The holistic approach to health

Recently someone who asked me what I did as work said he had no idea what a holistic therapist was.  What exactly is a holistic approach to health?  In my book it’s looking at the whole picture when you become unwell, not just a simple case of diagnosis and treatment but how the illness, or dis-ease, has come into your life and affected it.

For example, if I catch a cold or similar virus, this is what I do.

  • Rest.  There is a reason I have become unwell – yes, I have a virus, an external agent has attacked me, but if we were all to react to every virus we are exposed to we would be ill all the time. So I first need to accept that my body needs time to fight the infection, that I need to slow down and check my mental and emotional health for stressors that might have lead me to become vulnerable on this occasion and ask myself why have I become unwell just at this time.  There may be obvious things that I can do to better protect my health in the future.
  • Support my body. As a healthy adult I already have all I need to overcome the illness – a well evolved immune system. I need to make sure that everything I do works with my immune system rather than against it. In practical terms this means:
    1. Drinking plenty, lots of water and warm drinks. The lymphatic system can’t work properly if your body is dehydrated and this is a vital part of the immune system.
    2. Take a herbal remedy that supports the immune system – in my case I find a tincture of echinacea works wonders. Take advice from a qualified herbalist or go online to one of the better websites, I find A Vogel has excellent advice and their products are very good quality.
    3. Avoid medications that work against the immune system. For example, paracetamol is often recommended to reduce the symptoms of colds and flu because is eases aches and pains and reduces fever. Fever is one of your body’s ways of fighting infection because invading bacteria and viruses thrive at normal body temperature. So as a normally healthy adult, fever should help me get over my illness more quickly. It is, of course, even more vital to drink plenty of liquids if your body temperature is raised.
    4. Bring in the cavalry – essential oils. As an aromatherapist I know that many essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties and support the immune system. By diffusing and breathing in a blend of these, the oils pass into my body and help to fight the intruders as well as helping others around me to avoid becoming ill. To help with aches and pains I may make a different blend to soak in in the bath, and a gel mixed with a third blend of analgesic oils helps to soothe and clear headaches.  If I am experiencing a stuffy nose or sore throat, sinus pain or anything else I will make another appropriate blend.
    5. Use reflexology. By working the reflexes on my feet and hands I can hope to support my immune system further in doing the good work it’s already engaged in and also relax my body and mind so that I can get plenty of restorative sleep.
  • Pay attention to my diet once I am feeling better. As a well nourished healthy adult in the first world I usually have no nutritional deficiencies but while unwell I will probably not have been eating a balanced diet. Now is the time to bring in plenty of varied fruit, vegetables, good fats and high quality protein to make sure that I get back to full health.
  • Ask myself what I’ve learned from this experience. One of the most useful things included in my training as a holistic therapist is reflective practice and I do this for all of the treatments that I give, including those on myself.

And finally – celebrate and enjoy life to the full when I am well again.

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Plant spirits

corsica-plant-spiritWe’ve just got back from Corsica which is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  Having previously stayed near Calvi in the Northwest and Porto Vecchio in the Southeast, this time we choose to spend a week just over the hills from Bastia on Cap Corse in the Northeast.

It’s not just the unspoilt hills and mountains and the mediterranean coast that are beautiful – it’s the smell of the island.  Almost everywhere at any time you can catch the scents of the maquis, the shrubby aromatic plants that are the original inhabitants of Corsica.  Juniper, lavender, myrtle, helichrysum, fennel, yarrow, nepeta, chicory and all their friends come to the party.  The place is alive with plants and you can never forget it.  There are quite a few small farms which cultivate organic plants to distill some of the best quality aromatherapy oils in the world – particularly helichrysum or Immortelle which is an outstanding oil for skin care and regeneration.  And of course the Corsicans use herbs de maquis in every conceivable food preparation from sausages to biscuits to cheese – both feeding them to the sheep and goats and then wrapping the finished cheeses in them.

