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Posted: July 30, 2004

Spiritual Caregiving

Complementary Medicine Comes of Age

Now that fully two-thirds of Americans are taking advantage of complementary and alternative therapies, California has passed landmark legislation to make sure that unregulated practitioners don't take advantage of clients.

The Complementary and Alternative Health Freedom of Access Act, also pending in New York, provides basic safety guidelines. Even if your state is not yet considering such protective legislation, take some tips from the Client Bill of Rights, which lists information that every practitioner must provide:

Degrees, training, experience, or other qualifications of the practitioner, following a boldly printed statement: ?The State [of New York] has not adopted any educational and training standards for unlicensed complementary and alternative health care practitioners. This statement of credentials is for information purposes only. ?
Fees per unit of service; method of billing; names of insurances accepted; HMOs contracting with the practitioner; Medicare or other assisted payment accepted by the practitioner; circumstances where partial payment is accepted or payment is waived;
A brief summary, in plain language, of the theoretical approach used by the practitioner in providing services;
Notice that the client has a right to complete and current information concerning practitioner's assessment and recommended service, including the expected duration of the service.

The new laws also set strict limits and ethical guidelines for complementary practitioners. Practitioners may not:

  • make medical diagnoses or recommendations to discontinue a drug prescribed by a licensed physician;
  • have sexual contact with a current client or a former client served within the preceding 12 months;
  • use false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading advertising;
  • reveal a communication from, or relating to, a client except when otherwise required or permitted by law;
  • undertake or continue a professional relationship with a client where the objectivity of the practitioner would be impaired.

There are many ethical and gifted healers with comprehensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and psychotherapeutic techniques. If your practitioners are vague or refuse to spell out what they do, what training or experience qualifies them to do it, and how long they have been practicing, find someone else.

To read the New York bill, go to and type in the bill number, A08704. For the history of this legislation, go to

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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