How can reflexology help children?

Susan Quayle, author of the ‘Mouse’ series, spoke to us to discuss her background in reflexology, the concept behind her books and how the practice of reflexology can help children.

 

Susan, you’ve been a reflexologist for a number of years. How did you discover reflexology?

I actually believe that reflexology discovered me, despite my resistance to it.

I first came across it at a green festival in Dorset. I tried it and found it extremely relaxing. At the time I was a hardcore horticulturalist, plants were my passion, but I did buy Laura Norman’s book and was fascinated with the whole idea.

Shortly after this my sister-in-law became pregnant and suffered very badly with Hyperemisis Gravidarum and my first step on the road to becoming a maternity reflexologist, unbeknownst to me, was when I would visit her and give her the treatment for morning sickness from Laura’s book. It always made her feel better.

 

It was another ten years before I retrained in massage therapy and followed this training with sports massage. Unfortunately, the sports massage tutor wasn’t very good and we all felt that we would never get through the exam or have the required knowledge to work in this field so we left en-mass. The only other course that was running was the reflexology diploma, which I was very unsure about joining. Fortunately I did and came to realise very quickly what an incredible therapy it is. I have trained in many therapies but reflexology has been the focus of my career followed closely by aromatherapy.

 

What do you think it is about reflexology that is so beneficial for children’s physical and mental well-being?

I have seen reflexology totally relax children, almost instantly; their eyes glaze and have a far away look in them and it happens very quickly if the child is in need of the treatment.

Reflexology promotes a profoundly deep relaxation that often feels like a switch being flicked and a part of you just sinks into a deep restfulness. It is during this deep rest and quiet space that the body is able to begin a healing response.

Children are open to new experiences and engage fully, when they feel safe and comfortable, which enables them to reach this place of healing and relaxation very quickly. As they are so young and untainted by life-long indulgences their body can rebalance quickly and often does.

Every day our children are put under more and more pressure to perform, conform and do well. Their physical and mental health is constantly under threat and children with supportive families are just as likely as those without to be prescribed drugs for depression now.

Complementary therapies are an important part of family life. In so many cultures around the world, where appropriate, nurturing touch is shared by the whole family not just given to the babies and young children.

Touch helps children to be more accepting of their body and the changes taking place, touch is an important part of being human and I think is particularly important for teenagers, who would accept it more readily if it had been part of their every day life delivered within the safety of a loving family.

 

Your new book (and the other books in your series) focuses around characters and a story to accompany a reflexology exercise. How did you find this process?

As with all processes that appear to arrive from nowhere, my first book had actually been many years in the making; deep inside my head where all the creativity is happening without me even really knowing about it.

Both my children were brought up with a love of books; we read to them every day and sang songs, our favourites were always the rhyming stories and songs. So it all began with Slinky Malinky, The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, Green Eggs and Ham and all those wonderful books for children. I have always been pretty good at putting little rhymes together for children’s cards and things so the rhyming was fixed a long time ago.

The actual ‘Eureka’ moment, like Archimedes, occurred in the bath, a great place for parents to get a moment’s peace and actually lose themselves in thoughts. I jumped out and wrote the first draft instantly, that was the effect of all those years of preparation in the hidden corners of my brain! Many months’ work followed but that very first draft took place on October 12th 2012. I have never been so excited or bewildered!

Once I had the idea it was only really a matter of allowing the story to develop in my head. I think I could come up with them forever!

 

What reaction have you had to your books so far?

The reaction to the books has been wonderful. They have been embraced by the reflexology community and have even won awards, along with The Children’s Reflexology Programme, (the teaching programme that now goes with them). I think it was such a unique and novel idea to put reflexology to a story and also to make this lovely, gentle complementary therapy available to children. Children have embraced it whole heartedly; they love the animal characters, finding the animals on their own feet but also sharing such healthy, positive touch with family and friends. Complementary therapy made accessible through play offers a positive understanding of issues relating to health, self care and nurturing, positive touch within families but also within communities.

 

How is Mouse and the Storm different from the other books in your series?

My latest book Mouse and the Storm differs from the first two in that it contains hand reflexology. The first two books use foot reflexology so are more about giving and receiving reflexology. Book three is about giving and receiving too, but it also focuses on self treatment. Mouse and the Storm was written specifically to support parents of children with additional needs and to go with our courses for these parents.