santolina-plant-spirit

There were plenty of native plants growing near where we were staying so while I was there I took the opportunity to make some plant essences.  These are not the same as the essential oils used in aromatherapy – for those you need a still, a license and industrial quantities of plant matter – plant essences are completely energetic or spiritual remedies.  The best known are probably the Bach flower remedies but every plant has healing properties or “medicine” freely given to those who ask.  The trick is not really in making the essence – that’s relatively simple  – it is, as always, in knowing what it is that that particular plant has to offer you.  The first two I made were white yarrow and santolina (santolina above).  White yarrow is a spiritually protective plant and the properties of its flower essence are well documented but I haven’t yet done the research on santolina or cotton lavender.

holm-plant-spiritThe next two that I made were from two very different plants – the evergreen oak trees surrounding us and the white flowered creeping plant that was being used as a lawn for the property.  Evergreen or holm oak (left) is also known as holly oak and I’m thinking that its properties may well have much to do with those of both holly and our own native oak, both being good heart plants – again more research to be done.  But the plant that most surprised me was the carpet plant which I identified from the internet as phyla or lippia nodiflora (below).  It’s a deceptively tough little plant of the verbena family – not native to Corsica – that hugs the ground and sends up phyla-plant-spiritmasses of tiny white flowers with a purple centre – reminds me slightly of prunella vulgaris (another favourite).  The bees were loving the flowers and, after I made the essence, I could see why.  This tiny plant has an amazing vibration, giving a huge energy boost to those who are flagging.  I’ll definitely be working a lot with this essence.

On a more conventional aromatherapy level I’m also inspired by our trip to try and create an essential oil blend that for me captures the headiness and healing properties of the maquis.  Pine, lavender, juniper and fennel will definitely be in there, the difficulty will be what to leave out.

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Dowsing

“The use of pendulum or rods to find water or minerals”
“the use of apparently paranormal powers to make discoveries”

Hamish Miller, The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing.

A few days ago some friends and I set out into nearby Wales to meet a man called Peter Taylor to spend a day being introduced to the ancient art of dowsing for water.  Peter has been a professional dowser for some decades, working to locate water, oil and gas and even gold here in the UK and around the world as well as working with earth energies and tackling problems of geopathic stress.  He is a respected and award-winning member of the British Society of Dowsers and advises their local group in North Wales.

Beginning indoors at the Rhydymwyn Valley visitor centre, Peter took us through the basics of using various dowsing tools, pendulums; copper and other metal L-shaped rods and y-shaped “sticks” made, not out of the traditional hazel, but what looked like pieces of plastic curtain track.  There was also a w-shaped apparatus which was very sensitive and I’m not sure any of us quite got the hang of it.  The important lesson here was to try different tools to see which worked best for the individual.  I had previously only used a pendulum and was happy that the L shaped rods of various sizes seemed natural and easy to use.  Whichever tool you use the idea is the same – the tool is held gently at rest but in a way so that it is able to move.  You then form a question in your mind or hold the idea of what you wish to physically locate and the tool moves to give a yes/no answer to the question or when the correct physical location is reached.

Firstly we were shown how to use the tools to test whether we were “positive” enough to be able to dowse – and to assess just how high our positivity was.  Everyone uses their own metaphors or constructs and I liken this positivity to being in the right frame of mind to receive whatever information it is one tunes into when dowsing.  I was originally introduced to dowsing as part of my first reiki course when it was explained as a way of finding out what you know when you don’t know you know it.  In other words, our minds and connections to our bodies are so complex that there is information hidden away that we can’t always directly access and need to use a tool to help us divine it.  So dowsing can be viewed as a reasonably explicable method of allowing our subconscious to express information through body micro movements that are converted by the tool used into large enough movements to be sensed by the conscious mind.  In other words, we already know or perceive the answer to our question but the dowsing tool enables us to make it explicit.

Peter then talked us through some of the basics of the incredibly complex issues around finding information about underground water.  It’s certainly not just a question of “here be water” – which is what I had thought having only really met water divining before in Arthur Ransome’s classic novel “Pigeon Post” where the children want to camp up high on the fell but the springs have dried up in the drought.  They try dowsing with hazel rods and one of the group manages to find a spot which, when dug out, forms a beautiful natural well perfect for their needs.  Modern water dowsing needs to determine the quality of the water, where and at what rate it’s flowing, how far down it is, what’s between the water and the surface and more besides.  If a dowser is not accurate enough, a lot of expensive drilling can be wasted to no effect.  Peter says that if you can learn to dowse for water, you can dowse for anything, and I can see that it’s a rigorous discipline.

