Celebrating 20 Years as a Naturopathic Doctor

I have been reflecting. 2016 marked 20 years since I began my career as a Naturopathic doctor.  After seven rigorous years of university, naturopathic college, and final board exams, I took a break to recuperate in the California hot springs.  When I got home I discovered that the ND whose practice I was taking over had left sooner than planned, and I immediately started seeing clients.

I was excited and nervous.  I wanted to genuinely help every person who came to see me.  20 years ago there was no internet and my clients were hungry for natural medicine information. I loved the role of teacher.  I spent hours studying my thick reference books and school notes, compiling information and developing individualized healing protocols.

Being a Naturopathic Doctor is very different from being a student preparing to be an ND. I missed the confidence of my advisers and the collaborative ideas of my classmates.

I was acutely aware that I didn’t have the wisdom, insights or self confidence that come from years of experience and I felt like a novice.  For the first few years of practice I was very hard on myself and secretly worried that I was not worthy of this responsibility.

Luckily, a few years into practice, I had a pivotal experience. I was still struggling with self doubt. I feared that I was not good enough or smart enough. It was at our annual naturopathic conference that I spoke to one of my favourite teachers. She is a rare special person who, when she asks ‘how are you?’,  she looks at you deeply, and truly wants to know. My eyes welled up and I blurted out my dark secrets. I shared my fears and my self-doubts and her response was one of the most important things I learned in all my years of study and practice.

She recalled supervising me in school clinic and reminded me that I already am more than enough (which made me cry more). She reaffirmed that the most important thing I can do as a health practitioner is to be fully present with each person. Be there with them and for them and really hear their story and their truth, without judgement, without preoccupation with next steps.

Fast forward 20 years. I have many more books at my disposal, and also online reference sources.  Professional online ND forums provide support and group knowledge. Clients are often well informed, and my role as teacher now often focuses on simplifying and clarifying information overload. I feel grateful to my clients to have 20 years of experience and though I still have an occasional moment of self-doubt, I recognize them as opportunities for growth.  Thank you.


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