Being able to self treat offers many children who have challenges with day-to-day transitions, between places and activities, strategies to help them. It also allows children with sensitivity issues to take control of the pressure and touch that is used on them. We have seen some wonderful results with both the book and the course, and with these children loving and engaging with the animal characters too. We have had reports of children coming home from school and telling their parents how many times they visited Mouse that day.

 

Are there any challenges you have encountered when using reflexology with children?

Using reflexology with children can be as challenging as trying to get them to engage in anything else. It can take time to build a relationship with them, which can create some awkward moments! If a child doesn’t want reflexology the chances are that today you won’t be giving any. However if you are careful you may well sow the seeds that will allow you to treat them next time. Children are naturally curious and once they have made a connection with you they will put their trust in you and love to learn. You can’t force a child so really it is about releasing your own ego and making it all about the child. I had one little boy whose mum used to come to me for reflexology and I always gave him a bit too. He wouldn’t allow anyone to give him reflexology except me – he grew out of it soon enough and now gives his baby sister reflexology as well as his parents; he’s only five.

 

Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your book?

My passion is reflexology. I wrote my books so that I could share the huge benefits of reflexology with as many families as I could. I hope that the next generation will grow up not only knowing what reflexology is but what it feels like to receive and what it feels like to give, and value it as a resource available to them with little cost or effort. Hopefully these children will grow up wanting to share these books with their own children and so pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

Reflexology is an experience, a powerful human connection on a deeply personal and nurturing level that I hope will resonate with every child that encounters it through my books at a young age. To value connection and humanity through our basic human need, touch, is a value worth instilling from as early an age as possible. Complementary therapies are a gentle way of bringing communities together in health, well being, nurture and caring. Our children need to grow up in the warm embrace of these life skills for their own good health and that of each other. Our families and communities need to reconnect on the most basic level. This is a part of what I hope my books can bring about.

 

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To view the whole series by Susan Quayle, please click here.

Mouse and the Storm

A hand reflexology programme designed to relieve anxiety in children, accompanied by a soothing story about dealing with unexpected disruptions

 

Mouse’s Best Day Ever

A charming story about Mouse and her friends as they find fun on a stormy day with an accompanying simple reflexology treatment to help relieve discomfort from teething, constipation and colic

 

The Mouse’s House

An enchanting story about a mouse’s mission to make a cosy home for Winter with an accompanying simple reflexology massage for parents or carers to perform on a child

Sitting on a Chicken: Extract

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To celebrate the release of Sitting on a Chicken by Michael Chissick, we are releasing an extract from the book, featuring four interactive yoga games and poses you can use with your children or pupils!

To download the extract please click here. 

Learn more about Sitting on a Chicken here. 

Michael Chissick has written several books for children, published by Singing Dragon, please find them here.

Striker, Slow Down! – Colouring Page

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To celebrate the release of Striker, Slow Down!, we have released a downloadable colouring page to help children use mindfulness to control their emotions.

Striker, Slow Down! tells the story of Striker the cat, who is unstoppable! He thinks that there is too much fun to be had, and no matter what his mama tells him, he never slows down. One day, a bump to the head brings this busy cat to a standstill. Will Striker finally listen to his mama and learn to make time for a little calmness?

You can use our colouring page with your children or pupils and you can share your finished pages with us on Facebook or Twitter.

To download the colouring page, please click here.

Can Yoga Improve a Child’s Behaviour?

In this article, Michael Chissick, author of  Seahorse’s Magical Sun Sequences, Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation and Frog’s Breathtaking Speech answers the question ‘Can Yoga Improve a Child’s Behaviour?’

Overview

In the following case study you can read how *Sinclair’s behaviour improved significantly because of his success in the yoga lessons over two terms. The plan, to teach challenging postures with aspects of social & emotional of learning at the core of the programme, helped change Sinclair’s attitude and behaviour. Continue reading

Drawing and Writing about Anxiety

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When Anxiety Attacks is a graphic memoir about living with anxiety and finding help through a therapist. In this blog, Terian Koscik, author and illustrator, gives an inside look to her experience of drawing and writing about anxiety.

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One of the hardest parts about living with anxiety is trying to explain what it’s like to friends and family who don’t experience it. To them, it makes no sense that someone who is usually capable of making clear, rational decisions would have fears and thoughts that are totally irrational. What they don’t realize is that anxious people are often perfectly aware of how irrational our thoughts are. This doesn’t make it any easier to ignore them, though. Dealing with anxiety, beginning to understand it after going to therapy for the first time, and trying to convey my new sense of understanding to others led me to want to create a comic book about the experience.

