* Determine if the medical professionals interact and exchange information with the group. Sharing and coordinating information between everyone who treats the patient is critical. If an alternative practitioner is reluctant to interact with a doctor, doesn't want to disclose treatments or medical information, or encourages you to avoid medical treatments other than his or her own, beware.
* Ask where doctors and practitioners were trained and how long they have practiced. Training through fellowships, weekend courses or self-teaching is not as reliable as hands-on clinical practice, but keep in mind that this area of expertise is still a work in progress.
* Ask for a list of physicians who refer patients to them. If few, or no, mainstream practitioners are willing to vouch for the clinic or practice, that should be a cause for concern.
* Beware of practices that espouse scientifically invalidated therapies such as coffee enemas to treat cancer. Acupuncture, massage and stress-reduction, on the other hand, have been scientifically studied and found to have some measurable effect. For more information, go to NCCAM (nccam.nih.gov).