Can I Afford A Naturopath

30 Apr 2013 2:18 PMChristine Barnes

Many potential patients say to me before their first appointment that they are worried about the cost of coming to a naturopath. I very much understand where they are coming from.

The answer to their worries lies in why they are considering coming to a professional naturopath in the first place.


Often its because they have unresolved health issues that they have been coping with for many years and have previously tried going down the more commonly used mainstream routes without success. These could be routes that might have been heavily subsidized by the taxpayer  - though it should be noted that the gap-payment for non-bulk-billed clients can still be significant.  They may also come to me because they have been told that these routes can do no more to help them, as in the case of post-chemotherapy and cancer.



I tell my clients that I do not replace their doctor. Indeed, I would rather work with their doctor or specialist.  A naturopath has different tools and expertise to a doctor, and there can be a synergy when both work together in an integrative way; very much in the way that a bio-medical specialist can interact with a GP to the benefit of the patient.  Or in the way, for example, in which a plumber can work with a building designer for the benefit of the homeowner.



One of the different tools I have that a G.P. would love to have is time with patients.

Because naturopathy has a completely different approach and set-up, I can spend a great deal of time understanding the patient’s wellness history, lifestyle, goals, drivers, nutrition, family health history, individual background, and other relevant factors. I can spend even more time on each patient outside of our consultations in research on the best way of leading them from where they are to where they want to be. I further have time to coach a patient gently through any required changes to lifestyle and diet and the implementation of any herbal and nutritional supplement protocols. And like anyone working in the health field, I also allocate sufficient time to be right at the cutting edge and aware of the latest research – and this can require a great deal of time and investment. I further make sure that I don’t overload myself with patients, or my own life commitments, to the point where I can’t give my patients’ adequate time and appropriate energy. 


Besides the time component, my patients are also paying for access to my specialist knowledge and experience accumulated over many decades in many different learning institutions and environments. But a naturopathic consultation is not just about resolving the health issue through imparting information. My role is also as an educator, supporter and coach.  For example, an initial appointment may be structured around relieving presenting symptoms with specific diet and lifestyle recommendations. Some clients may seek to know how to prevent future ailments and that may involve relearning how to prepare foods in a way that supports the individual and their predisposition. Other patients may require short frequent sessions to guide them towards their health and wellness goals (as may be the case for someone seeking to lose fat and build muscle).


A good many patients worry about how long it will take to resolve or manage their health issues. Every patient has a different response to treatment and advice. Some issues can simply be resolved overnight with a change in lifestyle and diet (e.g, insomnia caused by excessive caffeine intake).  However, from my experience, chronic issues that have taken years to become so much of a problem that a naturopath is called upon, can take some months to resolve. 


At first as a patient, you might see me on a weekly basis, but as you become familiar with and implement the protocol I’m suggesting, the frequency and length of consultations will gradually diminish.  Indeed, eventually you may only need to see me every now and then for an annual check in.  That is our goal – for you to be experiencing a high level of wellness due to the application of your new found information about diet and lifestyle, and in time, only to need an appointment either to move your wellness levels to a high base line, or if an acute situation should arise, e.g. cold or flu, or as you enter a new life cycle as would be the case for fertility or menopause, or the other end of the spectrum for anti-aging advice.


Another financial issue for patients is the cost of supplements and herbal medicine. Firstly, not all patients require nutritive supplements and herbal medicine – many naturopathic medicines and adjustments to lifestyle and diet are free or extremely economical.  Using food as medicine simply re-organises your grocery list and bill – it doesn’t necessarily add to it. Secondly, herbal medicines and naturopathic supplements, if needed, are not currently subsidized by health funds (private health fund guidelines are constantly changing – please check with yours). However, professional naturopaths try to minimise the use of supplements where possible.  Thirdly, a good professional and independent naturopath can actually save you money by prescribing you practitioner supplements and dosages that actually work. A great many vitamins and supplements in the supermarkets really don’t work very well – if at all – and often not at the dosages recommended by the manufacturer.  Based on the latest research, I prescribe dosages that bring results -they are not necessarily what the manufacturer suggests on the label.


Some patients are worried about the open-ended nature of a naturopathic course of treatment.  I understand – one wants to know how much the total cost is going to be before you commit. This is a really difficult one because each patient responds differently to a course of treatment.  What I can tell you is the faster you implement my recommendations in full, the faster the result.  However, in such cases, and if requested after the initial appointment, I can work out an individual treatment plan with a rough indication of cost – or even adjust a treatment plan to what you can afford.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that until after the initial appointment where I gather a more complete picture of not only your health and health history, but your family’s genetic predisposition to health issues as well as how your family history may have contributed to your existing health issues, and all other pertinent factors. Would you ask for a quote to fix your car without the mechanic seeing it first?


Another way in which naturopaths work differently to doctors is that they don’t follow the diagnosis/prescription method of mainstream health care.  The naturopathic way is a joint effort between naturopath and patient, and the naturopath gradually coaches the patient to a better understanding of personalised illness prevention, and how to achieve and live a healthy lifestyle for the body and mind as a whole. It considers a good deal more than the ailments presented. There’s a great deal of information, education and two-way communication involved.  This approach eventually empowers the patient to look after their health, and will save a great deal of money in the long run through more consistent and better overall health outcomes over a lifetime.


I should also make mention of the shop assistants at the chemist or health store who try to be helpful. Some of them have even trained as herbalists and naturopaths.  Why pay for a professional fully-insured and accredited naturopath when you can get “free” “trained” advice at the corner store?  But has the shop assistant taken your full health history? Without knowing the complete health history of each individual it’s too easy to suggest inappropriate or incomplete health advice. This is of great concern as many nutrients can alter how your existing medications react. Obtaining “over the counter” advice and buying seemingly harmless “natural” supplements may unknowingly lead to harmful interactions. 


What you may not know is there are many positive interactions between natural constituents found in nutritionals and herbs and medications that are all well researched and I highly recommend taking advantage of these helpful companions.  However, the complexities of designing nutritional and herbal supplementation plans in the presence of other medications requires a comprehensive consultation. Without a full naturopathic consultation, no naturopath can give you appropriate and professional advice on your overall health in the couple of minutes you have with them over the shop counter.  In fact, natural medicine professional associations’ guidelines state that a naturopath is required to take a full health history prior to prescribing. Would you trust your health to a shop assistant?  


On a more positive note, many private health insurance plans cover part of the cost of consulting a naturopath with accredited professional memberships. And there are tax rebates available if you spend over a certain sum during the financial year. Speak to your accountant for more information.


So can you afford a naturopath? There comes a time in every car’s life when its better to buy a new car than keep repairing the old one. We don’t have that option with our body – when its broken down ,we can’t buy a new body.  As a species we are living longer then ever before. However, are we “well” enough to be enjoying the longevity that biomedicine is providing?  So look after the body and mind that you have the best way you can, see a professional accredited naturopath. I would suggest that you can’t afford not to.



Can I Afford A NaturopathMonique DawsonMind Body

My affirmation, has always been," The universe knows what I need and want,, and I can always afford everything I want and need right now, . The universe conspires to help me get this",, I ve always loved a good conspiracy,, xo

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