American Holistic Health Association (AHHA)
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The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) prepares the following information for individuals investigating a career in the healthcare field. The data offered responds to the most commonly asked questions from people contacting the AHHA office. Our goal is to assist you to gain a general idea of what matches your interests and passion, and direct you to sources for information on training, legal requirements, and career opportunities.

Do you want to help critically ill people through diagnosis and recommendations for treatment OR are you interested in advising individuals in good shape how to enhance their level of wellness. For the former you need training that includes supervised clinical experience. For the latter, a variety of home study courses or weekend workshops can provide you with a broad understanding of healthy lifestyle options.

If you want to be a healer, do you want hands on healing methods or do you prefer verbal or more subtle techniques?

In selecting a modality or method of delivering healthcare, you may find it helpful to first consider the major healing traditions. Then explore the various modalities within the traditions you find most fascinating. Only then do you consider actual therapies. The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine by William Collinge, Ph.D. (Warner Books 1996 - available through bookstores) offers an excellent overview to eight alternative healing traditions.

Be very clear about the various levels of training and expertise in any modality. For example, in the field of Naturopathy there are two N.D. degrees offered. One is for a naturopathic physician, involving years of extensive training similar to that of a medical doctor. The other is usually a one to two year or less home study course providing a broad overview of some of the basics of the naturopathic approach to health and healing.

Be cautious if you are offered training labeled "holistic practitioner." Ask "A holistic practitioner of what?" For a healthcare career it is helpful to address two aspects separately. First you must be trained in a specific modality or method of delivering healthcare (such as acupuncture, chiropractic, psychology) that can be licensed or certified and gives you the right to deal with patients or clients. THEN you add on the holistic principles and philosophy. There are a few structured holistic programs, such as

Be aware that the term holistic is commonly used in two different ways. We prefer the meaning including consideration of the whole person and whole situation, searching for the root cause, and encouraging a partnership between patient and practitioner. Some people use the term holistic interchangeable with alternative medicine. This latter can be misleading, as not every alternative modality practitioner operates in a holistic manner. Visit our "What is Holistic?" articles to review various ways of discussing holistic health and holistic medicine.

We encourage you to check out our list of Healthcare Modality Associations below for the modalities that interest you. These organizations can provide valuable up-to-date data on training requirements, outline legal requirements for specific states (not all modalities are legal in every state), recommended training programs/ institutions, and refer you to their members in your local community.

It is helpful to interview practitioners in your selected modality who have an active practice in the communities where you want to practice. To locate try the AHHA Practitioner Members list and the Practitioner Referral Sources list. Ask the practitioners if there is a surplus or shortage of that type of practitioner, and whether you will be able to earn a living doing what you have selected. You may be able to observe exactly what is involved in being that type of practitioner.

Sources for information on training programs:

Check Healthcare Modality Associations for information on their modality, training and certification required, and referrals to their members in your area.