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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Complementary Medicine Professionals

An overview of complementary and integrative medicine including history, branches of practice, professionals, and research methods.

Education and Training


Currently, there is no standardized education of complementary medical practice. Many professional organizations will have their own training programs and accredited education such as chiropractic, yoga, massage therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and oriental medicine. 

In response to the growth of interest and use in the United States, complementary medicine is being implemented in medical programs, nursing schools, and pharmaceutical education. This can help health care provides understand a patients question about alternative practices and be able to offer some basic advice. Training and education is being provided through lectures, practitioner demonstrations, and patient presentations in elective and required courses. (Credentialing, Licensing, and Education, 2015)

A chiropractor performs an adjustment

Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Licensing and Certification


Like education, there is not a national standard for the licensing of complementary medical professionals. State and local governments are responsible for granting a license. 

Requirements for those seeking a license can also vary depending on state or area of practice. Some requirements may include graduation from a certified program, completing a specified amount of training, passing a written exam, or continuing education. There are many professional organizations that will offer certification, another standard that may qualify practitioners for state or local licensure. Two examples of these include the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the Council for Homeopathic Certification. (Credentialing, Licensing, and Education, 2015)

John F. Bilsky Sr. receives acupuncture for pain from a military doctor during a workshop at the Air Force Acupuncture Center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Dec. 9, 2010

Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a complementary or alternative medicine provider? Here are six tips to consider from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health during your search:

  1. If you need names of practitioners in your area, first check with your doctor or other health care provider.
  2. Find out as much as you can about any potential practitioner, including education, training, licensing, and certifications.
  3. Find out whether the practitioner is willing to work together with your conventional health care providers.
  4. Explain all of your health conditions to the practitioner, and find out about the practitioner’s training and experience in working with people who have your conditions.
  5. Don’t assume that your health insurance will cover the practitioner’s services
  6. Tell all your health care providers about the complementary approaches you use and about all practitioners who are treating you. 

Find out more:https://nccih.nih.gov/health/howtofind.htm​