People often ask us…

How can I become legitimately certified to become a holistic practitioner?

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

However, when it comes to understanding the subtleties between certification and licensure, people are generally unfamiliar with the actual differences; 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 are no certifying bodies or licensing agencies—of any kind—for holistic medicine. This 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 exactly the same thing as being certified in something like CPR, for example. Similarly, you may have seen claims that you’re working with or can contact a ‘certified’ holistic health practitioner, etc.

Nonetheless, real certification and licensure are much trickier and are 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 title belongs to someone who took a course and got a private certification, from a private institution, stating that they took a class and—hopefully—did well and passed. But, this ‘certification’ process is not a state or government-sanctioned process—which tends to be what people are essentially looking for when they seek out 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 to qualify for and obtain state licensure; the same goes for most massage therapists and vocational careers..

Certification, as defined below, implies that there are recognized and established industry standards involved. Meanwhile, with holistic medicine, there aren’t any of these agreed industry standards because they are typically unregulated industries and unregulated professions. For example…

If someone attends law school and then moves across state lines, they will still possess the same knowledge required of all attorneys, who are (by law) required to meet specific educational standards determined by the state or federal government. 

Sure, the traveling lawyer may need to take the bar again for state licensure, but everyone who is and has been in this regulated industry is basically taught the same thing:, the industry standards of practice.

It would be highly unusual to have a lawyer who knew some things and not others, you see? Could you even imagine if lawyers, in specific fields of law, were all taught radically different things? That would certainly be challenging for a manner of different reasons.

Such is not the case in holistic medicine and natural health industries, whose practitioner’s education varies widely! This means you can see two different traditional naturopaths, for example, with wildly different skill sets and capability—some are truly better than others. 

Yet, there is a 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.In any case, hopefully, you have a better understanding of certification and licensure.

Lastly, 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 can legally charge for their services.  

It doesn’t necessarily mean someone should practice without an education, 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 being said, they studied and had resources (or lack, thereof) in a different era. Now there are schools that offer educational support to individuals. However, regardless of this support, none of them can offer a ‘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, no certification is needed (or even actually possible) to practice in these professions. This is because they are unregulated industries, as you can verify below from NAHA (the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) concerning aromatherapy.

The truth is, most people think that the use of ‘certification’ by alternative educators is confusing and a little bit of a misleading tactic, but we are sure this isn’t their intention. In all probability, they are just using the word ‘certified’ for marketing purposes because it gives the appearance of greater credibility. 

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

In any case, we believe it is our duty to clarify this distinction and dispel some of the myths surrounding the use of the term ‘certified’ and ‘certification.’ Because, we know and encourage prospective students to want to have all of the facts, especially regarding their education.

And, while most alternative educators do provide a certificate of completion once a student has graduated, this completion-certificate 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, in their attempt to ‘fit in’ with society’s mainstream ideals of conventional education, trying to conform by any means necessary.Such tactics result in casually throwing around terms like ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification.’

It is important for alternative educators to stop pretending to be something they are not and stop perpetuating these myths. We no longer have to be defined by outdated educational standards and feel limited by societal constructs that determine 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. This 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.

Now you’re all set to go out into the world and make informed decisions regarding your holistic health education.

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