As a child, my anxieties appeared blatantly silly and irrational to outside observers. I would panic whenever the phone rang, worried about what would happen if we didn’t answer it before it went to voicemail. What if it was an extremely important call, and they needed to talk to us right then? Or what if they thought we didn’t care?

As adults, we have a lot more in our lives to worry and panic about, and the line between what is silly and what isn’t is harder to see, especially if one’s default state is to worry. After graduating from college, my best friend from high school moved in with me, and I was distraught when she didn’t seem as enthusiastic about living together as I was. I constantly thought about what I was doing wrong when she chose to spend her time alone instead of with me, and whether I was capable of making any friends at all. I ended up going to therapy to talk about these feelings. I gradually realized that my worries were based on a general fear of being alone rather than anyone’s specific actions, that I could address them directly by asking others for help, and that there was nothing wrong with me for feeling this way.

In my book “When Anxiety Attacks,” I used dramatically different color palettes to demonstrate the way that irrational anxious thinking separates one from their usual ability to consider facts and possibilities. Other people and possibilities other than the worst case scenario do not exist in this state of mind. This makes it difficult or impossible for well-meaning loved ones to get through to us when in this state. For example, if I felt lonely, someone might remind me that I have many friends and family to turn to for reassurance. However, my anxious thinking would find a way to ignore this advice. Wouldn’t my friends and family have more important things to do than listen to me complain? Did I even deserve their attention?

Through therapy I have found that as anxious people, the best we can do is remain open to facts and possibilities, and not judge ourselves too harshly for the tendency to worry. I hope that my book will help others reach this conclusion.

Terian Koscik has been a reader of comics, a creator of comics, and an anxious person for almost as long as she can remember. Most of her work is autobiographical in nature, and deals with finding humor in feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. She posts her work regularly at http://pineconedoesthings.tumblr.com/. Terian lives in Portland, Oregon with 4 humans and 2 rabbits.

Tweet in a drawing of your anxious self to @Singing_Dragon_ using the hashtag #AnxiousMe to enter the chance to win a copy of When Anxiety Attacks

Learn more about When Anxiety Attacks here

Meditation for midwinter

by Jennifer Rhind, taken from A Sensory Journey: Meditations on Scent for Wellbeing

rhind midwinter meditation imageIt is midwinter. It is cold, water has crystallised into ice, the land has frozen over and the power of the sun has diminished. Nature is dormant – the animals are hibernating, everything has slowed down, conserving energy for future survival.

You are standing at the edge of a forest. It has been snowing; the landscape has been covered with a blanket of snow. Focus on your ears, and sense of hearing. All sound has been deadened – this is as close to silence as you have ever felt.

It is almost sunset. You slowly emerge from the wood and stand at the edge of a wide, sandy bay. The sea is dark blue, reflecting the late afternoon sky, and the wind is capping the waves with white foam. The tide is coming in, and you walk up to the edge of the sea where the waves crash on to the shore. The roaring of the sea as it drags on the sand fills your head.

You breathe deeply, drinking in the salty air, with its tang of seaweed. You become aware of the power of the sea – and feel a strange combination of fear and excitement, an overwhelming exhilaration.

You watch the waves that break on the shore at your feet, and become one with their rhythms and patterns.

Now look to the horizon. The fading sun, now a dull red, is low in the sky, its light turning the sea foam to pink. You notice that some of the waves are becoming larger, rising above the water; these are the mythical white horses. As you watch, you wonder what it would be like to ride the waves.

As the white horses draw closer to the shore, you merge with the illusion, and find yourself riding the waves. The roar of the sea is all encompassing, white foam blows all around, and you are moving with the swell of the ocean, diving into the troughs, and rising over the crests… the experience is exhilarating, natural and flowing. You notice dolphins and porpoises all around, and then you too become a creature of the sea.

Your white horse carries you back to the shore, and you watch as it disappears into the sea foam. You are standing, looking out over the sea, which is now very calm and quiet, little ripples caressing the sand at your feet. The sun is now very low in the sky; you watch the red disc slip over the horizon, its light reflected in the calm water.

Now your senses are anchored. Your experience has allowed you to realise that you have abundant courage, judgement and will. You now turn and head back to the forest. Ahead, the snow brightens the scene, and your pace quickens. You reach the forest and, in the fading light, retrace your tracks back through the trees.

