I get asked this question a lot! Many don’t understand the holistic modality of aromatherapy and what an aromatherapist does to help her clients reach their wellness goals. I’d like to introduce you to my profession and shed some light on what I do as an aromatherapist and why you might want to book in for a consultation!
What is an aromatherapist?
Here in the USA a qualified aromatherapist will have attended a minimum of 200 hours of aromatherapy-only training. In my case, I attended Jane Buckle’s 250 hour Clinical Aromatherapy for Health Professionals as taught by Kathy Duffy at Boston Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. We were taught that the chemistry of essential oils define their biological activity, or therapeutic properties, and that this information helps us navigate a custom treatment plan for the client.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is often defined as a science-art. The science side looks at the chemistry of essential oils and hydrosols to determine what therapeutic actions they will have and if they will interact with your high blood pressure medication, or are contraindicated for your toddler, or your pregnant cousin. The art side looks at how the essential oil or hydrosol will support you holistically – to shift your perception of pain, decrease the inflammation of that arthritic knee, and support your own innate ability to heal mind, body, and spirit.
In a consultation we start with your health history and I interview you about your wellness goals. Once I have a big picture of what your goals are for this consult I then move over to my blending bench and start to formulate a blend of essential oils or hydrosols based on their chemistry and energetic properties. I’ll have you smell each ingredient as I go and then the final product, this is actually a very key part of blending as odor detection is tied to the same region of the brain associated with memory, blood pressure, select hormones, emotions, and mood. You may have a very defined appreciation or detestation for a certain odor and that’s quite alright – we both want you to enjoy your aromatherapy blend so you will be inclined to use it for the duration of the treatment plan!
Like many things in life, aromatherapy works within guidelines – too much can make you sick or send you to the emergency room, too little won’t be effective against that staph infection. So your aromatherapy treatment plan will work within your constitution and the method of application we’re using:
– topical – applied to the skin with a fatty transport such as grapeseed oil or milk in the bath.
– inhaled – directly in the nostrils via an aromastick or a sinus steam, or indirectly via a tealight warmer or ultrasonic diffuser in the bedroom.
Your treatment plan will include guidelines of how, when, and why to use your blend. I’ll give you guidelines as well of who else in the household this blend may or may not be appropriate for.
Why see an aromatherapist?
Your doctor and I both agree that before you consider any intervention – an over the counter pain medication, an essential oil, a homeopathic remedy, a multi-vitamin or nutritional supplement – you should be well informed about what it does to your body, how much you should take to achieve your goal, how long you should take it, and what the risks are. Anything that has the power to help you heal also has the power to harm you and aromatherapy is no exception – even if it is natural and you have a very high quality essential oil!
If you walked into your local health food store, or chatted with a neighbor that represents an essential oil company, and asked for an essential oil to help with your headache you might be pointed to a bottle of peppermint essential oil. Now, if you came to see me and asked for my advice on using aromatherapy for your headaches I would offer my advice on how to change your pain perception with a few essential oils, but because that just masks the symptoms I would also want to address the root cause of your headaches. So you would go home with a custom blend and a treatment plan to get the headaches under control without simply masking the symptoms. That’s what most drugs do – they treat the symptom and don’t encourage the body to heal the root problem. True aromatherapy doesn’t operate like the drugs in your medicine cabinet!
You don’t have to blindly choose an essential oil at the health food store or in an online shopping cart ever again! You can be an empowered consumer that uses aromatherapy grounded in evidence-based science, and applied to systems of healing that our ancestors wisely employed thousands of years ago.
I see clients in the Austin area at my clinic in Northwest Austin, in Austin hospitals, in local retirement communities, and via phone/Skype around the globe. For more information about my services visit my Aromatherapy page, and for a list of upcoming classes and presentations visit my Learning Center page.
Wonderfully written article, Amy. I have shared on my page to inform others about the work we do, its benefits, and what a consultation consists of…thanks for defining it for the public,
Thank you Mary, for stopping by! My hope is that this article helps more folks understand what their local aromatherapist can help them accomplish!
How do I go about finding a good aromatherapist in my locality? I live in Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border. Thank you.
I’ve written some suggestions on how to find a qualified aromatherapist here, Helen: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/choosing-an-aromatherapist/. I have a classmate in the Andover area, Liz Varney, who practices at Clear and Now Holistic Healing. You might look her up and have a chat with her!
Sharing on my page if that is ok?
Share away, Eileen! Thanks for asking!
Hey Amy, thanks for writing that. it really puts into perspective what aromatherapy is. I just started my classes and I am very excited to complete it. I am completely fascinated by it and how effective it is. However, I was wondering what it is I would actually do with it. So thank you for that, it made me even more determined and excited to complete the program.