Naturopathic Doctors: Star Players on Your Health Care Team

Interested in seeing a naturopathic doctor, but not sure where to start? Dr. Vivienne Guy, ND and board chair of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, answers some common questions about naturopathic medicine.

Photo Credit: Dr. Vivienne Guy

What is a naturopath?

Naturopathic medicine is a type of family health care. “As a naturopathic doctor, I have patients come to me with their health concerns, acute or chronic,” says Dr. Vivienne Guy. “My job is to care for them, listen to them, determine why it is that they are unwell, and then I create comprehensive treatment plans specific to them.”

There is also a lot of follow-up through clinical examinations and diagnostic testing. “I ensure that they are progressing, and adjust their treatment plan as needed,” she says.

How is a naturopath different from my family doctor?

“I think the why is an important differentiator. The philosophy of naturopathic medicine is to treat the cause, not to just get rid of symptoms,” says Dr. Guy. “An example of this is a person who is suffering with joint pain. There are pharmaceuticals and other pain relievers that can help get rid of pain. Naturopathic medicine looks for why there is pain.”

Another difference is the proactive vs. reactive nature of naturopathic medicine. As a proactive health strategy, naturopathic medicine looks to treat the person before they get a disease.

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Do I have to choose one or the other?

No, says Dr. Guy, noting that most of her patients also have other doctors. “Collaborative care between healthcare providers is in the patient’s best interest,” she says.

In fact, blending the two types of medicine — conventional and naturopathic — is a must when supporting those with chronic diseases. “Symptoms are as varied as the people, and everyone needs a unique kind of care. Naturopathic medicine can offer this,” she says.

What kind of qualifications does a naturopath have?

In Ontario, the title “naturopathic doctor” is a protected title, says Dr. Guy. “To be licensed, naturopathic doctors require an undergraduate degree and four years of intensive studies at a naturopathic medical school.” Dr. Guy recalls that early in her career she worked at a medical clinic, and that she had a great relationship with one of the MDs there. “He would send his patients with chronic conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, and heart disease, to me. He understood that I had the time in my patient visits to address long-term options and to talk about lifestyle,” she says. “I remember him saying, ‘I can give them a puffer, but you take the time to teach them how to be well.’”

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What should I expect in my appointment?

More time, for starters. While many conventional healthcare clinics limit the number of concerns per visit, naturopathic medicine allows for longer appointment times and thorough follow-ups. This gives the patient enough time to ask questions, have things explained to them, and bring up any other concerns they have about their health, says Dr. Guy.

Naturopathic medicine offers a well-rounded approach to wellness. “If a person is getting sick often, we don’t only provide anti-microbials; we work with them to boost their immune system, and ensure that they are sleeping well so that their body can repair and recover,” she says.

Is my appointment covered by insurance?

Naturopathic medicine falls outside of OHIP but is covered by most private health insurance plans. You can check with your provider to find out what’s available to you.

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How can I find the right naturopath for me?

The Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors represents the majority of licensed naturopathic doctors in the province. To add a naturopathic doctor to your health care team, visit to find one in your community. You can search by your location, health concern, or even the name of the naturopathic doctor.

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