Finding A Holistic Practitioner

Tips for getting the most from your health care

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


One of the most powerful tools for flourishing and healing is knowing how to get the right kind of support at the right time.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “Is there a good doctor in my area?” Well, if you are looking for someone who adopts an approach that honors your inner wisdom, acknowledges the message an illness holds, and combines Western medicine with other modalities, then the answer is YES!

There are wonderful, holistically-minded doctors and health care practitioners almost everywhere. When I travel, I always meet doctors and medical students who are interested in and actively practicing complementary (or integrative) medicine: the coming together of the best of both—conventional medicine and so-called alternative medicine. Most important, however, is a practitioner who approaches the body as an energy system, which is intimately influenced by thoughts and beliefs, albeit unconsciously most of the time! Many other health care practitioners besides M.D’s and D.O.’s (doctors of osteopathic medicine) who are trained in different disciplines also share this approach. There are also scores of deeply committed, caring physicians practicing in the United States and around the world who don’t necessarily call themselves holistic.

It’s hard for me to give personal recommendations, though. Given how often I am asked this question, it would be impossible for me to know that many people! Also, it’s important that each person take responsibility for her own part of the health care partnership. To flourish, you must own your power to seek out doctors, other health care practitioners, and environments that actually address health, not just disease screening, drugs, and surgery.

I suggest you start with a health care provider whom you trust and believe in. The health care you select must be based on your needs and values. This is as much a part of your health and healing as any mode of treatment you might choose. For example, I’m intimately aware of the limitations of modern Western medicine. Hence, I do not participate in that time-honored, but mostly unnecessary, ritual known as the routine annual physical. (There—I’ve said it!)

Finding Someone in Your Area

Today, even in conventional practices you can find nurse practitioners and nurse midwives who, by their very nature, are often far more holistic. Many chiropractors are holistic, too (but not all). Massage therapists, chiropractors, yoga teachers, and so forth usually know who the other holistic practitioners are in your town and can often recommend someone.

If that doesn’t work, you can consult the following list of online resources to find a doctor in your area:

Website Referral Directories:

Don’t overlook the doctor you’re working with now. He or she may well be open to your ideas and willing to follow along with your new path—once you discuss what you want.

If you decide to look for a new practitioner, follow these tips:

  1. Get referrals. When seeking a specialist or other type of health care provider, there are two kinds of referrals to consider: those from satisfied patients (or clients) and those from doctors and other medical personnel. Often, the best people are found through word of mouth.
  2. Look at credentials. Board certification is evidence that a doctor has passed a number of qualifying exams that measure competence to practice in his or her chosen field. Having been through the process, I can attest to the rigor involved. Of course you’ll want to know a specialist’s training—and most good ones have this information readily available in their practice brochures. Credentialing varies widely in the alternative health care field and in some cases is not yet in place, though this is changing rapidly. Please note that I have found that many gifted healers do not have mainstream credentials.
  3. Assess whether the person is a good fit for you. A health care provider can have all the credentials in the world and still be the wrong person for you. So, trust your heart and your gut before you let that person care for you, no matter how highly he or she has been recommended. Does the provider feel like a healer? Do you leave the office feeling reassured and uplifted? Do you feel like you’re in good hands?

Health Insurance’s Golden Handcuffs

Over the years I’ve heard many patients tell me that they couldn’t take a supplement or get a massage, or whatever it was, because their insurance wouldn’t pay for it. Almost invariably, these people have had poorer health than the ones who say things like “I don’t care what it takes, I’ll find a way to get what I need. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this, but I know I can work it out.” Please think for a moment about what it means when you tell yourself that you can’t do something for your health because of the rules and regulations that a bunch of insurance executives have come up with. Whom are you giving your power to?

I have come to see that one of the leading causes of chronic ill health in this country is the belief that your insurance—or the government, or someone else besides you—is responsible for your health care choices. Culturally, we need a big shift in consciousness around this issue. In my view, we should abolish the term “health insurance” and call it what it ought to be called, which is “crisis insurance” or “disease insurance.” The business of creating health and staying healthy is your responsibility, and because none of us is perfect at this, we need a backup in case of catastrophic illness or an accident. That’s what our disease-care insurance should be for.

My Health Care

I don’t expect my health insurance to cover much of anything related to my health—and I have good insurance. I figure that my health insurance is designed to take care of a major medical emergency such as a car accident. That’s it.

My actual health care consists, first and foremost, of knowing that my health comes from deep within and that my thoughts and emotions are hands down the most powerful forces for flourishing that are available to me. I pay out of pocket for massage, vitamins and minerals, and Pilates and yoga classes. My “primary care provider” is my acupuncturist! I also keep a journal, have a solid social support network, read a lot of books, and keep learning new things. I know that I can attract the resources I need when I need them (some of which have indeed been in mainstream hospitals). When you are truly ready to assume responsibility for your health, you, too, will find the resources you need.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future this kind of health care will be covered by insurance, or at least we’ll have a plan in which individuals like me could use our health insurance money to pay for health-enhancing modalities. In the meantime, if you truly must have a doctor who is covered by insurance, I recommend trying to find an osteopath. These practitioners are medical doctors, but have the acronym “D.O.” after their name instead of “M.D.” Their medical school training is holistic, and many good D.O.’s in the United States take insurance.

Getting the Most of Your Care

One of the most powerful tools for flourishing and healing is knowing how to get the right kind of support at the right time. To do that, you must stand up for yourself and for what you know and feel—and you must absolutely believe that you have the ability to attract what you need as well as be willing to receive it. As I said in my Public Television special Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, which aired in the spring of 2010, your health care provider has a body of knowledge. What you have is knowledge of your body. Both are necessary. Pair the knowledge you have of your body with a willingness to do what it takes to truly flourish. It will guide you to the right medical professionals at the right time.


Last Updated: September 17, 2010

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Donna
    1 year ago

    Do you help w estrogen blockers but naturally? I’m don’t want to take the pills my oncologist gave me. Help!!


  2. Eve
    1 year ago

    I completely agree that health insurance shouldn’t dictate what we do to take care of ourselves, but I don’t agree with your comments on those who have said they cannot get a massage or whatever bc of laying for it. It sounds like the words of someone who has not been in that position before. I cannot pay for it if insurance doesn’t cover it. Last year we needed some blood tests – mostly routine for my daughters checkup. I went where the dr told me and guess what? $1500!! That’s WITH health insurance but being out of network.

  3. Gary Puntman
    2 years ago

    I like that you said you should start with a health care provider who you trust and believe in. They can be able to help you find the right holistic practitioner based on your goals. I like the idea of choosing someone based on your needs and values.

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