Once you've talked with your health care provider and decided a complementary therapy may be right for you, the next step is finding a provider who specializes in the therapy.
Referrals from your health care provider
As in almost all aspects of complementary therapy, the best place to start a search is with your health care provider. Many providers know complementary therapy practitioners through local hospitals or medical centers. They may have experience with providers in your community and can steer you toward (or away from) certain practitioners.
Checking licensing status
Finding a licensed complementary therapy practitioner is also a good step. While a license doesn't guarantee good, safe care, it does mean a provider has passed licensing requirements in his/her field.
The four complementary therapy professions most commonly licensed in the United States are [24-26]:
- Chiropractic (all states)
- Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (more than 40 states)
- Massage therapy (more than 40 states)
- Naturopathic medicine (16 states and Washington D.C.)
Physicians and other health care providers (such as nurses, physical therapists and psychologists) can offer many complementary therapies within the scope of their licensure. For example, physical therapists may include massage therapy and nurses may use reiki and therapeutic touch.
The websites below can be used to check the licensing status of many complementary therapy providers:
Interview your potential provider
It's important to have a brief meeting with a complementary therapy provider, whether licensed or not, before getting any treatments. At this meeting, you should discuss:
- The provider's experience treating people with cancer, qualifications, views on integrating complementary therapies with standard medical treatments and general approach to treatment
- Your medical history, current medicines and breast cancer treatments
- Your health care provider's recommendations and contact information
- The potential benefits and risks from the therapy
- How much the therapy will cost (only a few complementary therapies are covered by health insurance plans)
If you are not impressed by what you hear, or just feel things didn't seem quite right, do what you'd do in a similar situation in life--go somewhere else. Don't settle for a provider just because you've taken the time and effort to find and meet with her/him. Keep looking until you find a provider that is right for you.