You are heading back to your log cabin, where the fire will be burning. The fragrance of wood smoke lingers in the still air. This is your midwinter haven. As you walk, you reflect and review. This is the season to rest, be still, and listen to the wise person within. You are your own catalyst for growth in the coming spring. Now is the time to plant the seeds of your dreams. It is a time for being, not doing.

 

Jennifer Peace RhindJennifer Peace Rhind is a Chartered Biologist with a Ph.D. in Mycotoxicology. For thirteen years she worked as a therapist and partner in a multidisciplinary complementary healthcare clinic.. She was a lecturer on the B.A. Complementary Healthcare programme at Edinburgh Napier University for fourteen years, and remains involved in scent education. A Sensory Journey is a set of cards and booklet exploring different fragrances and giving guided meditations on scent for wellbeing and spiritual growth.

Singing Dragon New and Bestselling titles Autumn-Winter 2014 and 2015

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the Autumn and Winter of 2014 as well upcoming titles for 2015. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.


Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

An interview with Jennifer Peace Rhind on combating stress with aromatherapy

In this interview, Jennifer Peace Rhind, author of ‘Listening to Scent‘, ‘Essential Oils‘, ‘Fragrance and Wellbeing‘, and ‘A Sensory Journey‘, discusses the power and use of essential oils. An interesting read for both aromatherapists and anyone interested in aromatherapy and scent.

More information on any of Jennifer’s books can be found on the Singing Dragon website.

Why is scent so effective for changing our mood? What is the relation between scent and the brain? Why do essential oils particularly have such an influence on our brain and emotions?

Jennifer Peace Rhind

Historically, the use of scent to elicit specific responses is integral to many cultures and life practices; and this is also central to contemporary aromatherapy practices. Odours must be able to evaporate – or exist in vapour form. Once in the atmosphere, odorous molecules are detected by our olfactory organ, thin membranes covered in tiny olfactory hairs, which lie at either side of the bony part of the nasal septum. This extends to the olfactory bulb, the olfactory nerve and the olfactory pathway, which transmits these olfactory signals to the brain. Olfactory neurons project to the limbic system, which is associated with emotions, memories, motivations and pleasure, but where there is no conscious control. However, the neurons also project to the thalamus where sensory integration occurs, the hypothalamus , which monitors and maintains bodily functions; the amygdala, the seat of basic emotion; the hippocampus which is associated with memory; and to the frontal cortex, where recognition of the odour occurs. The frontal cortex is concerned with organising and planning, and the executive, logical and social decisions are made at the prefrontal cortex. When you consider the olfactory connections with these areas, it is unsurprising that scents have such a profound influence on us. Studies have shown that odours can have their effects via several mechanisms – their molecules can act directly and have a pharmacological effect, for example the sedating effect of lavender. However, because we usually experience odours in life situations, smells and memories become inextricably linked, so each smell carries an emotional memory – which can lead to physiological changes, and can influence our conscious responses and behaviour. Additionally, our state of pleasure or displeasure on experiencing an odour will affect our reactions – and this type of response can be influenced by our cultural experiences and learned behaviour. Our expectations can also influence the outcome of exposure to odours – if we believe that rosemary will enhance our memory, then it probably will! The placebo mechanism is present in aromatherapy too!

What traditional use of oils for relaxation do we know about? i.e. I read flower remedies were used by the Aborigines for thousands of years for relaxation?

There are numerous examples, across cultures and ages – and far too many to mention here! One of the earliest examples can be seen in murals in northern Sahara, dating back to 5000BCE, depicting women wearing garlands of flowers.

In ancient Egypt, the scent of the blue lotus was used for its narcotic effects, and to induce an altered state of consciousness at ceremonies and feasts. The ancient Minoans of Crete used lilies, roses and saffron for relaxation, pleasure and healing. The rose and its scent was loved by many peoples across the ages – Cleopatra famously used it in her seduction of Mark Antony; in the Roman Empire there was a feast (Rosalia) to celebrate the flower and its fragrance; and to the Sufis, the rose symbolised spiritual attainment; meditation in rose gardens was practiced. Josephine, the consort of Napoleon Bonaparte was well known for her love of roses and their scent, but she also popularised patchouli – imported with her Kashmir shawls, where the dried leaves repelled insects.

