Education and Training for Alternative Medicine Practitioners
To ensure that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners provide the most safe and effective services to help relieve your spinal pain, professional licensing and accreditation has become more common.
But the education and training of CAM practitioners varies for a couple of reasons. Compared to conventional medical doctors, there are no national licensing standards for alternative medicine practitioners in the United States. There is, however, a National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, in addition to State Licensing Boards. In general, licensing is regulated at the state level, though not every state has alternative medicine regulations in place.
Many states have regulatory agencies or licensing boards for certain types of CAM practitioners, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).1 Contact your state, county, or city health department for more information on how to get in touch with these groups. They will help you determine whether a practitioner's qualifications meet the state's standards for training and licensing.
Another reason CAM education and training varies is that practitioners often have different credentials and education based on their specialty treatments. For instance, an acupuncturist will receive different training than a biofeedback therapist.
With that said, it's important to ask questions about the credentials, training, and education of any CAM practitioner. Examples of questions are:
- Where did you receive your training?
- What licenses and/or certifications do you have?
- How long have you held these licenses and/or certifications?
- What degrees have you earned?
In most cases, a CAM practitioner will have a degree (usually a bachelor's or master's) in the healthcare field, followed by specialized training in whatever CAM field they choose.
Today, many colleges and universities offer programs catered to alternative medicine. Some are comprehensive, meaning that they cover the broad spectrum of alternative treatments. Other schools offer extensive professional degrees in a single area of alternative medicine, such as a doctorate in acupuncture.
Though there are no national licensing standards, and some states do not have licensing regulations in place for complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, certification and licensing are becoming more common in the CAM field. Fortunately, there are also ways you can assess the treatment quality of your potential CAM practitioner. By asking questions and locating the appropriate regulation committees in your state, you'll do your part in achieving the best spinal health.