Slightly fazed by all the technicalities we headed outside to try some practical dowsing.  The Rhydymwyn Valley Works Site is now a nature reserve but was used during the war to produce mustard gas shells and also hosted the initial phases of the atom bomb research before it was moved to the US.  Buildings that now house colonies of bats are being reclaimed by plants and other wildlife while the spooky network of underground tunnels are sealed off and can only be glimpsed from outside.  It’s a fascinating place well worth a visit but we were there to see if we could dowse for the underground water courses.  Running through it is the river Alyn, a tributary of the Dee, which is a river of many guises as the mining works around Loggerheads and beyond create many caves and sinkholes where its waters become lost underground.  At Rhydymwyn it mostly flows through a culvert sometimes open and sometimes covered.

dowsing reflexology

Peter encouraging one of our group dowsing with L-rods and water samples

So, how did we do?  Did we find water?  Yes, we did.  Hamish Miller says that anyone can dowse, Peter thinks about 9 out of 10 can.  Out of the five of us, all ended up getting reactions to at least some of the underground water flows although some managed it quicker than others.  Peter demonstrated this by taking us to sites where he knew the underground water profile and leaving us to individually try and locate the flows, “reaction” lines either side of the flows, directions, depths and rates of flow.  We each used our tool of choice and marked out our findings with a set of coloured flags and all achieved at least some accurate pinpointing of location – although working out what it was we had located was more problematic.  It was easy to confuse water flow with edge of culvert or reaction line.  It was relatively easy to divine direction of flow and some of us got at least some accurate readings of flow volume.  After we’d had an initial go divining the Alyn underground Peter took us to look at the river where it was visible and then back to the underground site.  Remarkably I found it much easier to get accurate information having seen the river in the flesh, so to speak.  Apparently the more you know about the subject you’re trying to dowse for, the more easily you can do it and the more accurate your responses.

After a break for lunch we moved to Loggerheads to follow the Alyn as it flowed in the valley and then disappeared completely, leaving the stream bed dry, into sinkholes and old mine works.  Along the edge of the dry river bed there are therefore several places where there are considerable underground flows and, because the cavities are largely man-made, the flow of the water isn’t always predictable from the surface.  The volumes of flow were much larger than we’d encountered on the Rhydymwyn site and Peter thought it would be a good learning experience to see how this affected the performance of the rods.  To be honest, I think we did less well here than we had in the morning.  There was water all around in some places and perhaps this made the dowsing more difficult for us rank amateurs.  We were also becoming tired and, increasingly, it was difficult to stay “positive” or in the correct frame of mind.  It was good fun though, and we provided interest for the other walkers!

So what did we learn from the day?  I took away several very useful things for my own practice of dowsing.  Firstly, knowledge of your subject is important.  I personally believe that I am dowsing when I do reflexology in that the energetic representation of the body’s parts and organs on the feet are sensed as reflexes in various ways – in this case my tools are my fingers and my mind.  Knowing more about reflexology and being a more experienced reflexologist therefore helps me to “dowse” the reflexes to assess what might need to be done in the treatment session.  Secondly, the importance of being “positive”, or in the right frame of mind was reinforced.  I think there are different ways of doing reflexology but the way I work is definitely enhanced by the ability to tap in to the information in my clients’ reflexes and this requires quiet, stillness and the right frame of mind to form the connection.  And lastly Peter confirms what I have learned elsewhere – the importance of ethical practice.  The BSD code of ethics is a very good example.

My friends too came away with a very positive attitude to their first ever taste of dowsing.  They all agreed there was definitely “something to it” and felt that their experiences of feeling the dowsing tools move to relay information were real and in many cases accurate.  Accuracy can only be improved by practice and Peter advises at least 3 days to have a good stab at learning water dowsing.  They continue to mull over the experience and agree it was a thoroughly interesting way to spend a day.

