I am frequently asked “how do I find a good functional medicine doctor in my area?” or “how do I find a doctor who does what you do?”
While some functional medicine doctors do consulting with clients who live elsewhere in the country, I understand the desire to find somebody locally when possible. I hope this article will help shed some light on this surprisingly not-so-simple task.
First of all, there are some important things to know about functional medicine before you embark on this mission. You need to know what you’re looking for before you start looking for it, right?
Step 1: Understand what you’re looking for.
There is no single definition of functional medicine. Even if there was, every doctor has had different training and clinical experiences, and thus practices differently.
Going to someone who says they do functional medicine or integrative medicine does not guarantee you’ll get the same treatment as you would with Mark Hyman, Datis Kharrazian, or Chris Kresser.
Many different types of healthcare professionals and physicians practice functional medicine. This includes MDs, DOs, Chiropractors (DCs), Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Acupuncturists (LAcs), Naturopaths (NDs), Physician Assistants (PAs), and others.
Generally speaking, functional medicine is not covered by health insurance.
Just because a doctor is listed on a website or says they do functional medicine, that does NOT mean they know what they’re doing. Anybody can say they do functional medicine and unfortunately, as the field gains popularity, more people are jumping on the bandwagon and claiming they do so.
All doctors are human beings and are capable of:
Being bad at their job
Being biased, stubborn or just out of the loop
“But I’ve done this since I graduated in 1967…”
Being a wind-bag (all talk, but unable to really help people)
It’s easy to rehearse an awe inspiring pubic talk or YouTube video if you’re charismatic enough.
Being a bad/sketchy business person
Some people are getting into functional medicine for the money and will happily charge you many thousands of dollars for a “detox” or other generic program.
Step 2: Use these resources (in approximate order) to make yourself a master list.
Google and Google Maps.
Do a quick google search and map search for “functional medicine and (town name)” and see what turns up. Do the same for surrounding towns and similar key words.For example, to find me in Chapel Hill, NC you might try searching for “functional medicine Chapel Hill”, “integrative medicine Chapel Hill”, or possibly “holistic nutritionist Chapel Hill”, as well as Durham, Hillsborough, Raleigh, and other surrounding towns.
This is, again, only for doctors who have done the IFM training courses and is NOT a comprehensive list. Also, I feel that it's worth noting that this list is almost exclusively made up of MDs and DOs. Very few DCs and NDs complete the IFM program because it is very basic to those of us who come in with a strong background in nutrition and alternative medicine. It is also very expensive.
The Kalish Institute has a doctor locator for people who have done Dan Kalish’s training. Thyroid360.com, the website of Datis Kharrazian also says they can help you find a doctor, although I'm not sure how that process works. Chris Kresser has his own functional medicine training program and has a directory for folks who have completed his (very expensive) program. Re-Find Health (formerly Primal Docs) and Paleo Physician Network can be helpful, too.
The University of Arizona Fellowship in Integrative Medicine program also has an alumni locator that is available to use. I don't know much about this program other than it appears to only be open to MDs, DOs and more "conventional" medical professionals. The U of A program is Andrew Weil's thing, and while Dr. Weil is quite famous, I don't think his approach seems very "functional". This may be worth checking out as a last resort, though.
Step 3: Research them and narrow down your list to less than 3 people.
Look to see if they discuss where they got their training (I do here)
As you are combing through all of this information, as yourself these questions:
Do they sound knowledgeable? Even better, have they talked about or blogged about your specific health complaint?
Do you find their blog/website/social media page interesting or do you just scroll through what they post and think “meh”?
Do they discuss what their treatments look like? Do you feel comfortable with their treatment approach?
Lastly, does it seem you'll get along with them (personality meshing)? Remember, the doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership. You will have a lot of contact with this person over the course of several months to possibly years. Choose someone who you see eye-to-eye with and has a personality you wouldn’t mind being around a lot.
I hope you have found this article helpful. I wish you all luck in finding a functional medicine doctor near you!
Still looking for help? Click below to learn more about working with me (yes, I do take on a limited number of distance cases per month).