Garlands of scented flowers, such as jasmine and champaca, as well as aromatic oils have been used in India for thousands of years – for relaxation, wellbeing and healing. In Ayurveda, the beautiful scented frangipani flowers (Plumeria species) are used to calm fear and anxiety, and to treat tremors and insomnia. Sandalwood is used in Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine – to lighten and cool the mind, aid concentration, and reduce anxiety and alleviate insomnia. Vetiver was and is used to cool the mind and improve concentration. It is really interesting to see just how many of these aromatics remain important in contemporary aromatherapy. I love the way that aromatics can connect us with the past – times may have changed, but scents are constant!

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You’re a qualified aromatherapist and you practised as a therapist for 13 years – did a lot of your clients come to see you for help with stress? Is this an increasing problem?

It would be reasonable to say that the vast majority of my clients were stressed – and it manifested in many ways. Some were more aware of the debilitating effects of chronic stress than others, and some sought help when dealing with the immediate effects of personal trauma. For example, I saw many individuals in professions that are considered to be stressful, but there were also many individuals who were in difficult personal relationships, carers, the bereaved, abused, or traumatised in many other ways. I was in professional practice from the late 1980’s until the late 1990’s, and until recently I mentored student aromatherapists undertaking supervised clinical practice. I cannot say for sure that stress is an increasing problem, but stress and mental health awareness has certainly increased since the 1980’s.

We tend to think of popular oils like chamomile and lavender for relaxation – are there any types of oils that are less publicised that people should try? (but still need to stick to H&B sold ones) frankincense, sandalwood?

For relaxation purposes, there is a very wide selection of essential oils and absolutes to choose from – and you should really trust your nose and instincts. If you are strongly attracted to a scent, then that is most likely the best one for you at that moment in time! Some suggestions are sandalwood, which is often used to instil a calm state of mind, focus and clarity, and also to aid meditation, or  ylang ylang ‘extra’ which is relaxing, and can free inhibitions and ‘stuck’ emotions – it can even induce a state of euphoria. Clary sage, with its distinctive herbal scent, can have pronounced relaxing effects, and like ylang ylang it is regarded as a euphoric oil – and it certainly merits further investigation regarding its antidepressant potential. All of the citrus peel oils are useful for lifting the spirits while eliciting calmness, as well as the better known sweet orange, mandarin, lemon, lime and grapefruit you might like to try yuzu, combava peel or cedrat. Studies have revealed that bergamot is very useful for alleviating depression and stress, and that sweet orange has ‘acute’

anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) activity. Coriander seed oil is another useful oil for anxiety relief, but in this case we also witness memory-enhancing potential. Some scents such as jasmine are stimulating, but can also be used very successfully for relaxation purposes – they can enhance focus and coordination, while improving mood and self-esteem. Rose is a harmonising scent – comforting and relaxing, but not sedating as lavender and chamomile.

Can oils be mixed together to make your own stress-busting scent?

‘Yes, and the creative aspect of this is therapeutic in its own right, because as we focus on our sense of smell, other distractions are put aside! It is best to build your scent around one oil that you are drawn to, and complement different facets of its fragrance with other oils. For example, the sweetness and softness of rose is e

nhanced by sandalwood. Experimenting is all part of learning what works for you. However, you might like to  try bergamot, ylang ylang and lavender – research revealed that this combination reduced physiological responses to stress (such as serum cortisone levels and blood pressure) in patients with essential hypertension.

 

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What’s the best way to use oils to beat stress?

Evaporating them in your personal space, inhaling them from an ‘aroma-stick’ or a blotter (an absorbent card) , using them in the shower or bath, and certainly in aromatherapy massage.

Does it depend on the oil as to how it’s best applied?  i.e. carrier oil and burner, but which other methods are effective – spritzing some on your pressure points – are there particular points that are good – i.e. the area between your eyebrows as in Ayurveda – ‘the place of stillness’? Massaging some on yourself?  

Some essential oils are skin irritants and sensitisers. You might find that, for example, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon or clove would cause skin and mucous membrane irritation in your bath or shower, and even evaporating large amounts potentially could cause irritation to the eyes and sinuses and airways. All essential oils and absolutes, and most importantly the irritant oils, must be diluted in a vegetable oil carrier if they are going to be applied to the skin. For personal use, make sure that you read any safety information from a reputable aromatherapy text or your supplier before using them.