And lastly – so how does dowsing work?  The importance of being “positive”, or being in the right state of mind, is paramount.  In this way we can tap into our subconscious and information that may have previously been hidden.  This might be construed as being an ancient sense that Man used in his early days to connect with the landscape and find water – or anything else he needed to find. But what if the information cannot possibly have been there in any explicable way beforehand?  What if someone could use dowsing to, for example, predict the lottery results or stock market movements?  Would that be a tapping in to knowledge that is somehow already there?  Many believe that there is an extra dimension to dowsing and similar work, call it what you will – energy, spirit, collective unconscious.  By stilling our chattering everyday mind, becoming open and paying real attention to what is in, around and about us in the universe there is an infinite source of information that can be accessed.  I experience and am grateful for it in my therapy work and it is there for everyone else.  Just remember to be ethical in your approach, as in all of life.

Further reading:

The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing, a journey beyond our five senses – Hamish Miller.  One of the covetable and tactile Wooden Books series, watch out, they’re addictive (but fortunately not expensive).

Spiritual Dowsing – Sig Lonegren.  Some good stuff in here too.

The Sun and the Serpent – Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller.  The story of tracing the Michael and Mary earth energy lines across the UK.

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School aromatherapy day

aromatherapy oils chesterLast week I spent a day in a local school doing aromatherapy with some of the pupils.  We looked at where different essential oils come from and why we might use them.  We sniffed a lot of oils and their source plants – there were very strong opinions about which oils smelt good and which were awful.  Almost across the board the least liked smell was hyssop, a strong and bitter herb not much used in mainstream aromatherapy.  Citrus oils mostly came out on top.  Citrus oils generally are uplifting and joyous to use so I’m not at all surprised.  What was surprising was an almost complete failure to identify a rose flower – although it was an old fashioned variety with a fully double form (Charles de Mills) which may have been unfamiliar.

Then we moved on to looking at putting oils together in blends.  From a choice of six oils I asked the pupils to choose the three that went together and produced their favourite individual blend.  We also considered the properties of the different oils as we were going to use the blend to make a massage cream for a hand and arm massage.  There was a clear hierarchy of preferred oils, in order of preference; spearmint, mandarin, lavender, geranium, (Atlantic) cedar, patchouli.  This, in my opinion, pretty much follows the ranks of fragrance notes of the oils from top to bottom with patchouli, the most strongly base note, finding no takers at all.

The practical session ended with pupils pairing up to give and receive hand and arm massage.  Many of the pupils really enjoyed this part of the activity, with some of them taking notes in order to carry on at home.  I really hope there are some parents around Chester who’ve since benefited from being massaged by their child.  The whole experience was a lot of fun and a great change of scene for me – particularly the positive energy and noise levels which were rather different from a usual therapy environment!  A big thank you to all the pupils and school staff for their excellent participation and support.  There is a follow-up Q & A for pupils (and staff) here.

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May 4th

I’ve been a bit lacking in my rendition of the pagan calendar, after Imbolc we had the spring equinox and then on Sunday there was Beltane – or May Day as you might know it.  I was going to write on May Day but it really was a dismal scene here in Chester, rain heavy and miserable, chilly and nothing to be doing outside.  So we took the sensible approach and met up with friends for food, beer and fun.  Beltane/May Day is again about fertility, the tide of energy rising in the earth to bring forth the crops.  Cattle were driven out to the summer pastures and bonfires lit for their protective powers.  All the household fires would be extinguished and rekindled from the Beltane bonfires.  Sitting in the pub, having fun with friends, wasn’t therefore such an inappropriate thing to do on this day.  Instead of lighting bonfires and sharing the sacred flame we rekindled and renewed our own friendships and made arrangements for the future.

My own plans for the future have taken some unexpected turns lately.  In my professional life, one path is proving more tricky to take while another, which I had not thought to follow just now, is opening up.  People are or aren’t available, events are cancelled or pop up unexpectedly and, before you know it, in a few weeks you’re in a different pasture from the one you set out for.  On a personal level too, my wish to get back to nature and spend more time in garden and allotment has worked out differently – after some unpleasantness with allotment neighbours I have given up my plot.  To be perfectly honest this was something I had been thinking about for a while, last year I described it as “somewhere I forage for fruit among the weeds” but it was hard to let go of the project that I’d been working on for seven years.  Now it’s done, it feels like the right thing, and I wish the new tenant, whoever she or he may be, joy in their growing.  I will instead focus on my neglected garden and take joy in that.

