People sometimes ask us…

How can I become legitimately certified to practice holistic medicine? 

It’s a legitimate question that deserves an honest answer. People want to know if they can become “certified” or licensed in the same manner as massage therapists or realtors, because naturally, people want credibility. 

It is interesting to note that the public is generally unfamiliar with the subtleties of certification and licensing, especially as it relates to holistic medicine practitioners and alternative educators, like Rockwell.

Despite some alternative educators claiming to offer “certification” or “certified” programs, the fact is, there is no certifying body or licensing agency of any kind for holistic medicine, which technically includes professions like aromatherapy, traditional naturopathy, clinical herbalism, holistic nutrition —and even iridology.

Yet, you have probably come across ‘certified’ aromatherapy courses and such —but it’s not the exactly the same thing as being certified in CPR, for example. Or you may see “certified” holistic health practitioner, etc. 

Real certification and licensing are much trickier, and often only reserved for certain professions, like board certification for medical doctors. One has government oversight —the other doesn’t.

When you see “certified” attached to a title in holistic medicine, what does it mean then?

It means that the person took a course, and got a private certification from a private institution stating they took a class and hopefully did well and passed, but it’s not a state or government sanctioned process —which is what people are basically looking for when they seek any kind of certification.

Here’s another example. Not just anyone can say I’m going to practice real estate all of a sudden without taking the required courses and passing mandatory tests needed to qualify for and obtain state licensure —the same goes for most massage therapists and vocational careers.

Certification, as defined below, implies that there is a generally known and recognized set of industry standards —but with holistic medicine, there are none because these are unregulated industries and unregulated professions. For example… 

If someone attends to law school —then they move across state lines, they will still possess the same knowledge required of all attorneys who are by law required to meet the same educational standards which are usually determined by the state or federal government.

Sure, they may need to retake the bar again for state licensure, but everyone in this regulated industry is basically taught the same thing, which is known as industry standards of practice.

It would be really weird to have a lawyer who knew some things and not others, you see. Could you even imagine if lawyers were all taught radically different things? That would really put a spin on things. 

Such is not the case in holistic medicine and natural health industries whose practitioner’s education vary widely! —Meaning you can see two different traditional naturopaths, for example, with wildly different skill sets, some better than the other (truly).

Yet, there is some beauty to being unregulated in that we can all shine in our own ways without being burdened with the concept of standardization. In any case, hopefully you have a better understanding of certification and licensure. 

What’s left unsaid is that individuals who reside within the United States may practice aromatherapy, iridology, traditional naturopathy, clinical herbalism, or be a health coach with or without an educational program and legally charge for their services.

It doesn’t mean someone should practice without an education necessarily, nor does it make someone qualified. It just means they can, technically speaking.

We would also like to note that there are pioneering herbalists like Stephen Harrod Buhner and Susun Weed who are self-taught masters.

That was a different era. Now there are schools that offer educational support to individuals, but none of them can offer certification as it is conventionally known. 

For example, maybe you’ve seen alternative educators like the one below offer certification in aromatherapy or other holistic modalities. As you can see, this school offers a long list of ‘certified’ programs. 

However, the truth is, no certification is needed (or even actually possible) to practice in these professions because they are unregulated industries, as you can verify below from NAHA (the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) in regard to aromatherapy. 

The truth is, some people think that the use of ‘certification’ by alternative educators is confusing and a little misleading, but we are sure this isn’t their intention. They probably just think that use of the word “certified” is a good marketing ploy and / or gives a professional designation the appearance of greater credibility.

However, the truth is, when used in this manner, anyone, anywhere, anytime can put ‘certified’ in front of their professional designation, regardless of educational background. So if you want to use ‘certified’, feel free!

In any case, we believe it is our duty to clarify this distinction and dispel some of the myths surrounding use of the term “certified” and “certification” because prospective students want to know the facts of the matter.

And while most alternative educators do provide a certificate of completion once a student has graduated, this is not the same as being certified. 

To see examples of our lovely certificates of completion, please visit the general FAQ. 

I personally think that most alternative educators are partially responsible for so much consumer confusion by trying too hard to “fit in” with society’s mainstream ideas of conventional education by whatever means possible. Such tactics include casually throwing around terms like ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification’.

It is important for alternative educators to stop pretending to be something they are not and continually perpetuating these myths. We no longer have to be defined by outdated educational standards and limiting societal constructs of what learning and apprenticeship should look like. 

On that note, the only time we use “certified” is when someone prefers to use Certified Holistic Health Practitioner instead of Traditional Naturopath. Anyone is free to use ‘certified’ if they want —but we choose not to rely on such terminology as a marketing gimmick. 

To learn more, read Board Certification: A Reality Check, which will help clear up a few things about board certification for holistic health practitioners. Now you’re all set to go out into the world and make informed decisions regarding your holistic health education.

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