Lots of great conversations with practitioners following my recent post on the need to specialise – really thought provoking & clarifying ones which makes me think it’s been a good conversation starter. Key things that have come up for people are:

  • How do I choose my area of speciality…e.g. is a spin the bottle approach required?
  • Is specialisation sensible when you’re only just starting out or should you be taking everyone and anyone to begin with?
  • Is specialising even naturopathic given we have a holistic approach to health?? …e.g. I might say, I only do gut but for my IBS patients there’s a whole lot of stress management & mental health stuff that needs addressing along the way

Great questions :) Now remember, all I’m offering here is my opinion, I don’t think there is a definitive answer to these but I think we should keep the conversation going as a way of keeping us thinking about the way we choose to practice rather than assuming there’s only one way to be a naturopath in clinic.

So here’s my thoughts & experience…

My so-called speciality came about pretty organically. I have a background in mental health in different capacities & it’s always been an area I have wanted to work in (for better or for worse!)  I didn’t announce that to the world though on my first day of clinic.  I did start out seeing everyone and everything but very quickly I thought, I don’t know enough about some of these things that I’m seeing.  Cancer for example. It’s not just the various pathologies, its being across the prognoses, the mainstream management & treatments, not to mention the ins and outs of what CAM therapies could offer each individual type of cancer!  Because I had never been particularly interested in cancer I think these were the classes at uni that probably held my attention the least & when I left uni, these were the post-grad educational things I was less likely to attend etc.  So I had to start acknowledging my own gaps/limitations and cancer was probably one of the first areas that I removed from the ‘I’ll see anyone list’.

The more time I spent focussing on mental health, which remained my key interest, the less time I spent staying current in other areas and I was aware that the research and knowledge base was going ahead in leaps and bounds.  Next fertility was removed from the “I’ll see anyone list’ and so on the process went.  Even to this day, I don’t promote myself as a mental health specialist or only strictly see mental health clients but I have developed an increasing list of what I don’t do!

So perhaps we need to reframe our view of specialisation – it’s not necessarily one area that you do to the exclusion of all else but perhaps it’s simply an evolving process of continually building on your strengths & recognising your limitations.

Remember specialisation doesn’t have to be a condition or a system based,  it could just be a demographic, for example, paediatrics, gerontology, men’s health, pregnancy & fertility.  And there is no rule book out there, so you can make the rules to suit yourself…e.g. you ‘specialise’ in pregnancy & fertility but a husband of a client needs some basic help with diet, no alarm is going to sound when you see this client!

Choosing your speciality for a lot of practitioners is the ultimate source of anxiety especially new graduates & perhaps you do need to dip your toe in the water first and get a taste of ‘everything’ before you can get a sense of your strengths.  The key ingredient should always be of course, I love doing this…for better or for worse :)