As a doctor trained in acupuncture and naturopathic medicine, Oakland’s Michael Visconti looks to the whole body to work on patients’ ailments.
OAKLAND When Michael Visconti treats patients, he seeks to make medications a last resort.
Visconti, who practices under an acupuncture license at Visconti Acupuncture and Natural Medicine in Oakland, is one of only five in Florida who holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine, which focuses on holistic care of the body.
Many patients come to him with chronic illnesses — fatigue, insomnia, stress, thyroid disorders — many of whom have tried unsuccessfully to manage their ailments with medication. Visconti takes a whole-body approach in treating patients.
“You’ve got the thyroid — which is working for metabolism, you’ve got the adrenals — which is your stress hormones, and then you’ve got the sex hormones,” Visconti said. “Those three are like a three-legged stool. When one of those go out of balance, it tends to throw the other ones out of balance. So that will drastically affect everything in the body.”
Visconti spends more than an hour with many first-time patients to discuss what is happening physically, mentally and emotionally in their lives. At the end of the visit, he makes a wellness plan that often includes suggestions for acupuncture treatment, diet modifications and exercise.
Acupuncture inserts fine needles about the size of a hair into various points of the body to aid in blood flow and to work on healing through the electric currents in the body.
He also recommends herb supplements but ultimately wants to get his patients not be dependent on any drug or supplement.
“My goal is to get them off of stuff, not put them on stuff,” he said.
His clients range from those suffering with complex diseases to athletes. He even can help people who want to quit smoking, using acupuncture techniques to work on decreasing cravings and working with their mind and body to encourage the patient not to become attached to cigarettes.
For some patients, he uses hypnosis, a word that gives some people pause, because they have heard negative connotations. Ultimately, the technique teaches people to cope with stress.
“You can’t tell people to do something they don’t want to do or say something they don’t want to say. All hypnosis is is basically self-hypnosis,” Visconti said. “What I primarily use hypnosis for is to teach a person self-hypnosis to help them manage their stressors, anxieties, and (it’s a) way they handle life better.”
Visconti holds a four-year naturopathic medical degree, equivalent to an MD. He graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine with a doctorate of naturopathic medicine in 2001 and then received his master’s degree of science in oriental medicine in 2003 from Florida College of Integrative Medicine.
Florida has not licensed new naturopathic physicians since 1959; however, Visconti is working to re-open licensure in Florida. In the meantime, he practices under an acupuncture license in the state and keeps his naturopathic license up-to-date in the state of Vermont.
In states that do have licensure, naturopathic doctors can act as a primary-care physician.
By 2020, there will be a shortage of 20,400 primary-care physicians, provided that the U.S. health care system stays primarily the same, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the need for primary care doctors grow, Visconti believes Florida — and other states that don’t currently license naturopathic physicians — will become more willing to license naturopathic doctors.
“There’s definitely a need for this,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].