What does an aromatherapist do?
Aromatherapists use essential oils to help improve their clients’ emotional well-being and relieve symptoms of ill health. They may apply oils directly to the skin, utilise inhalation techniques, or rely on diffusion to expose clients to the beneficial effects of the aromatic compounds. A significant component of the aromatherapist’s job is mixing different oils to create individualised compounds for specific needs, which requires knowledge of the effects of the oils to determine proper ratios. Most aromatherapists use their skills as a complement to another, full-time practice, such as chiropractic care.
An aromatherapist’s work usually includes:
- taking details of the client’s medical history, diet and lifestyle
- selecting appropriate oils for treating the client
- blending the oils to be used
- applying oils by full or partial body massage
- keeping records of treatments and the blends of oils used
- supplying blended oils and instructions for clients to use at home.
Olivia Main | AROMATHERAPIST
Why did you choose this profession?
As a youth I was fascinated by the inner processes of the human psyche, the physiology of the human body, and the effects that these had on each other. I was drawn to playing a listening and nurturing role within my relationships, and seeing the relief that this brought to those people was meaningful to me. I knew then that I wanted to work with people in a supportive, healing capacity.
What training did you undergo?
I studied with a renowned aromatherapist in Cape Town, Moyra Metcalfe, at the South African School of Aromatherapy. It was a three-year diploma that included aromatherapy theory and massage; anatomy, physiology and pathology; counselling skills; first aid; and community service. Afterwards, I went on to complete a three-month deep tissue massage course.
Outline the traits of an aromatherapist
Often people who seek out aromatherapy are feeling stressed, vulnerable, and sometimes even traumatised. This requires the calm, caring and genuine response of a therapist who has the natural inclination and learnt skills to be present with the person, sensitive to their needs, and to offer a safe and containing space. It also helps to be physically inclined for the massage aspect of the work!
Experience versus formal training? Formal training provides the framework within which the real learning takes place. Looking back over the past nine years, I can see how the treatment I offer has evolved. It now reflects a much deeper learning and understanding of my clients’ needs.
What do you like the most about your job?
I appreciate the quiet, calm, fragrant space that is created. I feel honoured to be part of the delicate process that unfolds with my clients. I enjoy the rhythm of the massaging and the feeling of muscles relaxing in my hands. I love seeing my clients emerge from the room looking soothed and peaceful.
Do you have any dislikes?
Marketing, and the occasional derogatory comment at a social event about my massage skills!
What are your future goals?
I would like to be able to facilitate deeper insight into my client’s mental and emotional issues. I’m currently studying psychology and hope to be able to offer more than basic counselling in future.
Advice for newcomers?
If you enjoy massaging people, and are curious and sensitive about their needs, you can’t go wrong because almost everyone loves to be massaged!
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
It is strongly advised to complete a course in aromatherapy, preferably from a registered SETA institution. It is advisable to join the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa once the training course is completed. Being a member of a relevant association and on a professional register is useful when looking for employment or promoting your services to clients. Shorter courses are useful as an introduction or for general interest only. There are also foundation courses offered at degree level. These courses usually include aromatherapy alongside other complementary therapies. It is important to check that courses meet professional body registration requirements and include the theory and practical experience needed to become a practitioner.