“We are entering a new era in health care where the public is informed regarding choices in health care and the availability of alternative and complementary health care modalities,” writes Laraine K. Pounds, RN, MSN of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists. One of those modalities being aromatherapy. With an ever-increasing expectation for mainstream health care providers, such as physicians, nurses, health administrators, and educators to be knowledgeable regarding the existence, availability and benefits of alternative and complementary healthcare modalities this makes aromatherapy as one of the most dynamic careers you can have.
With an aromatherapy career, you will be helping people to experience a truly natural healing process along side traditional medicine. While there are many benefits essential oils offer, there are many things to consider before you delve into an aromatherapy career. Even though aromatherapy has been around in one form or another for centuries, dating back almost 2,000 years in some regions, it has only emerged as a viable health alternative in the 20th century starting in France, with several noted scientists touting its benefits.
In order for the profession of clinical aromatherapy to grow as a recognized profession and take its place with more-established complementary care modalities, it has the obligation to identify and establish standards of care and practice. These standards are being set forth by two organizations in the United States: NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy and AIA (Alliance of International Aromatherapists). Both of these groups are working to establish professional standards of practice that reflect the current knowledge base and practice of aromatherapy in order to encourage accountability. Naturally, these standards are subject to evaluation and subsequent change as the practice norms evolve.
Today, this ever-increasing industry spans the globe with thousands of practitioners. If you are considering an aromatherapy career, here are some things you need to know.
What You Do
As an aromatherapist, there will be several duties that will be required of you. The following information is taken from the standards of Practice from the AIA website:
- The qualified aromatherapist understands and applies appropriate, scientifically sound theory as a basis for essential oil use. This knowledge base includes, but not limited to:  Basic Concepts of Aromatherapy – essential oils, sources, history, client assessment;  Scientific Principles – botany, extraction, chemistry, anatomy and physiology,  Administration – therapeutics, safety, delivery methods, contraindications, blending,  Professional Issues – documentation, quality control, ethics This standard also applies to those engaged in fragrance blending or product development as these activities are predicated on the basic concepts relating to essential oils, chemistry, and blending, for example.
- In addition, the qualified co-constructs an aromatherapy intervention based on client’s needs and uses standard applications of essential oils in the manner most suitable for the client’s identified outcomes. Providing client education is inherent in this standard of care. The qualified aromatherapist evaluates the client response and maintains a system of documentation. In addition, the qualified aromatherapist assumes responsibility for his/her continuing education and professional development, and modifies one’s practice to assimilate new knowledge gained from continuing education.
- The qualified aromatherapist seeks opportunities to participate with other health care providers to develop an integrated plan of care, as possible. The aromatherapist communicates the benefits of essential oil use to the public and health care providers. The qualified aromatherapist is valued as a health team contributor.
- The qualified aromatherapist upholds professional standards of care and supports an identified code of ethics to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner in relation to their clients, health professionals, and the general public. Furthermore, you will help your client by educating and actively encourage them to take responsibility for their care and well-being. You will need to maintain professional confidentiality except when failure to take action could constitute a danger to others.
- The qualified aromatherapist contributes to the continuing development of knowledge of clinical aromatherapy through data collection, research activities and documentation of findings. You will also want to keep a detailed history of your clients, choosing the right oils for each client, creating a proper blend of aromas, providing a continuous treatment plan and referring clients to other health practitioners when the situation warrants it.
In the United States, there is no governing body for aromatherapy. However, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) provides a self-regulatory body along with the Alliance for International Aromatherapists to help educate the public on the benefits and safety of utilizing aromatherapy. You will want to receive proper training from an institute that offers an Aromatherapy Certification Program to become a qualified aromatherapist. This would entail completing your training from a recognized school in aromatherapy with a minimum of 200 educational contact hours (such as approved by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy or the Alliance of International Aromatherapists) or has been recognized through a standardized exam, such as provided by the Aromatherapy Registration Council. Both organizations have set educational standards that support and enhance the quality of education provided by schools throughout the industry. Rebecca Park Totilo is a certified aromatherapist and member of AIA and NAHA. In addition, Aroma Hut Institute is an approved school with NAHA and IICT (International Institute for Complementary Therapists) for aromatherapy education.
Skills You Need
In order to be an aromatherapist, you need to have several skills that are essential to being successful. These include being patient and calm, having empathy to listen to your clients, as well as great organizational skills. In addition, you need to have an interest in plants and botany. Skills in record keeping are also important so that you can keep proper track of each of your clients, their needs and their preferences with essential oils. It is important to remain upright by representing your education and qualifications honestly in advertising and practice and acknowledge the limitations of my skills, as indicated.
You will also want to refrain from guaranteeing a specific wellness outcome, acknowledging that aromatic extracts support self healing and that holistic health outcomes are influenced by many factors. In addition, you will respect the law and avoid dishonest, unethical, or illegal practices.
Where You Work
Typically, you can work within a clinic by sharing space with other health professionals or renting your own space. Many clinics offer rooms for alternative medicine treatments. If you don’t want to work in a clinic, you do have an option of operating out of your home, where a room can be dedicated to aromatherapy. You can expect that each appointment is going to last between 40 and 75 minutes in total. As an aromatherapist, you will be able to make your own hours, and your hours will be dictated by when your client’s are available, which typically are in the early morning and late evening.
First, consider that your salary is going to vary greatly. Aromatherapy is typically practiced in conjunction with other skills in the health industry, including as a nurse or massage therapist. As a result, how much you make will depend on your other training as well. Generally, you can expect to be paid $15,000 to $45,000 year depending on how successful you are. You may need to consider this occupation as a part-time job when you first start out.