What does an Aromatherapist actually do?

There are so many misleading articles, posts and memes floating around the internet, that I thought it would be beneficial to take a minute, and explain what it is that I, as a Certified Aromatherapist actually do, and believe it or not, my purpose is not to try and sell you oils.

Technically I am a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist, that is what my certificate says, but I do not like to use the word “clinical” when explaining what I do, since I do not work in a clinic.  I have completed over 1000 hours of training, and workshops, through accredited, nationally and internationally recognized schools, to earn that title, and all I want to do is help. One of the best feelings in the world is knowing that I have helped somebody.  More than anything else, that is what I am trained to do, to help you as a client, find the right oil/s for yourself, and even though some people will say otherwise, sometimes that can be much more challenging than one would think. I am not out to get your money, I am not out to try and sell you anything. An Aromatherapist is first and foremost, a healer, not a salesperson. We do not diagnose. And I do a lot more than make blends. I massage, educate, listen, help and learn.

If you don't want to buy a blend from me, no problem at all. Many Aromatherapists don't even sell oils. I am trained in their use, not in their sales. I am trained in body work, and chemistry. I have been taught how oils interact inside and outside the body, how they react with medications. When you come to an Aromatherapist you are coming for our opinion and our help. You are coming because you have something happening in your life, and you heard that essential oils could help, and you want a professional opinion, someone to help point you in the right direction, someone who can help you find something that will be safe and effective for you as an individual.  

Say, for example, you are suffering from anxiety, and a friend of yours tells you you should try Aromatherapy. You decide to get a professional opinion because you have never used essential oils before, so you come see me, so I can help. I am not there just to mix you up a spray and send you on your way. I am there to help and educate. We make up an entire treatment plan together. TOGETHER. That is what it is all about. This is an individualized experience, created for how you are feeling at that time on that day.  First, we sit down and get to know each other. I will ask questions about your health history, current medications, how you are feeling at that time on that day, and why you have come to see me. These may seem like personal, irrelevant questions, but to an Aromatherapist, they are important. Some essential oils interact with medication, like Wintergreen and blood thinners. Some oils are contraindicated for certain medical conditions, like epilepsy and asthma. Some people are allergic to certain things, like lemons, so they should stay away from citrus oils, etc. Sometimes it is just as simple as finding out scents you like and dislike. A single oil, or blend, is not going to be very beneficial if you can’t stand the smell of it.

Once we get all that out of the way, we will talk about what triggers your specific anxiety. Anxiety can be a very personal experience, and it is important to understand the underlying cause of yours. As with most things, treating the underlying cause will help alleviate the symptoms. Is your anxiety making you want to curl up and hide, or run away from everything? Figuring out the triggers and types of reactions you have, will help determine whether we focus on uplifting oils, calming oils, sedating oils, or maybe all three. An added bonus to talking it out, is the act itself. Sometimes discussing what is happening with a neutral party is all a person needs to do to help begin the healing process.

Once we have all this information out in the open, we will start creating. I show you oils that I feel would be appropriate. I am not just going to tell you to use something and send you blindly on your way. I will explain to you why I feel they are appropriate for your specific situation. You will smell the oil. If you like it, we will add it, if you don’t we won’t, and then once the blend is created, if you don’t like the final smell, we will start over. The goal is to find you something that you love and will be willing to use everyday.

Sometimes the treatment plan involves just the one appointment. You get the blend and/or massage and go home.  Sometimes a follow up is required, especially if you feel the blend is not working. There are hundreds of essential oils to choose from, all of which are a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals, which don’t always react the same ways in different bodies, and this can sometimes make it a little tricky to get the right mixture of oils. Sometimes the blend will need tweaked. Or maybe, you just want another massage.  At any follow up appointments, there is always the option to change the blend. Maybe you’re not responding to the blend the way you hoped, maybe you have decided you don’t like it, etc.

It seems like a very involved process. Especially when you hear “There’s an oil for that!” chanted like a mantra all over the internet, but there are reasons why Aromatherapists dig so deep. We want to find the right oil for you, not for “that”, and there is not always an oil for that. They are not magic bullets. As much as some salespeople would like you to believe that, they just aren’t. They have their limitations, like anything else. They are complementary, not preventatives and cures, and a good Aromatherapist knows this and will explain it to you. Essential oils can’t do everything, and there are certain situations where they may not be the best option. There are other healing modalities out there that may be more suitable to a specific situation.

Another reason I want to ask you all these questions is to make sure we make the safest blend we can. Yes an Aromatherapist tends to err on the side of caution, and that is for good reason. Things can and do happen. I do not want to cause a reaction that could have been prevented. I had a client come to me for a blend for her grief. I asked all the right questions, and she still ended up having an anaphylactic attack. It was terrifying. And all she did was inhale it. There are anecdotal stories all over of people using oils irresponsibly and having liver failure, seizures, allergic reactions etc. Now, of course these reactions are rare. Chances are, if you use essential oils responsibly, you will never have a reaction. But some people do, about 5% of the population. And that is why a Certified Aromatherapist is trained to be careful. There are entire data bases made for reporting reactions to essential oils. Here are two of them.

http://aromatherapyunited.org/injury.../injury-reports-2016/

https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/adverse-reaction-database/

I hope this has helped explain a bit about what it is that I, and other Certified Aromatherapists do. I used Anxiety as my example in this post, but Aromatherapy can be beneficial for a lot more than that. Many people have found it helpful in pain management, for skin conditions, and for other emotional conditions.