A Q&A with Jim Olds, executive officer of Australian Natural Therapists Association
We speak to Jim Olds, the executive officer at the Australian Natural Therapists Association. The ANTA is the largest national association of recognised professional natural therapies and supports these therapists on their journey from student to practitioner.
What was the initial vision for ANTA in 1955 and has that changed over time?
The initial vision for ANTA was the formation of an association where bona fide naturopaths could join to support, promote, organise and protect the practice of naturopathy by and for naturopaths. The group would establish standards, rules and regulations governing the education and training of naturopaths in cooperation with other schools of healing.
Seven founding members formed a company and established the articles of association that have led to the formation of a National Council that now consists of the current ANTA Board of Directors.
The concept of a health practitioner trained to function across multiple modalities such as naturopathy, homeopathy, osteopathy and chiropractic is similar to the present day structure of ANTA that demonstrates the aims proposed in 1955 have largely survived to present day with a strong and vibrant national, multimodal association with more than 9000 members consisting of students and practitioners.
What is your position at ANTA?
Executive Officer and Company Secretary
Can you explain what the role of a natural therapist is?
The term natural therapist is something of a catch-all term and its current interpretation in context with ANTA’s translation is someone who has completed training and attained qualifications that meet ANTA’s minimum training standards and criteria for admission to the association as a registered practitioner/therapist. The role of any of these therapists is to assess, analyse and determine an existing condition or conditions that are treatable within the scope of their training and clinical practice.
These treatments may include massage and exercise therapies, acupuncture, herbal, vitamin, mineral, dietary and lifestyle prescriptions based on the client’s history that is considered by the therapist as an intervention that is possible and appropriate. An intervention may be as straightforward as reminding clients who may be indulging themselves with food, alcohol and nicotine and generally practicing unhealthful behaviours. In any form of therapy habits and attitudes are the key to good or bad health. It is the therapist’s role to provide information/education about alternative coping interventions, that they are available, manageable and possible to reverse their current situation. It may also be as simple as recommending more clean drinking water, fresh air, taking regular breaks, walking outdoors, eliminating unhealthful eating, recreational and higher-risk habits contributing to poor health and body composition issues including obesity.
What are some challenges that natural therapists face today?
Peculiar to any graduate exiting from a practitioner-based training program most of the challenges are about how to establish yourself in the national allied health framework in Australia. Professional associations go some way toward ameliorating the challenges of this transition through opening the association for students to gain access as a student member. This access provides all of the association’s information and services for the student member to make themselves aware of in the natural therapist’s worldview of reality in clinical practice. This is provided at no cost by ANTA to educate students about the terrain they will be entering throughout their studies and graduation to enhance a seamless transition from education phase to clinical practice.
What is some advice you can give to someone thinking about studying a course in natural therapy?
ANTA has established a system of Course Recognition for the benefit of anyone thinking along those lines. This system evolved through the ANTA Board of Directors being drawn from practitioner members of ANTA who serve dual roles as academics, educators, consultants and trainers on the staff at the most prominent colleges and RTOs around Australia. As a national association, this coverage across most states of Australia provides the board with a cross-sectional analysis of the providers who were guided toward robust and fit for purpose education and training programs. This guidance was provided by ANTA board members sitting on course advisory committees and internal college boards to provide input into current issues and resolve challenges for graduating therapists.
ANTA’s Recognised Course List is not exhaustive however it provides significant input into authentic providers delivering robust and fit for purpose education and training for future practitioners in allied health professions.
What are the benefits of being a member of ANTA?
The benefits of being a member of ANTA is knowing your association is governed by current practicing members and is designed to place its members first in any situation including providing initial guidance toward educators and trainers. ANTA services include but are not limited to ongoing student support, bursary awards, academic and graduate awards including free and subsidised memberships, free access to internationally accredited research web-based data, free continuing professional education, free industry journal, free access to a library of current professional training videos and power-point presentations. There is also free consultation and guidance to practitioners through the ANTA administration centre and free ongoing support and guidance from the national chair of each professional practice modality.
Through our industry partner NABOOKI, graduates and practitioners have access to a low-cost digital practice management platform, web-based marketing with a free mini website, online booking and payment services for up to three clinics for $10 per month for sole traders and $20 per month for multi-partner clinics. This is an exclusive service for ANTA members and ANTA is proud of its association with our business partner who will provide ongoing statistics around our members’ practices so we may guide and support them further in their business development in a competitive marketplace.
What are your three top tips for leading a healthy life, naturally?
Recovery is as important as study, preparation and practice. So make it a practice to take a moment to review and refresh physically and mentally on a daily and weekly basis. Stay in touch with friends and colleagues, keep good company and drive your life and your business, don’t allow them to drive you.
In many cases we could eat less and live longer! So, a good diet does not mean eating and drinking to excess, it means eating and drinking for the purpose of maintaining your daily activities; less expenditure should mean less intake.
Exercise daily to rid yourself of stagnant thoughts and wastes from your mind and body, get some sunshine and fresh air to replenish your body and your soul. A healthy measure of sunlight during early morning and late afternoon is good for your bones, save on the supplements!
What’s next for ANTA?
ANTA has been a peak professional body since 1955 and we take our hats off to the past and the people who worked so hard to set us off on the right path and also to those who continue to lead our professional association.
Change is our constant companion so we need to review frequently and reposition ANTA appropriately to meet our members needs and be vigilant to remain relevant and helpful to our most important resources; the members of our communities who rely on us to deliver safe and efficacious therapies at a reasonable cost through the highest quality practitioners we can foster and provide professional leadership to for the future.
Representing the profession to the government and its regulators of the day to ensure all natural therapists who practice lawfully will continue to do so with full recognition for allied health services and the same access to private health fund rebate systems across the spectrum of natural therapies where currently approved government education systems exist across Australia.
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