Document Type

Thesis

Publication details

Grant, A 2010, 'Looking for the water from a deeper well: an investigation into spirituality and natural medicine education', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright A Grant 2010

Abstract

This investigation addresses the importance attached to spirituality within the culture and curriculum of a select group of naturopathy training programs in Australia. The investigation is premised on a view that spirituality is foundational to the practice of naturopathy, which has as its inspiration a belief that an integrated balance between body, mind and spirit is essential to the attainment and maintenance of good health. This holistic view of health is not particular to natural medicine generally, but the practice of naturopathy relies heavily on this view for its uniqueness.

Naturopathy has a lineage dating back to the ancient Greeks. Over recent centuries, however, health care practice in the West has become dominated by biomedicine, which does not require any assumptions about the importance of the balance between mind, body and spirit. The dominance of biomedicine has placed naturopathy at the fringe of health care practice. Over recent years, however, certainly in Australia, resurgence in the demand for naturopathic medicine is evident. As a consequence, there has been an educational demand to train more naturopaths. It has also been accepted that the higher education system should provide this training.

The question that underpins this present investigation is whether, in the recent expansion of naturopathy training programs, the profession’s distinctive commitment to a holistic view of health, and especially to the importance of a spiritual dimension, is being preserved? The thesis also addressed questions about the culture of naturopathy training programs in Australian higher education institutions, and about the impact, if any, on that culture of the recent growth in popularity of evidence-based approaches to health care practice.

The investigative methodology adopted is that of naturalistic enquiry, which relies largely on the inductive analysis of insights provided by key informants, supplemented in this investigation by documentary analysis and site observations. Two training programs, one at a university and the other at a large private college, were the main sources of informants for the investigation – though four other private colleges were also selected as sites of interest. Individual and focus group interviews were conducted with participating lecturers and students.

The investigation concludes that, though there is widespread acceptance across the training programs examined of the fundamental philosophical importance to naturopathy of spirituality, the topic is neither consistently nor intensively addressed in the curriculum, except perhaps in the teaching of homeopathy. In the secular culture of Australian higher education, spirituality is a difficult concept to discuss. Its importance is also being pushed into the background by the increased value being placed on scientific knowledge. The consequences of these circumstances for the future identity and integrity of the profession of naturopathy are far-reaching.

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