Scope of practice
I believe that it is very important for anyone calling themselves an aromatherapist, or anyone using essential oils and/or recommending their use to the general public, should be very clear as to what their scope of practice really is. It is imperative that we are not perceived to be ‘practicing medicine without a license’ or ‘prescribing’ or ‘dispensing’. Essential oils are extremely complex compounds and we owe it to ourselves and those we work with to make sure that we have received adequate training and that we really do know, and understand what it is we are doing.
Recently I receive a call from a gentleman in the States who presented himself as specializing in ‘Conflict Resolution“. He apparently spends a lot of time working on behalf of therapists who have come into conflict with regulation boards. He said he came across our school because he was representing one of my graduates. However he also said that he was not at liberty to tell me who they were so I don’t know if this is the case or not.
He apparently has spoken to both NAHA and AIA and said that neither organization could help him. After listening to more of what he had to say, it became apparent to me that the ‘conflict resolution’ he was dealing with, generally involved the individual adding something to their practice of aromatherapy for which they were not additionally trained. For instance practicing massage, even though they didn’t meet the local requirements for practicing massage where they lived or work; or giving ‘medical advice’ and ‘dispensing’ blends or essential oils without the appropriate medical license. Listening to the language he used around the essential oils it seemed fairly clear to me that he comes from the multi-level marketing world of essential oils. In my opinion, this is a world where the scope of practice is not clearly defined and where sometimes odd claims are made and less than safe practices are followed. He also wanted to share with me a website that taught courses on being an aromatherapy coach as a way to get around the problem.
I believe that anyone who had taken a good aromatherapy course should already know what an aromatherapists’ scope of practice is. They should also have had training in working with the client, taking a Health Record, understanding how to assess, the situation, plan a protocol of action, implement it and evaluate the outcome. I certainly know that this sort of training is covered in our Full Professional Course and I certainly expect it is covered in other courses recognized by the different aromatherapy associations. I also believe that anyone holding a Professional Liability Insurance policy should be clear as to the scope of practice they are covered for.
On reflection I see this phone call can serve as a good reminder to me, and my student and graduates, as to how important it is to be clear about what we, as aromatherapists are doing, and what our legitimate scope of practice is. As aromatherapists,we can fill an incredibly supportive role in helping people move through the challenges they face in their journey through life. In my opinion, there are no blanket solutions for anything. Instead we need to understand all nuances of the situation the individual is facing including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. While this can be a lot more work than just saying “oh you have a headache, use this lavender”, when one takes the time to consider all aspects of an individual, as well as their life situation and lifestyle, the synergy and protocol created are unique for that person, allowing incredible possibilities to unfold for them.
I also believe it is very important to remember that essential oils are NOT substitutes for pharmaceutical drugs, nor should we be trying to recommend or use them in this. We should also always remember that when it comes to a disease or a condition, as aromatherapists we NEVER treat the disease or condition. What we do is consider the whole person, what are their concerns, what are their challenges, what is their lifestyle, what are their physical needs, what are their psychological needs. Once we have this information we can come up with a unique synergy for that individual, as well as a plan of action for how that synergy is to be applied.