The Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Medicine Careers

comprehensive-guide-to-holistic-medicine-careers.jpgAre you considering training for a job in massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care or a related field, but want to learn more? Holistic medicine careers have numerous benefits that make them attractive to those who are looking to start down a professional path or switch their focus mid-career.

With the demand for natural treatments and services growing, holistic health careers offer a great deal of flexibility and independence for practitioners. Additionally, more people are seeking complimentary and alternative treatments to address health problems and improve their general wellbeing. That translates into job security — and financial stability — for those with careers in the field.

Holistic medicine offers job growth, flexible schedules, a variety of work environments, and a high level of professional satisfaction. In addition to these benefits, working in holistic medicine means you get to help people every day at your job. What could be more rewarding than that?

If you want to learn more about this exciting arena of health care, it helps to first understand what people specifically mean when they say "holistic medicine careers."

What is holistic medicine? 

Holistic medicine is an approach to health and healing that addresses the whole person. One holistic health definition is that the mind, spirit and body of a patient are treated as equally important to their health.

According to the American Holistic Health Association:

"The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health. This condition of holistic health is defined as the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind and spirit."

This universal approach to health care is distinctly different from traditional Western medicine, which treats the body as a separate entity from the mind. That leads to a different approach to diagnosis and treatment, as you can imagine.

Holistic medicine aims to treat a patient's underlying conditions instead of just the symptoms. It emphasizes achieving optimal health by making lifestyle changes, practicing self-care, and opting for alternatives to conventional drugs and and invasive procedures when possible.

Practicing an ancient system of health

Unlike Western medicine, which is a relatively new phenomenon, holistic medicine is part of an ancient system of philosophies and practices. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for example, is a system of health care based on Taoist principles that was developed over 4,000 years ago.

One of the most important concepts in TCM and holistic medicine is that of qi, the body’s life force energy. Qi —pronounced “chee”  — flows through channels of the body called meridians. Disruptions of this flow can result imbalances that cause as health problems. Part of a holistic medicine involves restoring balance.

Reasons to work in holistic health

The number one reason you should consider working in holistic medicine is that you have a desire to help people each day. You might think: "Plenty of professions accomplish that goal" — for example, childcare, nursing or customer service. But what sets holistic medicine apart is that it takes a patient's whole person into account and focuses on using natural methods.

There are also many other reasons to get into holistic health, including the growing demand for services. Last year federal researchers released data showing Americans spent almost $30 billion — equating to about $500 per person — annually on alternative and complementary medicine. The majority of that spending was on services, but consumers also spent smaller sums on herbal medicines and DIY treatments.

Other specific fields in holistic health show growth, such as massage therapy. Employment among massage therapists is expected to grow 22 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More reasons to pursue holistic medicine careers

Besides the fact that increasing demand and spending on natural treatments translates into job and financial security for practitioners, there are other reasons to consider going into the field of holistic medicine.

1. Flexibility in schedule: Many holistic health practitioners work in private practices and other settings, where they can work part-time or non-traditional hours. That can make holistic health a great career option for mothers or people who are transitioning to a new field in the middle of their careers.

2. Flexibility in work environment: Because holistic health practices are becoming more accepted by mainstream medicine, many hospitals are offering more alternative treatments on their medical campuses. Companies are also increasingly offering employees perks like on-site massage, or yoga and meditation sessions. But many practitioners also work in wellness centers and their own private practices as well. It's really up to you!

3. Great option for a second careers: Many holistic health providers enter the field as a second career. While some training programs require a significant time investment — such as those to become a chiropractor or doctor of Chinese medicine — others can be completed on a part-time basis or take less than a year. A degree or certificate in massage therapy or yoga instruction, for example, can often be completed in less than twelve months.

4. Active work life that focuses on health: If you're considering holistic health careers, you likely enjoy the prospect of working closely with people. You probably also want to work on your feet for part of the day. As a holistic medicine provider, you'd be on your feet, on a yoga mat, beside a massage table or otherwise working with people on a regular basis. Working in a healthy environment and minimizing your time behind a desk can boost your own health and wellbeing, making it a win-win for you and your patients.

5. Opportunities for solo practice: If you've ever dreamed of running a business, many holistic health practitioners have their own studios and offices. You could run your own massage, acupuncture or yoga studio, or open your own chiropractic office. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, holistic health offers many an avenue to the professional satisfaction of being a small business owner.

Top careers to explore in holistic health and natural medicine

The field of holistic medicine is vast, much like the specialties of traditional medicine. Here are some of the many possible careers in holistic health that you can pursue:

  • Massage therapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Yoga instructor
  • Reiki practitioner
  • Acupuncturist / Doctor of Chinese Medicine
  • Tai Chi or Qigong Instructor
  • Biofeedback practitioner
  • Holistic skin care specialist or esthetician
  • Kinesiology or movement therapy instructor

If you're wondering which type of holistic medicine to make the focus of your career, there are many factors to consider. Ask yourself:

  • What is my passion in the realm of holistic health?
  • What is my budget for training or school?
  • How much time do I have to make a career switch?
  • Is my preference part-time or full-time employment?
  • How do I envision myself interacting with patients?
  • Do I ultimately want to work for myself and run my own practice?

Read about the specific options for becoming a holistic health practitioner and holistic medicine degree programs. Book appointments and sessions with various practitioners to help discover your passion. Holistic medicine makes a challenging and rewarding career, no matter what avenue you pursue.

If you're ready to take the path to holistic health, Acupuncture and Massage College offers degree programs in Oriental medicine and massage therapy. Our massage therapy degree comes with a certification in Shiatsu massage and hands-on experience working in our community clinic. Contact our admissions department for more information on how to enroll: (305) 959-9500.

Four Steps to Changing Career Paths

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