Although a professional massage is recommended, it is certainly possible to prepare your own massage oil, or use a commercially prepared product for self-massage. Self-administered massage is really limited to the abdomen (always clockwise, sweeting strokes), arms and hands, and face. There are a few acupressure points that you can use during facial massage, by pressing firmly and releasing pressure, rhythmically, for a few moments. These include the points on the midline at the hairline and between your eyebrows, the outer points of your eyebrows, and on the upper and lower parts of your cheekbones. Several studies have suggested that the use of essential oils can enhance the effects of other practices, including massage of many types (e.g. therapeutic and remedial, acupressure). For example, aromatherapy massage can stimulate the immune system in comparison with massage alone, and the use of lavender oil in ‘shirodhara’ (where sesame oil is dripped over the ‘third eye’) enhances the state of altered consciousness which this practice produces.

Which everyday smells should we be more aware of that can help us beat stress i.e. freshly cut grass, flowers, bakes bread – should we take more time to stop and be more mindful of aromas? Do you think this is key to putting us in relaxation mode, to bringing more relaxation into our days – are we effectively shutting out senses down in 21st century living because we’re so busy mindlessly rushing through life?

It is my belief that engaging with scents in the natural world is a profoundly enjoyable and healing experience, and possibly essential for optimum health. The Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which translates as ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ , or ‘forest bathing’, has many health-enhancing benefits, not least in stress reduction and alleviation of depression. Research at the Duftgarten (fragrant garden) at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna has shown that the scents of blooming plants increased calmness and alertness, even at night when the visual impact was reduced. Yes, we should certainly make the time to experience the wonderful fragrances that surround us – there is little doubt that this practice improves our wellbeing! Try smelling fresh culinary herbs in the garden or at a plant nursery, or the amazing scents of dried herbs and spices as you are cooking. When you smell essential oils and absolutes – do so with awareness and enquiry. You might even like to meditate on scent. All of these activities can awaken the senses, aid alertness, or stabilise, enhance or modify our moods, decrease anxiety and tension, or evoke memories.

Are there any new developments in aromatherapy? What will it look like i n the future? More advanced make up, new types of oils?

We are seeing better ways to deliver aromas, such as ‘aromasticks’, and also some ‘patches’ designed to deliver essential oils through the skin. In the short history of modern aromatherapy, the profession has come a long way – despite criticism from orthodox health care practitioners and some members of the scientific and academic communities. However, it is perceived in many ways – from a luxurious pampering treat to a quasi-medical treatment, and aromatherapy practitioners are found in expensive spas and salons, complementary healthcare clinics, and as volunteers in for example care homes and hospices. Aromatherapy might be seen as the preserve of those who can afford to pay, and paradoxically of such little value that health services will not pay for it! I do not know what will happen in the future – that is probably in the hands of the educators, the practitioners and those who make the rules about the profession and the use of essential oils and other plant aromatics! I believe that important factors in its future are the willingness to build on the evidence base, maintain a fundamentally holistic approach, and embrace the diversity of practices. We need to remember that aromatherapy is a unique healing modality – the only one that is based on the therapeutic use of aromatic oils and the sense of smell.There are many ‘new’ essential oils coming on the market – some have been well-researched researched, others less so – and they will without doubt find  their niche in aromatherapy and phytocosmetology. Some examples are Fragonia, Perilla (shiso mint), and Anthopogon (rhododendron); and there are many beautiful variants of old favourites such as rose becoming more readily available.’need to remember that aromatherapy is a unique healing modality – the only one that is based on the therapeutic use of aromatic oils and the sense of smell.

More information on any of Jennifer Peace Rhind’s books can be found on the Singing Dragon website.

A shorter version of this interview was published in ‘Healthy’ magazine 2014.

Improve patient’s experience through relationship-building – interview with Jane Wood

Jane Wood

Jane Wood has been involved in reflective practice for the last 20 years.  She is a supervisor and teacher of reflective practice at the University of Westminster and is the head

of practitioner development and reflective practice at the International School of Homeopathy, London.

Jane Wood’s new book The Compassionate Practitioner is now available from Singing Dragon. This handbook, full of practical tips and supportive advice, explains how best to enhance the client’s experience through compassion and mindfulness. This book will be a valued support for anyone working in private practice.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have been teaching the practitioner-patient relationship to students at college and at the University of Westminster for nearly 20 years. At the same time, I have been supervising qualified alternative practitioners and seen their struggles to build up a private practice. Many practitioners talked about the same issues in supervision: their patients were demanding, impatient or simply didn’t return. The practitioners needed to find a way to create trust, loyalty and staying power. They could do this if they improved the patient’s experience during the consultation. I realized I was in a position to write a book that takes the practitioner through every stage of the consultation, giving them lots of practical advice on how to create a healing relationship with the patient – and gain a flourishing practice.

