Alphabet Soup of Holistic Healthcare
Updated: Mar 28
If you're looking for a natural or holistic healthcare provider, you have probably come across many different types of providers, with different titles, and different acronyms at the end of their names. The field of natural health and your individual health concerns are already complex, now you have to sift through the different provider types, let alone the different doctors themselves?! How is their training different? Do they all have the same experience with nutrition, herbs, pharmaceuticals, and supplements? Do some of these providers overlap and offer the same experience? Are some of them better suited for certain patients than others? The list of questions is endless!
Sometimes, clients have already tried 1-3 other types of doctors before they find the naturopathic doctors here at Atlantic Naturopathic. When it comes to natural and holistic healthcare, licensed naturopathic doctors have the most rigorous and comprehensive training in all things lifestyle alterations for disease prevention, nutrition, herbal medicine, supplements, homeopathy, and environmental medicine. However, patients may fit best with certain provider types based on their health goals, treatment preferences, and eagerness to enact lifestyle changes. This is why we wanted to put together a blog and chart to compare and contrast some of the most common types of alternative care providers: naturopathic doctors, functional medicine doctors, integrative medicine doctors, osteopathic doctors, and chiropractors.
Functional Medicine Doctors
Integrative Medicine Doctors
Physicians (MD, DO, ND, or DC), and non-physicians (PA, NP, RN, etc.)
MD or DO
How do they get to be called this?
Attend and complete osteopathic medical school; internship/residency/fellowship; pass the licensing exams; maintain an active license; complete continuing education credits
Attend and complete chiropractic school; pass the licensing exams; maintain an active license
Is the label a degree or a certification?
Length of schooling in degree or certificate
4-5 years; optional residency 1-3 years
Length of whichever healthcare provider program they completed prior to pursuing this certification; IFM program on average takes 2-2.5 years to complete courses
Length of medical or osteopathic medical school + residency; 1-2 year Integrative Medicine fellowship
4 years; internship, residency, fellowship
Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)
American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM)
Diagnostics, physical exam, labs, imaging, minor surgery, herbal medicine, homeopathy, environmental medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, osteopathic manipulation, supplements, nutrition, pharmaceuticals
Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice class; Average of 17 hours of lecture material per module including bioenergetics, cardiometabolic, environmental health, gastrointestinal, hormone dysregulation, immune system
Diagnostics, physical exam, labs, imaging, minor surgery, pharmaceuticals
Diagnostics, physical exam, labs, imaging, minor surgery, physical medicine, osteopathic manipulation
Diagnostics, physical exam, labs, imaging, chiropractic manipulation
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC). https://aanmc.org/?keyword=naturopathic%20medicine&gclid=CjwKCAjwiuuRBhBvEiwAFXKaNPzyzfalFH4nG-4rG-7Rlzyszkaz0mlrAHX0Nz0LuShEuAtSFGTDLhoCp2AQAvD_BwE
North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). https://www.nabne.org/
Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). https://www.ifm.org/
Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB). https://fclb.org/index.php
American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). https://www.abpsus.org/aboim/
National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME). https://www.nbome.org/
Functional Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine: What’s the difference? https://richmondnaturalmed.com/functional-medicine-naturopathic-medicine/