Podcast series, The ND Will See You Now, Arlie Millyard, ND
In this podcast and interview transcript, from The ND Will See You Now podcast, our editor interviews Arlie Millyard, ND about the importance of inclusive healthcare. Naturopathic doctor Millyard is the founder of Heal All Consulting, which helps health and wellness practitioners build safe, welcoming, and affirming practices for patients who may feel marginalized and unwelcome in the medical system. This includes: LGBTQ2SIA+ patients, fat patients, disabled patients, patients of color, and other patients who have been mistreated by the healthcare system.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript has been edited for clarity from a podcast interview. The advice given here is not meant to treat or diagnose any disease or illness. The information is for education purposes. If you wish to find a naturopathic doctor who specializes in integrative and naturopathic medicine, visit the INM’s Find an ND tool.
LISTEN TO THE ND WILL SEE YOU NOW PODCAST WITH DR. ARLIE MILLYARD
Anna-Liza (AL): Hi there, and welcome to the Institute for Natural Medicine’s podcast, The ND Will See You Now. In this podcast, we talk to naturopathic doctors across North America about their whole-person approach to health, what patients can expect, and why their work is so very vital to patient health. I’m your host, Anna-Liza, and today I’m really happy to talk to naturopathic doctor, Arlie Millyard, from Toronto, Canada. Hi Arlie!
Dr. Arlie Millyard (AM): Hi!
AL: So, Dr. Millyard’s private practice focuses on digestion, complex chronic illness, mental wellness, and inclusive health care, which we’re going to be talking about quite a bit today. And Dr. Millyard, you are deeply committed, and I mean deeply, to be a safer space for quite a few patients. Here’s just some of the patient populations that you mention on your website: of course, LGBTQ2SIA+ patients, fat patients, disabled patients, patients of color, and in fact, all other patients who are mistreated by the healthcare system. So, that is a lot of inclusivity. This is fantastic. And of course, you’re the co-founder, which we’re going to talk about today, of Heal All Consulting, a platform that helps health and wellness practitioners build safe, welcoming, and affirming practices for queer clients. Thanks so much for joining us today, Dr. Millyard!
AM: Thanks for having me.
AL: So, let’s dive in here. When it comes to queer inclusion, you do go further than simply putting a rainbow sticker on your website or maybe on your clinic door, which as we know, happens. This can be rather performative when it comes to queer inclusion. And you and your business partner, fellow naturopathic doctor, Cindy Gilbert, as I mentioned, founded Heal All Consulting to really help healthcare practitioners make their practices more inclusive and more affirming for queer patients. And on your website you pose a really interesting question to patients— ‘what if you could finally feel that your health issues are no longer holding you back without having to consult ‘judgey’ or dismissive healthcare practitioners?’ So, all of this leads to our question—what were you actually hearing from queer patients that led you to co-found Heal All Consulting?
AM: Yeah, so both Cyndi and I have talked to many, many LGBTQ2SIA+ folks and also draw from our own experiences to understand the main areas where practitioners often miss the mark. And you bring up a really great point about the issue of performative inclusivity. Because one of the big things that I hear, and that I’ve personally experienced, is going to a practitioner who you think is going to be super inclusive, right, because they’ve marketed themselves that way. And then finding that they actually haven’t done anything to make their actual practice inclusive. It’s really, really disappointing. And it often happens because practitioners who aren’t LGBTQ2SIA+ or who aren’t queer don’t know much about identities that they don’t share; they don’t realize the full scope of what is needed to be a good practitioner to these populations.
There are five areas that we most commonly hear patients worry about. So, the first thing that you have to do when you are making an appointment with a new practitioner is to phone reception or you go on their website to make an appointment. You might worry, ‘Is the receptionist trained to be inclusive?’ ‘Does the online booking software require you to put in a title like Mr. or Mrs.?’ ‘Is the intake form inclusive?’
So, you need to have inclusive systems to have an inclusive practice for LGBTQ2SIA+ clients. They may get the message that this practice isn’t safe for us. It doesn’t make space for us. So that’s one of the things I hear a lot.
So, let’s say we do make an appointment. We come into a clinic, and then we look around. Is that space physically and emotionally safe for LGBTQ2SIA+ clients? Are there safe bathroom options for trans patients? Do the media and the decor around the clinic represent us? Do they show diverse people? Do they show families who look like our families?
So, then we get the appointment itself. Has the practitioner challenged their biases? Are they making assumptions that patients are straight and cisgender unless they’re proven otherwise? This is probably the most common issue that I have personally experienced. And that I hear about a lot. And it has much deeper consequences than I think most practitioners realize. It’s not just a simple mistake. For someone who is. Iff there’s assumptions being made about us, it can be really demoralizing, and that can lead people to avoid healthcare, which we shouldn’t have to do.
And then, I’d say the second most common complaint that I hear is that practitioners just don’t have the clinical knowledge and skills to support their LGBTQ2SIA+ clients. For example, many practitioners are not aware that asexuality is a normal thing. Not all patients with low libido need to be actually treated for that. So, patients get pathologized and pushed into unwanted treatments, which also can lead you to avoid health care—which we don’t want.