 

Why is relationship building so important for people working in private practice?

I strongly believe that relationship building is vitally important for everyone in the caring professions whether they are alternative practitioners, counsellors and therapists or traditional doctors, nurses and consultants. Unfortunately, most orthodox practitioners do not have the time available to do much relationship building, leaving both the practitioner and the patient feeling dissatisfied and rushed. Many alternative practitioners such as homeopaths, acupuncturists, and body workers have longer sessions with their patients, which allow them more time to work on the relationship.

On the surface, making an effort to improve the experience for the patient will increase their trust and loyalty to the practitioner, but it is more than this. When the practitioner takes time to make the patient feel safe and appreciated, the patient can start to relax and explain themselves better; which in turn enables the practitioner to give a better treatment.

The added bonus for anyone in private practice, is that once there is a good relationship, the patient will help build up the practice by referring other people.

There are many different ways in which the practitioner can improve their patients’ experiences. One way is consider the clinic environment. I suggest that practitioners take five or ten minutes to sit in the patient’s chair, quieting their mind by focusing on the breath. Once they are quiet and relaxed, they can bring themselves into the present moment and use all of their senses to assess the clinic room. What is the feel of the chair they are sitting in? Is it comfortable? What is the room temperature? What smells are there?  Can they hear the receptionist or another therapist working in the next room? If so, does this impact on confidentiality?

 

What can practitioners do to improve their patients’ experiences?

The appearance of the room will make a big difference to the patient. If the practitioner is behind a desk they will feel more secure, but the patient will feel distanced. What do the patient’s eyes rest on when they are not talking? Considering the clinic room through the senses will give the practitioner a taste of what the patient experiences. They then need to consider what they can do to improve the current environment.

Another suggestion for improving the patient’s experience is that the practitioner should explain to the patient what will happen during the consultation. This is called ‘signposting’ and should be done at the beginning of the session. It can be very brief, such as, ‘I’m going to invite you to talk about yourself and your problem for the first twenty minutes, and then I’ll give you a treatment which takes about thirty minutes. You’ll need to take off your shoes and get onto the treatment couch. After the treatment we’ll see how you feel.” Once this has been clarified, the patient knows what to expect and can relax.

 

How can practitioners maintain balance in their work and avoid burnout?

Being a practitioner and listening to many patients talking about themselves is a great privilege and helping them can be deeply rewarding.  But sometimes the price is too high. There are several different causes of burnout, including working for very long hours, anxiety about patients or unconsciously taking on the patients’ negative emotions. The last one occurs mainly when there is a long time spent face-to-face with the patient, such as for counsellors, therapists or homeopaths. Our brains are programmed to read other people’s body language and facial expressions, so that we can empathise or feel their emotions.

The patient’s emotions can be directly experienced by the practitioner who might carry home a patient’s anger or depression. An awareness of this will help them consciously make more breaks in eye contact, and change their own body language more often so they don’t unconsciously mirror the patient so much.

Another way to avoid burnout is to make sure the practitioner has enough personal time to have fun and relax. This might sound obvious but when a single practitioner is running a private practice, they have to be their own marketing manager, record keeper and accountant and this all takes time. The practitioner needs to balance the intense work in the clinic with care for themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

You write a lot about self-reflection. Who do you think should do it and why do think it’s important?

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Self-reflection is a process of self-examination, of thinking seriously about your own character or actions. In the caring professions this will mean exploring something about the practitioner-patient relationship in order to understand it in more depth and decide what can be done to improve it. It is not nearly as effective if it is done within the limitations of the practitioners mind, and much better if it’s done out loud in front of a colleague or supervisor, or written into a self-reflective journal. If something went well, the practitioner can make a note of it so that they can repeat it. If it didn’t go well they can analyse why and plan how to change things next time. As I see it, all practitioners should be doing self-reflection. Their learning taught them how to work with the average patient. Experience shows them that patients are anything but average and everyone is very different. Self-reflection raises the standards of the practitioner and everyone gains from it: the practitioner, the patient, the clinic and the profession in general.

 

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