All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses. —Frederick Nietzsche
You may be wondering how to find an accredited school where you can become legitimately certified to practice clinical herbalism, traditional naturopathy, or holistic nutrition.
It is interesting to note that the public is generally unfamiliar with the subtle differences between accreditation, certification, and licensing, especially as it relates to holistic medicine practitioners and alternative educators, like the School of Holistic Medicine.
Accreditation is truly the quintessential point of contention in the world of herbal studies and natural health.
This is because everyone wants the most credible and thorough education they can get —but accreditation is a complicated subject and a hall of mirrors to the uninitiated.
As a potential student, it can be quite daunting to start unraveling the truth about it all by yourself.
Here at the School of Holistic Medicine, we take pride in our unparalleled transparency which can be difficult to find elsewhere in schools of this class and type.
It seems every school is trying to appear the most mainstream and checking all the boxes of conventional societal standards so you will sign up, but the truth is, there’s more to the story.
It is our goal to help serve you on your journey, thus we do our best to explain accreditation so you can make your own informed decisions.
Now don’t get us wrong. There are a lot of incredible schools and programs out there.
The question though is, is this a regulated industry. No. It’s not. That means there’s no TRUE accreditation, certification, or board certification —yet, and most likely, never. However, there are private organizations that offer these things.
That’s why it is common to see schools blindly declare ‘accreditation’, and offer you ‘certification’, without clarifying the topic as we do here. I think these other schools don’t clarify it because it’s such a complicated, convoluted subject to even begin to tackle.
It’s easier to not address at all than to try to explain it like we do here.
We use the terminology, like Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, but ‘certified’ is not in the conventional manner like getting a certification by a government approved course in CPR.
Similarly, ‘accreditation’ is not conventional either, nor is it regulated by the same organizations that accredit mainstream colleges —which is generally what people are looking for, right?
The truth is, in the end, because these fields represent an unregulated industry, it really boils down to which curriculum speaks to you the most at the soul level.
When choosing a school, ask yourself what is going to serve you the most personally and professionally.
So that being said, let’s go deeper into the technical aspects of the subject of accreditation. I want to explain it further for those who are still curious to know more.
We also have an article on certification which may be found in our FAQ.
Breaking Down Conventional Accreditation
Prospective students should know that in the United States, there are two mainstream types of accreditation that are legitimately sanctioned and approved by the US Department of Education, which include specialized or programmatic.
This is further broken down into national, regional, and sometimes religious. You can read more about those here. Generally speaking, the most significant aspect of accreditation allows conventional, or more mainstream colleges, to qualify for state and federal funding; this, of course, helps to keep large universities running.
Additionally, because higher education can be so darn expensive, the accreditation ‘stamp of approval’ also allows college students to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA (aka the Federal Application for Student Aid).
Now, that is its main purpose.
This type of accreditation guarantees educational requirements are met for certain types of professions that require licensing—such as lawyers and medical doctors.
Additionally, this accreditation helps assure prospective students that certain general credits are transferable between colleges.
However, what few people don’t realize is that aromatherapy, iridology, traditional naturopathy, and clinical herbalism are all unregulated professions within an unregulated industry—and therefore, do not require licensing.
For this very reason, schools that offer an education within these naturopathic career fields do not qualify for conventional accreditation as approved by the US Department of Education, nor do their students qualify for federal student aid.
However, the School of Holistic Medicine is a minuscule fraction of the cost of a mainstream collegiate education.
This leaves one last form of accreditation which is completely unregulated and unsanctioned by the US Department of Education.
Because they don’t qualify for conventional, mainstream accreditation, most natural health schools commonly utilize what is known as ‘professional’ accreditation.
This is done primarily to appear more credible, which procures more students and secures more profits. But this accreditation technique tends to be very confusing and as a potential student it is difficult to decipher what it even means, so let’s talk more about that.
For starters, any accreditations you see attached to an alternative educator, like the ones below, are professional in nature only and not approved by the US Department of Education.
The major issue with conventional vs. professional accreditation is how they are presented.
I will say these alternative organizations are not all bad, and many in fact do work behind the scenes to support health freedom for the general public.
