If you are looking to find an alternative practitioner for your family, here are some starting points.
- Always try to start with a recommendation: either a referral from a friend or another patient, or from another health practitioner (your pediatrician, nurse-practitioner, or midwife). The professional organizations for each specialty usually screen their members to ensure that they have adequate training and experience, and can refer you to qualified practitioners in your area.
- Check to see if a practitioner is state licensed. If licensing requirements for that specialty do not exist in your state (see "Licensing Requirements" sidebar), the next step is to check with the professional organization for that specialty to see if the practitioner is a member.
Once you have located a practitioner, here are some good questions to ask:
- --Where did you train; for how long; did you have clinical training? (Some degrees are mail order and basically meaningless.)
- --How long have you been in practice?
- --Do you have experience in dealing with children?
- --Can you help my child? (The answer to this question should never be an outright yes; no practitioner can guarantee that a therapy will work for a particular individual.)
- --How do you approach treatment?
- --How open are you to working in conjunction with conventional therapies?
- --Have you dealt with this complaint before? Do you have a reasonable track record in helping people with this complaint? (You may want to ask about specific new research supporting the therapy's use for this complaint.)
- --What are the advantages and disadvantages of the therapy? What are the risks, possible side effects, and expected results?
- --How often will we have to visit? What is the overall length of the treatment?
- --How much time do you spend with each patient during a visit?
Other things to look for:
- --Does the practitioner's office appear to be a professional environment?
- --Does the practitioner explain the treatment in terms you can understand?
- --What is the cost of the treatment? Is it comparable to the cost of other practitioners? (You can call around in your area, or check with the professional association for that specialty.) Is the treatment covered by insurance? (Many alternative treatments are not.)
- --Do you feel you could have a rapport with this person? Do you feel accepted, respected, cared for, and listened to? A relationship with an alternative care practitioner can be even more personal than a relationship with an MD, so you need to listen to your instincts about the person.
Finally, do tell your child's primary health care provider about any alternative therapies you are undertaking. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that more than 60 percent of those who use alternative therapies do not tell their doctors about them. Your child's doctor should know about any alternative therapies so they can be considered as part of your child's overall health care plan.