First of all, there have to be some experts you recognize in other areas of your life, if not when it comes to holistic health. Have any of them ever recommended anyone’s program or book as someone they trust or look to for information? If so, start there. If you already recognize some experts in the general area of holistic health, whether it’s related to exercise or nutrition, that would be a good place to start. Pay attention to whom they associate with. Experts tend to be aware of other experts.
If you watch who someone you trust is associated with, the company they keep, you can start to get some ideas. When you find someone whose philosophy you agree with in one area, then that’s a good place to start for a valuable opinion about an area you know nothing about. When I first became aware of Dr. Andrew Weil and read one of his books on the recommendation of a family member, what he had to say really resonated with me, as much of his philosophy agreed with mine. So, when it came to something I wasn’t yet able to form an opinion about, I was more likely to trust his opinion on the subject than I was someone else’s. And when he recommended a program or idea, I did more research and was able to identify the experts in that field, which further added to my list of trusted experts.
The most expensive referral I ever got cost me $800 plus a trip to California, with air fare, car rental, and motel costs. I went to consult an expert I learned about through Suzanne Somers’ books on hormone balancing and holistic health. I didn’t get much help from him, but the referral he gave me to an extremely gifted bio-energetic doctor in my own backyard made the whole trip worth it and has blessed my life for the past two years.
The way an expert conveys the information they share can be a red flag to me. I don’t really connect with a lot of media hype or antagonism, so that always warns me away. If someone is making a name for themself by running others down, that doesn’t make a good impression on me either. If what you bring to the table can’t stand on its own, then it’s probably not worth my time. There are a few exceptions in this area, when it comes to “whistle blowers”, but even then, if someone regularly speaks in an inflammatory style, with lots of generalizations, my gut instinct is to head for the door. There are some actual experts in the holistic health field who use this type of rhetoric and I believe they do a great disservice to the whole field. To me, and many other people, that type of language instantly denotes a lack of credibility and it’s too bad because some of these experts have good information to share. I realize that the shock value they impart to their words can get attention, but it can’t always sustain it and it drives a lot of people off. So, when I come across this, I turn the other way and keep looking.
Credentials can be an important indicator of an expert, but not always. Credentials are good, but I’ll take experience over degrees any day. And for me, personally, an M.D. after your name actually is a strike against you, because I know that Big Pharma had a big say in what you learned in medical school. That said, it’s not necessarily an actual strike-out, depending on what you’ve done since then.
When I was going through my accreditation process to become a La Leche League Leader, I learned that a certified lactation consultant doesn’t have to ever have had any breastfeeding experience of their own to be certified; even a man can be a C.L.C. In contrast, a LLL Leader has to have at least a year of breastfeeding experience in order to begin the accreditation process. Neither one nor the other is necessarily better, but some things are really tough to teach, or to gain credibility to teach, if you’ve never actually done it yourself. Breastfeeding would be one of those.
So, when it comes to accreditation or certification or a diploma, while that can count in someone’s favor, it’s always a good idea to find out what their experience is. Often, experience can trump certification. People used to learn by apprenticing themselves to a master of the skills they wanted to learn. I still consider this to be a valuable way of learning which can be more valuable than going to school to learn about doing it rather than actually doing it. Everything else being equal, I will always choose to learn from someone who has actually created in their own life, and others, the change they claim to effect, over someone who has only learned about it in school.
Personality and character should not be ignored, either. Doesn’t mean they should be the first or only qualities to consider, but they should be taken into account. If you don’t have feel a basic connection to and trust in a potential teacher, then how can anything they say to you be valuable? What’s the vibe you get from a potential expert?
When I was looking for a Reiki Master (teacher), it took me a long time to find one I could work with, simply because so many of them in my area were also into things that conflict with my basic faith and belief system. When I was checking out websites, many of them listed other services such as past life regressions or occult practices. None of those other things have anything to do with Reiki, but many practitioners do bring other practices and philosophies into their Reiki practice. I really needed to work with someone I could relate to and I really couldn’t relate to someone whose belief system so radically differed from mine. More importantly, I was not willing to open up energetically to someone who was open to these other types of practices, so it took me a long time to find the right teacher. One of the things that helped me choose my teacher when I finally found her was that the other services she offered were modalities I or close friends had experienced and benefitted from, such as EFT and BodyTalk.
Choosing an expert in any field can feel a little like navigating a mine field, but paying attention to a practitioner’s associates, education, experience, character, belief system and getting referrals can help you find teachers and mentors who can give you the tools you’re seeking. I hope I’m able to offer this type of information on a wide range of experts on this website, to help narrow your search.