Definitions are slippery things, and attempts to nail down just what the word naturopathy means have resulted in the term having different meanings in different countries, and even having various meanings within the same country, to different groups.
In Germany, where naturopathy is practised within the national health service, practitioners using it are known as `heilpraktikers` - health practitioners.
They use the main methods of naturopaths everywhere : nutrition, controlled fasting, stress reduction methods and counselling, hydrotherapy (often including colonic irrigation methods), exercise and lifestyle changes as basic ways of influencing their patient's conditions. However they go further and incorporate into their methods of treatment the use of herbal and homoeopathic medicines, physical methods such as massage and manipulation as well, in many instances, as the use of acupuncture and other Oriental methods of treatment.
This eclectic approach to healing is the same as that used by naturopaths in the US, Australia, India, South Africa and Israel.
In America and Israel there are major naturopathic colleges which provide no less than four years of full time education in naturopathic medicine (the Israeli course runs to just under 5500 hours) and include all of the methods and systems mentioned above as well as training in mid-wifery.
Sadly in the UK naturopathy is far less comprehensive, and is in fact divided into two forms. A relatively narrow one which insists that alteration of diet and lifestyle and modification of habits plus a degree of psychological counselling can achieve all that is desired in terms of healing, with little or no treatment advocated; and another form which lies somewhere between that narrow formula (often called 'straight nature-cure' or natural hygiene) and the German/US version of naturopathy.
The main UK college of naturopathy (British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy) has in recent years focused its attention more on the osteopathic content of its four year course, with the naturopathic training offered being largely related to nutrition and lifestyle influences on health.
The naturopathic component of the six year part-time osteopathic course offered by the College of Osteopaths is at least as comprehensive as that taught by the BCNO, which also now hosts a short (under 100 hours) post graduate course produced by the British Naturopathic Association for suitably qualified practitioners (chiropractors, doctors etc).
The abbreviated content (as evidenced by the time involved) of this BNOA course highlights the enormous philosophical differences between the US, Germany, Israel and the UK as to just what naturopathy is and is not, and many question just how much naturopathy can be learned in this short time-scale.
Fortunately many British naturopaths have adopted an eclectic approach to healing and incorporate methods such as homoeopathy, herbal medication and acupuncture which they have learned separately from their naturopathic training.
If you want to consult a naturopath in the UK you should contact a member of one of the following organisations, but before booking an appointment check whether the practitioner uses eclectic (many modalities) or 'straight' naturopathy, and select according to your feelings on this subject.
The British Naturopathic and Osteopathic Association,
6 Netherhall Gardens, London NW3 5RR