Whether you are a first time visitor to an aromatherapist, or you have visited before, you will need to respond to a series of questions – a consultation – in order for the therapist to make a blend which is individualised, unique to you. An initial consultation will usually last between 20-40 minutes; but this is not set in stone. Obviously, like the entire treatment, the consultation is holistic and depends very much upon the responses you give.
A good therapist is likely to ask you questions about your medical history; this will be detailed and you should be asked about any current or historical health problems you or your family have had, ranging from skin concerns to hormonal issues and every aspect of your physical health in-between. You will also need to describe your reason for visiting; what are the symptoms, how they developed etc, current medication (either prescribed, or anything you have purchased over-the-counter) for this or any other aspect of your health. The therapist should then also go on to ask you questions about your personal and social life. This will include questions about your lifestyle, diet, your general disposition and outlook on life, how much exercise your undertake; questions about alcohol consumption and smoking. Finally, the therapist might ask you about what you like and dislike when it comes to scent – after all, the therapy is all about you; we want to find out if you find anything offensive in order that you actually enjoy the treatment, too!
The consultation is very detailed, but there is a method to this madness. Out of this consultation, the therapist will build a blend of essential oils to treat your physical, emotional and spiritual symptoms. It is interesting to note in aromatherapy (indeed in any complementary therapy) that two people might present with very similar symptoms, but the route cause of the symptoms will be very different! Considering something as common as eczema- the symptoms might be a result of stress (and its many facets), exposure to environment (allergy, sensory irritants, chemical irritants), sweating, pollutants or genetic (amongst others!); a therapist using a five element approach (or any other traditional medicine symptoms in order to understanding the symptoms) will consider the symptoms to be a result of an imbalance in the underlying elements (or humors, or dosha’s etc; another blog for another day!). Based on the information the therapist receives via the consultation, he/she will be able to blend oils to suit the individual problem, and come up with a solution based on the individual symptoms; it will also allow the therapist to make sure nothing is included which might actually cause an exacerbation of the symptoms; essential oils are potent – they can cause sensitivities (therefore it is important we don’t exacerbate allergy), they can make you sleep (if your problem is narcolepsy, these oils are not a good choice!); or, you might not be able to fall asleep easily – so we don’t want to include oils that stimulate the mind (which are often useful for study!).
If you are currently taking medication, a good therapist will be able to determine whether it is a good idea to continue with essential oil treatment. Sometimes, drugs and oils don’t mix. It is also a very good idea to inform your doctor of your decision to visit an aromatherapist. They should be able to let you know of any possible drug interactions. This will be addressed in a future blog addressing essential oils safety!
Follow-up consultations will usually not take as long; the therapist will ask you how you feel you responded to the treatment, whether your symptoms have eased, if there are any new symptoms etc. They may have asked you to keep a diary of symptoms or diet. These tools, and the questions will help the therapist to guide the next treatment.
Following the consultation, you will be asked to remove your clothes (aside from underpants) and to lay on a massage table under towels and receive a massage. **REMEMBER: Only that part of the body which is being massaged should be uncovered **. The aromatherapist – who is also a qualified massage therapist – will start by massaging the back of your body. Depending on your requirements, they might start on your back or your legs. You will then be asked to roll onto your back (your therapist will be able to help you do this with dignity!) and they will massage the front of your legs, maybe your stomach, your shoulders, face and head. If your symptoms include back pain, the therapist might spend most of the time in that area; the therapist will usually use their own experience and understanding of how the body” feels” in order to determine the way time is spent in massage. This is called “palpation” and is useful for the therapist to discover the likely source of pain, and inform treatment.