And then finally, it’s always really important to consider intersectionality. You can be the most LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusive practitioner, and if you haven’t addressed racism in your practice, you won’t be inclusive to black queer patients, right? If you don’t work towards decolonizing your practice, you won’t be inclusive to Two-Spirit patients. If you don’t make your practice accessible, you won’t be inclusive to queer disabled patients. So, those are kind of the main themes that I hear from people a lot. And so, inclusive systems, safer spaces, challenging our bias, updating our clinical knowledge and skills, and intersectionality are all things that practitioners can do to create safer practices for their LGBTQ2SIA+ clients.
AL: Well, that was a very concise summary, as it’s really a rather large topic. Thank you, Dr. Millyard. And I suspect that there’s a number of things in there that people have not thought about—or as you pointed out—they may have thought about them but may not realize what the impact is on patients. So, let’s get a little bit into the nuts and bolts of what Heal All Consulting does. You do offer a number of services to healthcare practitioners. There are some fantastic courses and workshops—a couple that really caught my eye. You have one called Queering Naturopathic Medicine and another one called Neutralizing Clinical Language. And then, to speak to what you mentioned just now about inclusive systems, a really interesting service you provide is doing custom consulting to review a lot of what makes up those systems for the healthcare practitioner. So, we’re talking about things like intake forms, what their social media messaging is like, and what their website content is. As opposed to the first question about the patients, what I’m wondering this time is, what is it that you’ve heard from the naturopathic doctors who have used your services in terms of how this is making them better healthcare practitioners and helping them better serve queer patients?
AM: Yeah, we’ve had such overwhelming, lovely feedback from our services. In particular, I think folks that we’ve worked with really appreciate our approach of teaching theories and our follow-up by giving time for practical application of that theory. This allows practitioners to expand their knowledge on their own with a really solid theoretical framework and then gives them the confidence to actually go into the clinic and use these skills that we teach because we’ve trained them first in a risk-free setting.
So, this means that patients don’t have to worry that their practitioners have maybe done training but don’t actually have the experience or don’t actually know how to do it without being awkward. They can really go in and give that great experience to their patients. We also really emphasize that well-rounded approach of addressing all five of those factors so that patients don’t come in and have a good experience with part of the practice that someone has done work on but then is disappointed by something else not being quite up to snuff.
AL: Yeah, those are all fair things. And I think that it really is a learning experience for everyone. I fall into the category you mentioned, being a queer individual who’s a person of color. And absolutely—when you mentioned intersectionality—there are certain things that healthcare practitioners may be aware of: one checkbox, one bucket. But you bring certain things together, and people don’t know how to deal with this combination. So, thank you for raising that issue of intersectionality. Now, that brings us back to the patients and to our last question today. Your website also notes, this is what you say, ‘I am here for anyone who is unsatisfied with the treatment options offered by your family doctor or has had bad experiences with doctors in the past.’ So, what would you say? Or in fact, what do you say to queer patients who are thinking about seeing a naturopathic doctor but may be quite disillusioned by previous discriminatory experiences that they’ve had in the healthcare system?
AM: Yeah, I think all of my patients who come to me and who’ve told me, ‘I’ve struggled with this in the past;’ ‘I’ve had bad experiences in the past, and yet I’m here,’ are such rockstars. I’m so glad that they’ve taken the step to reach out and get help with their health because everyone deserves that. And I’d say that often the reason that we face so many issues in healthcare is that practitioners don’t see us as individuals, which is why so many assumptions are made and stereotypes are used. And that inherently is just much less likely to happen with a naturopathic doctor. Because naturopathic doctors always use an individualized approach, we’d always want to understand your whole lifestyle, your individual factors, and who you are as a person.
That said, one of the great things also about naturopathic doctors is that we all have our own unique practice style. So, it is actually a good thing to shop around and find the person who you actually click with, who really understands you as a person, and who has a style that works with your values. You don’t need to stick with someone who you don’t feel comfortable with. So, find the person who really makes you feel seen and heard as an individual, and they’re the person who can help you without feeling judged.
AL: Well, who wants to be judged when they go to a health care practitioner? I dare say that creates a very negative situation, which is the exact opposite of what the patient came to see you for to begin with.
Well, that’s about all we have time for today. Thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Millyard. You’ve really told us a lot about the challenges that queer patients can experience and face in the healthcare system. And of course, it was so wonderful to hear about how yourself and Dr. Cyndi Gilbert at Heal All Consulting are really breaking those patient barriers down by educating and supporting healthcare practitioners. You’ve also shared what naturopathic medicine does have to offer queer patients as well. So, for those of you listening, if you’re looking to learn more about Heal All Consulting and Dr. Millyard, you can find a transcript of this interview and links to all the work in the podcast notes. Dr. Millyard, thanks so much for joining us today, and we’ll see you next time.
AM: Thank you!