The Journey to becoming a Naturopath – Interview with Sandy Watts
Being a Naturopath wasn't Sandy Watts first career choice but a desire to better understand her own health and the ailments of her family members lead her to explore natural health practices and learn more about holistic nutrition.
Taking a leap of faith Sandy fare welled her previous career and enrolled to study for a Bachelor of Naturopathic and Herbal Medicine at Wellpark College. Although the degree programme was challenging it was a journey of self discovery as much as education and today Sandy runs a successful Naturopathic practice in Omaha and is a well respected member of the Naturopathic community.
What first sparked your interest in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine?
Experiencing health benefits first hand, when I saw a naturopath during a stressful time in my life. During my consultations with the naturopath I realised that naturopathy could be a career option for me, and if nothing else, would provide me with further insight and knowledge on how to protect and improve my own, and my family’s health.
My previous background was in marketing and I also sold real estate for nearly ten years. I took a break from real estate when life became super-busy with family. I hated missing my kids’ netball and rugby games, and I wanted to be more available to spend time supporting my ageing parents.
As my parents grew older and became unwell, I found I really wanted to understand the ‘medical speak’ that was going on around us. Although both my parents were armed with strong fighting spirit, they were accepting of what doctors would tell them. Conventional medicine helped them both immensely, but I found I was asking myself, and the doctors (!) questions all the time. I wanted my parents to be empowered and for us to have some control over what was happening to their health. Could any of this have been prevented? What else can we do to support optimal health?
I became determined to better understand my own health, which was challenged throughout this stressful time. I was troubled with allergies and muscle aches and pains that I couldn’t seem to get on top of.
Seeing a naturopath helped me to reset and improve my health, realise the impact of stress, and make positive change. I loved the idea of ‘food as medicine’, that the food we eat lays the basic foundation for good health, and plays a massive role in preventing and treating disease.
By the end of the course I was even more excited about herbal medicine. I see that it’s herbal medicine that sets naturopathy apart, providing something powerful and unique that we can offer our clients, tailored to their individual needs.
You decided to study for your Bachelor of Naturopathic and Herbal Medicine at Wellpark College. The degree programme can be challenging, yet you excelled, graduating top of your class, winning the Academic Excellence and John Carter Clinical practitioner awards. How do you look back on your education journey and those years of study?
It was intense. I worked harder than I ever remember having to work when I studied for my first degree, a Bachelor of Commerce when I first left school.
I hadn’t studied much science previously, so initially subjects like Anatomy and Physiology were like learning another language. There were definitely times when I wondered what on earth I had done, but gradually it all started to make sense. Supervised clinicals in the final year were nerve-wracking, and challenging to a whole new level, but it was also really rewarding to be starting to put into practice what we’d been learning, and seeing clients make improvements to their health, becoming empowered in the process.
The degree programme was challenging, and I often felt out of my comfort zone, but I learnt and grew so much during that time. Although I’ve had access to valuable mentors since completing the degree, and there has always been advice and support available to me when I’ve asked, I also felt well prepared and confident in knowing how to approach a case, and to do my own research.
You set up your own practice upon graduating, Uniquely You Natural Health Solutions. How did you find those first few years of being a qualified practitioner, what were the biggest lessons you learned?
It takes time to build a practice. Just keep going. Initially I would spend hours and hours working on wellness plans for clients. Gradually I’ve learned ways of streamlining things, and simplifying.
I found it really useful to attend naturopathic conferences and supplier seminars to keep learning, gain product knowledge, and have contact with other naturopaths. It can be isolating working on your own, so it was nice to regularly see successful, already established naturopaths, and newer naturopaths like me, working to build their practices.
Do you have any advice for those students following in your footsteps about to make the transition from Student to Practitioner?
Understand that as well as being a practitioner, you’re a business owner. Fully stepping into that identity will enable you to grow your practice. I’d recommend setting up systems, website, and building a profile sooner rather than later. This process does take time to get right though, so be patient with yourself, but don’t shy away from these aspects. See your working day as working both ‘in’ your business, as well as ‘on’ your business.
Your Practice name is Uniquely You Natural Health Solutions indicating that you recognize that every client that you work with has individual health and wellness concerns, but are there any areas of holistic health care that you are particularly drawn to and enjoy?
I’m passionate about gut health. I believe that good digestive health is a key factor in staying healthy, and that most, if not all disease begins in the gut. Factors such as stress, medications, alcohol, pollution in the environment, the amount and type of exercise we do, and the food we eat can all greatly impact our digestive health, so a key focus with my clients is to optimise gut health.
In today’s modern world, we face unprecedented biological stressors which can wreak havoc with our health and wellbeing. I love helping tired, stressed clients improve their sleep and energy levels, better manage stress, and reach and maintain a healthy weight, achieving a healthy, happy life balance.
You have a diverse scope of practice. How important to you is ongoing personal & professional development and education and why?
Very important. Ongoing personal and professional development and education is fundamental to staying current and relevant, so that as a profession, we can maintain professional standards and best look after our clients. What we know is evolving all the time as research grows our base of knowledge. We’re always learning. The more we know, the more we realise we don’t know!
What do you see for the future of Holistic Healthcare and Naturopathy, what are the biggest challenges and greatest opportunities ahead for Practitioners?
I’d love to see naturopathy and herbal medicine better recognised and respected in conventional medicine circles, creating a more integrated system where clients can easily get the best from both worlds. The biggest challenge is that although we are self-regulated, we are not fully regulated, and therefore not properly recognised as a profession. As it stands anyone can call themselves a naturopath.
I’m grateful that there is ongoing work happening towards regulation, but realistically this process will take time. In the meantime I’m working to be the best naturopath I can be, to best support my clients, and best represent my profession. My goal is to empower my clients to make positive change to help themselves, to become ‘active participants’ in their own wellness, and also to feel confident enough to seek the best from a range of healthcare approaches available to them.
We all live in a fast world and often people don't ever consider their health and wellbeing until they are faced with a problem. What is the one thing you would advise people to be mindful of to help prevent future health concerns?
Appreciate good health and don’t take it for granted. We’re dealt different hands in terms of our genes, but nutrition and lifestyle choices do make a difference as to whether genes are expressed. I’d encourage anyone to make a conscious decision to prioritise their health and self-care, to hopefully be able to enjoy not just a long life, but also a happy, healthy life. None of us are perfect all the time, and what’s the fun in that anyway? Enjoy treats and indulgences, ‘everything in moderation’. It’s also worth making even what seems like the smallest change to improve your health. See a registered naturopath to help you get started.
Fun Fast Questions.
1. Your favourite Quote – not so much a quote, but some advice I once read in my stars which, as a naturopath, I find particularly relevant…’The useful talent you’ll employ today is your ability to be egoless and without personal agenda. To wear another person’s shoes, you must first take off your own’.
2. Your Go to Healthy snack is – ciabatta dipped in cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and dukkah. (I don’t really snack, so this is more ‘drinks and nibbles’ in a social setting…)
3. Your favourite Herb – Echinacea because it supports a healthy immune system, and helps prevent respiratory infection, particularly relevant for the next little while…
4. Best relaxation technique you've tried – diaphragmatic breathing, and I like the Headspace meditation/mindfulness app.
5. What do you enjoy most about living in Omaha – I love living close to a beautiful beach and being able to walk on the beach most days.
Interview with Sandy Watts by Nikki Morgan
Find out more about Sandy's practice in Omaha. Uniquely You Natural Health Solutions
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