So, what I really want to say in this post is that I wish everyone joy and success in their plans and tasks for the future.  May your gardens be abundant and your crops be sweet.  May your endeavours in all of your life be fruitful – even if you end up doing something quite different from what you had planned.  And don’t forget to connect with and give thanks for that earth energy that nourishes and inspires us every day and helps us make the right choices.  May the force be with you!

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Cake and Death

IMG_2362Recently I went to a rather usual event, a Death Café.  About twenty people met up at a tearoom in Gresford (Serendipity) to “drink tea, eat cake and discuss death”, the idea being that by breaking down the barriers around talking about death we can make the most of life.

The event was organised by Kim Patel, a counsellor based in Wrexham, and Denise Oliver, a therapist from Chester, so there was a mix of people from the complementary therapy spectrum as well as ministers and psychics among the participants.  People who take part in this kind of event are always going to be self-selected and may, perhaps, be those who are already comfortable with talking about death, but it was still a very interesting and productive discussion.  The excellent tea and cake were definitely appreciated to keep our tongues lubricated and our brains ticking over.

We kicked off by talking about all the euphemisms there are in the English language that prevent us from ever having to use the words death or dying, Kim told us there were about 200.  The interesting thing to me was, that although many of us agreed that we should feel happy to use the unequivocal words, most then reverted to the euphemism of their choice.  Language is such a powerful thing and affects the way we think as well as feel; imagine the confusion of a child that has been told her granny has been “lost” or “passed away”.  How is she to link that to death and therefore to come to an understanding of it?  We also talked about all the really rather odd traditions that are associated with death in our British culture.  Many of these may still be harking back to the Victorian era; that strange time when the death of one man, Prince Albert, affected not only his wife and family but also the entire nation for forty years.  We wondered how we could more appropriately celebrate someone’s life and grieve for their death in this time and place.  And we thought about how we might wish our own funerary rites to be held.

Talking to our families about our death is also probably something we should do more of.  What we would wish to happen might be important to us – and our families might have completely different ideas.  A friend died last September and his funeral was not what I expected, nor, perhaps, exactly what he would have wished, so other friends thought.  But his next of kin wanted a Christian service so that was what she arranged and his friends paid their tribute later in their own way.  Does it matter, and to whom?  Are funerals and memorials for the dead or for those left behind?  My husband and I say to each other: “when I’m dead, do ‘so-and-so’ – but, really, do what you want”.  In the Death Café we also talked about how difficult it can be to express our feelings when someone dies – and sometimes even to understand them if they are complex.  The death of our friend in September was unexpected, he was a lovely and kind man, and I felt only grief, loss and sadness that we would never see him again as we knew him.  But when another friend died a few years ago the feelings were complicated.  Guilt, sorrow, anger and then guilt again.

Not long after this event it was the spring equinox and I baked some more cake in order to celebrate life.  I made a simnel cake (above) which is associated either with Mothering Sunday, or with Easter.  I chose this because it was appropriate for the time of year and I hadn’t made one either for a very long time or, indeed, possibly ever.  My parents were visiting and I thought my Mum in particular would appreciate the effort that went into this rich, citrus-laced, marzipan-topped fruitcake and that it might bring back memories of when she used to bake.  My Mum has dementia and, because her short term memory is tricky and unreliable, memories of things and people past are more important to her.  She liked the cake, we all did, it was an excellent cake and did its job of reinvigorating the past in the present.

A few weeks after the Death Café I feel that it was more than an interesting experience at the time, it really has made me think about all sorts of things, not only death.  Things like the way we handle emotions within groups of friends and family.  The difficult questions of what happens after someone’s death beget the even more difficult ones of what happens while we’re still alive and perhaps struggling with that life.  As a reiki practitioner I try to keep to the precepts of not being angry or worrying, of being grateful for what I have and kind to others, which is a good recipe for life in general – but I’m human, it isn’t always easy.  And, of course, I still wonder what does happen after we die.  The late, great Sir Terry Pratchett depicted Death as a really rather likeable ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATION who speaks in capitals, likes cats and goes out for a curry.  But, Death explains, he is just there for the reaping, the cutting of the thread of life.  What happens afterwards is up to you.

I hope there’s cake.