This issue is not having a conversation about it that leaves us feeling shrouded in the dark and casts a questionable light on our understanding.
These schools utilizing professional accreditation rarely explain the difference, leaving students confused in the process. Many mistakenly assume the professional accreditation is sanctioned and approved by the US Department of Education when, in actuality, it’s not.
Additionally, professional accreditation has a lot of detractors. It is controversial, scholastically speaking. You can read more about what has been termed ‘fake accreditation’ here and here.
Please keep in mind that we have nothing against these organizations.
However, due to the public stigma, we choose not to participate, as we do not wish to be lumped in with the schools accused of utilizing ‘fake accreditation.’
Another such concern is the credibility of the accreditor.
Conventional accreditors, as approved by the US Department of Education, go through a lengthy process.
Whereas, professional accreditors can be anyone who sees a business opportunity. While many of these organizations may be well-intentioned, it’s just too controversial in an already controversial industry.
At one point on our journey as a school, we attempted to inquire about professional accreditation. We became greatly disconcerted when we were requested to pay a fee—without being asked to share any information or proof of our program’s specifics.
While professional accreditation has evolved through time and providers have updated their services since we inquired, there was a time it did not feel sincere or authentic.
It seemed too easy, like ‘pay-to-play,’ and left me with some discerning questions, such as, how useful, reliable, and authentic is professional accreditation really, anyway?
And, if you dig around, you will soon discover that generally speaking, only ‘naturopathic’ and ‘law of attraction’ schools participate.
There are absolutely NO grass-roots herbal medicine schools that participate in what some refer to as ‘faux’ accreditation.
You can see this echoed through course offerings by Susun Weed at her Wise Woman University. She is a world renown, pioneering herbalist herself and her school is proudly unaccredited, we might add.
Additionally, Susun Weed is Flat Out Against Licensing Herbalists
This is just one of many examples of herbal schools who do not participate in alternative-type accreditation.
We believe that by participating in ‘professional’ accreditation, it would perpetuate this myth that alternative educators should try to compete on the same playing field with conventional mainstream colleges.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. These are outdated, patriarchal-based ideologies.
That being said, we stand with our herbal educator allies and choose not to be listed with these organizations.
Until holistic medicine becomes a regulated industry and there is a system in place to offer licensing to holistic medicine practitioners, the School of Holistic Medicine will operate independently.
By declining to participate in professional accreditation, the School of Holistic Medicine is able to avoid the controversies of professional accreditation and stay true to our values.
The truth is, when it comes to the study of holistic medicine and the best schools for natural healing, one’s educational choices are paramount and should be based on quality and affordability.
Lastly, some of the same agencies that offer professional accreditation also offer something called ‘board certification,’ which is a different thing altogether.
We do have an article on board certification for holistic health practitioners inside of our blog. It covers providers, fees, and other helpful information.
Some of the agencies that offer professional accreditation also offer board certification, with the exception of the American Naturopathic Certification Board, which is woman-ran and non-biased.
I say they are non-biased because they do not affiliate with specific schools, but rather just offer board certification.
A lot of the agencies that offer ‘professional accreditation’ also offer board certification.
We have been informed by all professional accrediting agencies and board certification organizations that our students are always welcome to apply for a board certification, whether we are accredited with them, or not.
If you are interested, there is only one organization that offers board certification that does not also offer professional accreditation, which is the ANCB.
You can learn more about board certification in the general FAQ.
Regardless of our accreditation status, we can provide you with rich material that will help you succeed as you move forward in the pursuit your own self-healing and becoming a holistic health practitioner.
People are always concerned about the accreditation of a school.
At the subconscious level, this may be in part due to us not fully being able to come to terms with our calling.
We are still to some degree worried what others will think, and as Byron Katie teaches, living our lives inside other people’s heads. It’s not easy to admit to ourselves and others that we are light workers. For some of us, it’s a process of acceptance.
Don’t be afraid to journey your own sacred path. I hope we are a future part of it.
The School of Holistic Medicine has built a team of dedicated program directors, assistant instructors, and contributors to bring our students the best holistic medicine programs in the world—and we hope you will see that reflected in the quality and diversity of our educational offerings!