. Prevention: Focusing on overall health, wellness, and disease prevention.

Your Initial Visit: What to Expect

  1. Detailed Health History:
    • Your first appointment will likely last between 60-90 minutes. This time allows the ND to gather an extensive health history, which includes not just your physical symptoms, but also emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors.
    • Evidence has shown that comprehensive patient history-taking can reveal significant information that informs the diagnosis and guides treatment options. The additional time spent in patient interviews is characteristic of the naturopathic consultation, setting it apart from many conventional medical visits.
  2. Physical Examination:
    • Depending on your health concerns, a physical examination may be performed. This could encompass standard physical evaluations or more specific diagnostic techniques.
    • Physical examinations in naturopathic consultations are often similar to those in conventional medicine but may also include additional procedures, like tongue and nail analysis or palpation.
  3. Diagnostic Testing:
    • If necessary, an ND may order further diagnostic testing. This could range from blood tests to more specialized diagnostics. The aim is to understand the root cause of health concerns more deeply.
    • Naturopathic doctors are trained in standard medical diagnostic tests and examinations. They might also employ unique tools and approaches to further assess a patient's health status.
  4. Discussion of Findings and Initial Recommendations:
    • Once your ND has gathered all necessary information, they'll discuss their findings with you. This conversation might include potential root causes of your symptoms and initial recommendations for treatment.
    • Patient education is a foundational element of naturopathic medicine. Evidence suggests that patients who understand their health conditions and treatment options are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and achieve better health outcomes.
  5. Personalized Treatment Plan:
    • In subsequent visits, your ND will provide a more detailed and personalized treatment plan, which can encompass dietary recommendations, herbal medicines, lifestyle modifications, and other therapies.
    • The personalization of treatments is essential in naturopathic medicine, recognizing the unique circumstances, needs, and health status of each patient.

Fostering Optimum Health

Your first visit to a naturopathic doctor is an opportunity to experience a more holistic and individualized approach to health. By taking into account the entirety of your well-being, NDs aim to not only treat illnesses but to foster optimum health. If you're considering naturopathic medicine, approach it with an open mind and be ready for a journey of discovery and empowerment in your health journey.

The Importance of Seeing a Licensed Naturopathic Physician

In the realm of healthcare, credentials matter. When considering naturopathic medicine as a part of your healthcare journey, it's crucial to ensure you're consulting with a licensed naturopathic physician (ND). Licensed NDs have graduated from accredited naturopathic medical schools, undergone rigorous training, and passed board examinations. Accredited institutions offer programs that blend in-depth scientific knowledge with traditional healing methods, ensuring a comprehensive education.

Additionally, licensed NDs are bound by professional standards and ethical guidelines, which further ensure patient safety and quality of care. Before scheduling an appointment, always check the practitioner's credentials. Many states and provinces have regulatory boards or professional associations that can help verify the legitimacy of a naturopathic doctor's license. Taking this step ensures that you're placing your health in capable and well-educated hands.

Naturopathic doctors approach health and wellness through a holistic lens, striving to understand and treat the individual as a cohesive whole rather than a mere sum of their parts. This means that rather than simply addressing isolated symptoms or conditions, they assess the physical, emotional, environmental, and even spiritual factors that may contribute to a person's health concerns. By acknowledging and treating all levels of the human experience — from biochemical imbalances to emotional distress to lifestyle choices — naturopathic doctors aim to restore equilibrium and promote natural healing within the body. Their integrative methodology often combines traditional medical knowledge with natural therapies, ensuring that patients receive a comprehensive and tailored treatment plan that aligns with their unique needs and life circumstances.


  1. Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC)
  2. Bastyr University
  3. National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM)
  4. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)

Feel free to click on any of the links above to learn more about naturopathic medicine, education, and the institutions that support and uphold its principles and practices.

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