WHICH HEALTHCARE FIELD OR MODALITY?
As you begin your research you may feel overwhelmed as you discover the great variety of options for delivering healthcare. First, there is the number of professional fields. Then there are all the ways to deliver care in each field. We offer the following suggestions to help you narrow these options down to what will work best for you.
First figure out what level of healthcare you want to deliver
Before anything else, you need to figure out which of the following two options are what you envision for your career.
Often the time training requires and cost of the training are the deciding factors.
Option 1: Do you want to help critically ill people through diagnosis and treatment as a physician does?
If you do, you will need training that includes the equivalent of medical school and internship (supervised clinical experience).
Option 2: Do you want to advise people who are in good shape how to enhance their level of wellness as a wellness coach does?
If you do, many home study courses or weekend workshops are available as options to gain a broad understanding of healthy lifestyle choices.
Now you can research the many types of healthcare and select which you want for your future career, keeping in mind the level of care option you just selected above.
Be sure you select something that you will enjoy doing.
Start your research by learning what the major professional healthcare fields are.
Make a list. You can start with the following: Ayurveda, bodywork, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, and Oriental medicine. Many healthcare fields come from ancient healing traditions, specific geographic areas, or ethnic cultures. Some are more recent. Each offers a unique approach for providing healthcare to help individuals achieve and maintain good health. As you learn about the various professional healthcare fields, notice which ones make you want to know more.
Explore in detail the fields you find most fascinating.
As you do this research, you will note that there are a variety of ways to deliver that field's unique approach to healthcare. For this conversation, we use the term modalities to refer to these multiple modes, or methods of delivering a field's approach to healthcare. Some fields have just a few easily defined modalities, but most have an extensive hierarchy of modalities. You may need to research so you can fully appreciate if that field requires you to learn ALL modalities in that field or if you have the option of selecting which modalities within the field you wish to learn for your future practice.
Next investigate the modalities you are considering. Learn the specific activities and techniques a professional practicing each modality uses. Which of these activities or techniques matches what you like to do? There is a great difference, for example, between hands-on manipulation techniques (such as those used by chiropractors and massage therapists) and dialogue techniques (such as those used by psychologists and wellness coaches).
You will need to focus and narrow your list of modalities to those that most appeal to you as you consider your future career.
Now the serious research begins. You need to learn as much as you can about each modality in your final set of modality candidates.
What do these healthcare professionals do every day? What skills will you need? It will be useful to investigate the professional associations of the modalities you're considering. AHHA offers you a database of Healthcare Professional Associations. Search for the field and/or modalities that interest you. Learn more about what is involved in each of your final modality candidates. Become an expert in understanding exactly what they do.
It is also useful to talk with practicing professionals in the fields and modalities you are researching. AHHA offers you a database of AHHA Practitioner Members. Do a keyword search using the name of your field and/or modalities to find people who have an active practice doing what you think you want to do. Call or email them with your questions about why they chose their field and/or modalities. Ask them what they actually do and anything else you want to know. Just ask!
Be aware that holistic is not a healthcare field or modality
Many people call the AHHA office asking how to become a "holistic practitioner." We respond holistic practitioner of what?
Holistic is a philosophy. Consider it as an approach to life and healthcare. It's where you come from as you deliver healthcare.
Think of it this way: In your career search, you are facing two separate decisions: (1) Which specific healthcare modality do you want to offer?; (2) Do you want to deliver this care with a whole person, holistic approach?
Any time you use the term holistic, it is important to clarify how everyone in the conversation is defining holistic. AHHA offers you some articles about What is holistic? Decide how you define holistic. Do you want to be a healthcare professional incorporating a holistic approach as you deliver care?
Although some healthcare fields and modalities have a whole person, holistic philosophy integrated into and inseparable from their professional practice of delivering care, this is not a guarantee that every professional trained in those fields and modalities actually delivers care with a holistic approach. AHHA encourages you to commit to delivering holistic care to your future patients/clients.
WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED TO PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR HEALTHCARE CAREER?
Once you have selected the healthcare field and the specific modalities (in that field) that interest you MOST, you need to learn exactly what kind of training is required to qualify you to do this as your career. For this conversation we will continue using the term modality to refer to the specific part of the field of healthcare you want to enter.
Professional associations are the best sources for learning about training requirements.
Use AHHA's database of Healthcare Professional Associations to locate these associations.
Also find out if there are any post-training credentialing or licensing requirements to fill before you can open your practice. Is there an ongoing continuing education requirement?
If there is no professional association for your field or modality of choice, talk with practitioners with active practices that do what you want to do
Ask them where they received their training. The AHHA database of AHHA Practitioner Members has listings that include the key training sources for these practitioners.
AHHA offers you websites to get you started with your search for specific training programs:
Be cautious if there are multiple levels of training in a field
For example, in the field of naturopathy there are two ND degrees. One is for a naturopathic physician and requires years of extensive training similar to that of a medical doctor. The other is usually a home study degree in which you get a broad overview of some of the basics of the naturopathic approach to health and healing.
Be cautious about general labels for a training.
Some training providers say they are for becoming a "holistic health practitioner." This often means massage therapy training with additional technical training for another modality. But it can also mean wellness coach training. Be sure to get a detailed explanation of exactly what the training you're considering actually includes.
Are you committed to delivering healthcare with the holistic approach?
Remember that incorporating a holistic approach in your delivery of care is occasionally separate from your professional training. In addition to the articles on What is Holistic?, here are a few resources for holistic education and information:
ARE YOU ATTRACTED TO MORE THAN ONE FIELD OR MODALITY?
You may find yourself strongly drawn to more than one modality within a field or to multiple modalities in multiple fields. You CAN train for multiple modalities.
It is natural to want to have many techniques at hand to offer people who come to you for care. Because this can require trainings from more than one educational source, time and money will most likely influence your decision whether to train for all modalities at the same time or to spread them out. But how exciting it can be to be a medical doctor who also practices acupuncture; a chiropractor who also practices Neuro-Linguistic Programming; a massage therapist who also practices Reiki; or a nutritionist who also practices herbology.
ARE YOU A TEAM PLAYER?
Are you willing to be part of a patient's healthcare team?
AHHA encourages individuals to gather a healthcare team of different types of physicians and practitioners. This best supports patients because they get the benefit of multiple therapeutic modalities when the team's professionals work together to take care of that individual. Integrative healthcare is the wave of the future.
As you research various fields and their modalities, you will be learning not only what you need personally for your career choices, but you will also be gathering a valuable background of information on what is available in the broader healing arena. This can give you a strong foundation for becoming a valuable member of your patients'/clients' healthcare teams in the future.
ONGOING AHHA SUPPORT
As you progress in your career research, you will find many ways in which AHHA can continue to be an educational resource.
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This will not only expand your knowledge for enhancing your own personal health, but you can start identifying what you will want to share with your future patients/clients.