At the end of the massage session, you will be told to take your time getting dressed; massage can effect people differently. In my own experience, I feel light-headed and need to take my time so that I don’t fall over! You might be the same; or you might just need to take your time because you are so relaxed! You should also drink plenty of water to help rid the body of the toxins (and it is probably best not to drink alcohol in order to allow the effects of the massage to not be inhibited by adding more liver toxins to the mix – this is only my educated opinion, and not something I have actually researched!). Finally, if the therapist has not already told you, you should make a point of finding out if any of the oils that have been used are phototoxic. This means that your skin will be especially sensitive to sunlight, and thus increased risk of burns. In this case, you should avoid direct sunlight for at least 24 hours following a massage. One popular oil containing furocoumarins (light sensitive chemical) is bergamot. Another reason to be aware of the oils used in massage is in case of any reactions you might have to the oils. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ASK THE THERAPIST, IF THEY HAVE NOT PROVIDED THIS INFORMATION AT THE OUTSET!
Finally, the therapist might recommend a take-home product in order to continue your treatment between massage sessions. This might be in the form of bubble bath, bath milk, cream, a blend to place in an oil burner, a roller-ball, an inhaler or others. The price of these products will be separate to the cost of your massage, and the cost will often depend upon the oils which are used. The therapist should discuss this option with you, providing you with details of why they think it would be beneficial. You can say yes, or no! Remember, you are not obliged to take one home.
The symptoms you display might be best suited to a blend of oils that you apply at home. If massage is not the best option, the therapist should discuss this with you and provide you with information about how best to approach healing!
Aromatherapy, like all complementary therapies require that the participant be actively involved in their own healing process. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. So, it is important to consider the triggers to your ill-health or symptoms and do something about changing the behavior. Is your ailment caused by actions at work? Then speak to your employer about adjusting your role. Is your ailment due to diet? Then you must consider how best to change this. Of course, this is all down to the individual – but it is important that you understand that the key to your good health is as much about what you can do, as what your therapist or doctor can do. But it is something you can discuss with your therapist; if they cannot help you, they should be able to recommend someone who can.
You might consider a lot of what you tell the therapist to be personal information, so it is important that you find a reputable therapist (which you should seek out when looking for any complementary therapist) who can guarantee confidentiality. Quite aside from the usual data-protection laws (which the therapist adheres to), you should know that whatever you tell the therapist will be strictly between you and the therapist. In some cases (integrated health clinics, for example) your information may be viewed by a number of health professionals, but you will be informed of this before any consultation, and you will need to sign something to show your informed consent (there are benefits to this, which will be discussed further, soon!) If you do not, it does not mean you cannot see a particular therapist, it just means that your personal information is kept personal!
A good therapist will be a member of a professional association, which means that their work is governed by a strict Professional Code of Ethics, Code of Practice and Code of Conduct. If you believe that your treatment is anything other than what you expected, you are within your rights to contact the association to which the practitioner is a member, and action will be taken against the therapist.
The price of visiting a therapist will range depending upon the geographical location (or at least that is what I have found when researching my own personal price listing); in my experience, a session is cheaper in Edinburgh than London, cheaper in Adelaide than Sydney. You will probably also find that the first session is more expensive than consecutive sessions. This is to take into account the time spent in consultation and blending oils (the follow-up consultation is usually free). Some therapists might offer a discount if you bulk book your sessions. Most therapists will offer a refund if the booking is cancelled or postponed early enough; but most therapists will insist on payment if you cannot make the booking (unless, of course, there is some kind of emergency! We are not monsters!). The reason for this is that while therapists are trying to improve the health of the population, one person at a time, we also need to make a living! So, as long as you stick to the pricing rules set out by the individual therapist, you should not be left out-of-pocket.
Aromatherapy offers the client health and well-being through relaxation and the topical application of essential oils! You can be assured that time spent with your therapist will leave you feeling relaxed and rested and ready to face the rest of your day! You will probably sleep soundly, and wake up rested. The massage and its effects will probably leave you feeling happy for more than just the time spent on the therapists table!
I hope that you are convinced to seek out this experience. If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
In my next blog I will address the issue of how to find a good, qualified therapist! Be warned – there are those who will call themselves therapists who are not (or barely) qualified!
“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.” Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)