The interface between tradition and science: Naturopaths' perspectives of modern practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2011, 17 (10), pp. 967 - 972
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Objectives: Although there has been much international commentary, little is known about the interface between traditional knowledge and scientific research in modern naturopathic practice. This study aimed to explore this interface from the perspective of naturopaths. Design: Semistructured interviews were conducted with naturopaths in current practice. The participants were selected using purposive sampling, and the data from the interviews were interpreted using thematic analysis. Settings/location: Interviews were conducted in a place suitable to each participant. Subjects: Twelve (12) naturopaths in current clinical practice were interviewed. The participants represented a diversity of characteristics including gender, time in practice, level of qualification, and clinical contact hours per week. Outcome measures: Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes from the interviews. Results: Analysis identified a disparity in practitioner definition of what constitutes traditional information. However, it also identified that traditional knowledge is considered a valid source of information, whereas the validity and value of modern research is questioned. There is also tension between these two information sources, with science being argued to both support traditional knowledge, while also undermining its value. This tension seems to be overcome by practitioners' use of traditional knowledge to direct their own research, as well as drawing upon their knowledge of science to explain traditional knowledge as yet not researched. Conclusions: The findings of this qualitative study reveal tensions and ambiguities around the interface between tradition and science with regard to naturopathic clinical practice. Understanding these findings may assist individuals and groups within the naturopathic profession, as well as those outside the profession engaging and collaborating with naturopaths. © 2011 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
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