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Imbolc

IMG_2349
One of my resolutions this year is to get back to nature more, having been doing a lot of studying and working over the past few years I haven’t made enough time to get outside, tend my garden and allotment, and listen to things growing.  As part of this I wanted to learn more about the ancient year markers now known as Celtic or pagan festivals in the UK, and today is Imbolc.

Without going into a lot of detail, because I’m not an expert and there are many, many web pages and books you can refer to, Imbolc is the celebration of the first signs of spring, the first shoots and the return of the sun as a growing force in our land.  As a gardener I’ve always been aware that February is early spring, when I can get excited about sowing seeds, cut down the old, dead growth from last year (left through the winter as shelter and food for insects, animals and birds) and welcome the new leaves and shoots showing.

IMG_2348So today I’ve been out looking at what’s going on in the garden, evergreens that were cut back a little too late last year are now recovering and shooting, daffodils are getting ready to flower and roses are shooting too.  I know we could still see harsh, wintery weather return as late as April but for now these signs of life are enough.  These nettles are the perfect stage to pick and eat as nutrient rich greens and there are some dandelions elsewhere for salads.  Cultivated perennial herbs like tarragon and mint are shooting again and one of my cats has already expressed her approval by having a “mint moment” – it’s the same lamiaceae family as catnip and there must be some common aromatic elements as she was definitely getting something out of it.

IMG_2345I’ve picked a couple of other rituals for today almost at random from internet posts and at dusk will be switching on every light in the house for a short time to mark the return of light to our world before enjoying a macaroni cheese for dinner.  Imbolc also marks calving time so celebrating dairy foods is appropriate.  I’m sure lots of other people will be doing lots of other things, but, as I know from the kind of work I do, sometimes it doesn’t matter so much what you do but that you do it – and with intent and a glad heart.  Enjoy the signs of spring!

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What’s ahead in 2016?

The winter solstice is an appropriate time to think about what’s happened in the past year and what we hope will come in the next. 2015 has been a busy year for me and I hope 2016 will be too.

This summer I completed my aromatherapy diploma and hence became a professional masseuse – not something I ever thought I’d do, but you can’t do an aromatherapy qualification in the UK without learning massage.  It was a nice surprise, as I developed the necessary skills, to understand that massage is a very valuable therapeutic tool and one much appreciated by my clients.  My main interest in aromatherapy still remains the use of essential oils in products to be applied to the skin as lotions, gels, balms etc., as the wide range of therapeutic benefits of these oils means the remedy can be truly tailored to the client.  This is a far cry from aromatherapy products bought retail which contain lower concentrations of essential oils and are formulated to suit a wide range of people which means they may not ideally suit any!  I intend to be offering a wider range of products to clients in 2016.

My other main focus this year has been taking my reiki studies further to the level known in the West as “master” – although the Japanese word sensei is more commonly translated as “teacher”.  I am doing this for two reasons, firstly to learn more about reiki and develop my skills as a practitioner for personal interest and so that I can offer clients the best reiki treatments possible.  The second reason is so that I will be able to teach reiki to others, and this I hope to begin at some point in 2016.  Please contact me if this is something you are interested in doing.

There are other schemes and collaborations in the pipeline for next year – as there always are – and it promises to be as full of change as this year was.  In the meantime I wish all my clients a very happy break and hope you all get time to relax and recharge properly.  And Happy New Year!  The days are getting longer now, the sun is returning and we can all plan for the future.

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How many therapy sessions should you have?

This is a question I often get asked, particularly by clients who are new to complementary therapies, possibly because they are used to having a course of treatment laid out or prescribed for them by a GP or other allopathic medical practitioner.  As a holistic therapist I need to engage with each client individually in order to come up with a treatment plan as there are many considerations:

  • Is there a particular focus for the therapy(ies)?  Has there been a medical diagnosis?  Is it chronic (been going on for a long time) or acute (recent and/or severe)?  Is the client also currently receiving medical treatment?
  • Has the client had reflexology, reiki or aromatherapy in the past?  What reactions did they have to the treatment and how did they benefit?
  • Are there any other complementary therapies the client is receiving or has found of use in the past (e.g. acupuncture, EFT)?
  • What are the client’s preferences?  When are they free for treatments?  What impact will having treatments have on their day to day life?

