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Why is Doctor as Teacher a Principle of Naturopathic Medicine?

In this article:

Amy Rothenberg, ND, and Allison Willette, RN, ND with INM & AANP

Many patients struggle to understand ”physician-speak.”

Why is doctor as teacher a principle of naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic doctors follow six guiding principles that serve as a philosophical platform for everything they do. The principles influence how they think about medicine, how they make clinical decisions, and most importantly, how they treat you as a patient. Each principle plays a role in guiding naturopathic doctors in diagnosis and treatment. The doctor as teacher is one of these six core principles.

Misunderstanding Treatment Plans

Misunderstanding of clinical explanations and care directions can lead to ineffective treatment.

If you don’t always follow your doctor’s instructions, you’re not alone. Studies show that non-compliance to doctor recommendations is epidemic, and it can lead to ineffective treatment or further health concerns. Non-compliance often stems from not having a clear understanding of the treatment plan and strategy. Many patients struggle to understand “physician-speak,” and may not fully grasp clinical explanations and care directions.

Informed Patients

NDs aim to answer your questions so you can fully participate in your therapeutic plan.

Licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) believe that an informed patient is ready to take an active role in the healing process.

NDs aim to answer your questions so you can fully understand and participate in your therapeutic plan.

Quality Time

NDs often spend one hour or more with patients in an initial appointment.

Communication with you, the patient, is an essential element of working with any naturopathic doctor. Because each patient is seen as an individual, not just a diagnosis, naturopathic doctors prioritize empathy, connection, and sharing of relevant information. In order to educate and inform patients adequately, NDs often spend one hour or more with patients in an initial appointment, compared to an average 20 minute appointment with a conventionally trained physician.

Educated Patients

Educated patients who understand the treatment recommendations often have better success with treatment and feel more confident about their health care choices. Research shows that better communication and collaborative decision making between doctors and patients drives health care costs down.

Because of their focus on patient education and patient empowerment, naturopathic doctors may be a good fit for individuals who prefer to be active participants in their health care, and who are looking for a fresh perspective on preventive care and natural treatment options for improved health.

Research shows that better communication between doctors and patients drives down health care costs.

The INM would like to acknowledge Amy Rothenberg, ND, and Allison Willette, RN, ND for their input on this FAQ.

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This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research on this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)


Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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