Discussion of all these points forms part of the initial consultation and they should be reviewed at each therapy session depending on how the client is reacting to the treatments.  Some people find one or two reflexology sessions quite transformational and might not feel the need to come for any more.  Others may find that a course of 4 to 6 weekly treatments has enough effect that they can then come back at longer intervals of a month or more to continue the benefits – if they need to at all – or as problems flare up.  Some people find that complementary therapies are generally so helpful in coping with everyday stresses that they permanently include occasional treatments as part of their personal health plan.

As a self employed therapist I am, of course, very aware that most of my clients fund therapy fees themselves from their hard-earned and limited resources.  I always try to ensure that my clients receive the best possible treatments and charge fees that reflect the levels of training I have undergone and the experience I have which are comparable with similarly qualified holistic practitioners in the area.

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Which treatment is best for me?

My road to becoming a holistic therapist began when I first had a reflexology treatment – I’d always liked a bit of a foot massage and was very grateful when my birthday turned up a voucher for a local treatment.  What I wasn’t expecting was that not only would I find the treatment hugely enjoyable and relaxing, but I would also experience a classic “healing crisis” that began the end of my chronic sinus pain that had made cold weather a misery.  The following winter I was able to manage without the prescribed steroid spray and antihistamines I had been using for several years and I have never needed them since.

Now, as a reflexologist myself, I am used to experiencing clients’ reactions to reflexology treatments.  As the theory of reflexology centers around the mapping of bodily parts and organs onto reflected areas (reflexes) on the feet (and other parts of the body), treatments are able to be targeted towards the body systems that are involved while maintaining a holistic approach.  So, if a client presented to me today with chronic sinus pain, I would work the direct sinus and the whole of the facial reflexes, the central nervous system reflexes for coping with the pain response, the lymphatic system as part of a possible immune system imbalance and the digestive system reflexes, particularly the ileocaecal valve, for the regulation of mucous production.  I would pay attention to the full medical and personal history gained in my consultation to ensure that no other related aspects had been missed.  Following treatment I might expect the client to experience increased symptoms and expulsion of old scar tissue from the sinuses before the condition hopefully settled down as the client’s body regained homeostasis.

So reflexology is very much a “doing” therapy, with the skill and learning of the reflexologist being paramount in the client receiving the most appropriate treatment.  Even more of a “doing” therapy is massage, which I am trained to give as a holistic aromatherapy treatment.  Added to the benefits of direct massage to areas of the body are the use of essential oils.  Often these are used for their properties of relieving muscle tension, promoting blood flow and warming, tackling pain or reducing inflammation.  In other instances essential oils might be chosen that have therapeutic effects on the psyche or emotions, relaxing, uplifting, calming, restoring the spirit.  Again, oils are chosen for each treatment for each client following a full consultation and taking all needs into consideration.

At the other end of the spectrum from “doing” therapies is reiki.  One of the tenets of reiki practice is that reiki cannot be manipulated and will act on the receiver in the way that is most beneficial or “for the highest good”.  As a reiki practitioner I therefore channel the energy from the universe to my client in order that they might benefit in whatever way they need.  My focus in all reiki treatments is that of empowerment – that my client receives what they need in order to help them change whatever it is they need to change or to move on.  It is a spiritual practice in the widest sense and I think it can be particularly helpful for clients whose concerns are not necessarily directly linked to physical symptoms.

Also key in deciding which therapy is best for a particular client is personal preference.  If you dislike having your feet touched than perhaps a body massage or reiki would be best for you.  Although, of course, reflexology can be performed on the hands and other parts of the body such as the ears and face.  If you don’t like the idea of massage then perhaps a foot reflexology treatment to target the affected areas is better for you.

If you are unsure about which therapy might be best for you I am always happy to discuss your needs.  And you can always experience a combined treatment – such as some reiki followed by a short massage which helps ground the reiki treatment.  Or perhaps reflexology combined with aromatherapy – using essential oils on the feet has a direct effect as they are absorbed into the blood and possibly a subtle effect on the reflexes themselves.

Posted in Aromatherapy, Energy therapy, Reflexology, Reiki | Comments Off on Which treatment is best for me?