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Article: Complementary Medicine

Summary

This article covers the following jobs:

  • Acupuncturist
  • Alexander Technique Teacher
  • Aromatherapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Homeopath
  • Hypnotherapist
  • Medical Herbalist
  • Naturopath
  • Osteopath
  • Reflexologist
  • Yoga Teacher.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should find out more about the careers that interest you.

Video: - Various: Complementary Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine

Complementary medicine includes a wide range of therapies and treatments. They have in common the fact that they don't rely on the use of artificial medicines, or surgery, which are the usual (conventional) ways of treating illness.

They are 'complementary' because people use them alongside conventional medicine. A good example would be the use of aromatherapy to lessen a patient's discomfort after surgery.

People use 'alternative medicine' instead of conventional medicine. For example, someone might decide to try a special diet to treat cancer instead of having surgery or radiotherapy.

What do practitioners do?

The day-to-day activities of all practitioners are likely to be similar, and are a mixture of client care and business management.

When a new client arrives, the practitioner will talk to them to find out as much as possible about the problem they have with their health.

Because complementary medicine is holistic, the practitioner will usually also ask about the client's lifestyle, including their diet and how much exercise they do.

The practitioner will examine the client. Exactly how they do this depends on the branch of complementary medicine they are trained in. They will then decide which treatment is necessary. Again, the type of treatment they use depends on their training.

  • Aromatherapists use oils extracted from plants to treat people through massage or inhalation. In some cases, the client uses the oils at home (inhaling them or putting them in the bath).
  • Reflexologists apply controlled pressure to 'reflex' areas of the feet and hands. Reflexologists believe that these areas correspond to other parts of the body. They believe that reflexology relaxes tension, removes toxins and encourages natural healing.
  • Homeopaths work on the principle that 'like is cured by like'. They treat illness by using highly diluted doses of drugs that would produce the same symptoms of the disease in a healthy person.
  • Medical herbalists use medicines made from plants.
  • Naturopaths don't use medicines. They treat people by getting them to change their lifestyle, for example, eating healthily, taking more exercise or learning how to relax. They can also give treatments such as massage, hydrotherapy and herbal medicine.
  • Osteopaths and chiropractors manipulate patients' joints, especially in the back, to treat problems and reduce pain.
  • Acupuncturists insert needles into particular points on a patient's body to treat illness or reduce pain.
  • Hypnotherapists use hypnosis to help people with a wide range of mental health and emotional problems.
  • Alexander Technique teachers help people to avoid muscular tension and bad posture. The technique aims to re-educate the mind and body through a series of gentle movements.
  • Some yoga teachers are involved in yoga therapy. This is combining the ancient practice of yoga with modern medicine to treat particular illnesses and conditions.

Most patients need to return for several sessions with the practitioner. The treatment might change slightly, depending on whether or not the condition is improving.

Where do they work?

Practitioners usually work from a clinic or a room in their own house. They might share a clinic with practitioners of other types of complementary medicine.

They usually run the practice as a business, with the income from treating patients paying for wages and the cost of renting or buying the building or room(s).

Working in complementary medicine therefore usually involves an interest in running a business, as well as in providing health care.

How to train in complementary medicine

The entry and training routes vary depending on the type of complementary medicine. In some areas of complementary medicine, such as osteopathy, it is illegal to practise unless you are registered with a governing body for that profession.

To achieve registration, you must usually complete a training course that has recognition or accreditation from the professional body responsible for that career (in osteopathy, this is the General Osteopathic Council).

You should check to see if you need to be registered to practise and make sure you complete a recognised course that leads to this.

Even if you don't have to be registered, your clients will want to see evidence that you're properly trained and competent to practise. You can demonstrate this through taking a course that is approved or recognised by a professional body.

Where there are National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the career you're interested in, you must make sure that your training course at least meets these standards.

For some careers in complementary medicine, you can also register with the:

  • General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT)
  • Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

At the moment, registration with the GRCCT or CNHC is voluntary. To register, you must usually have taken and be working towards the NOS for the type of complementary medicine you're working in. It is strongly recommended that you also belong to a professional body.

In some areas of complementary medicine, there is more than one professional body.

When choosing a course, a few things to think about are:

  • Does the course meet the NOS?
  • Is this course recognised or accredited by a relevant professional body? If I must be registered, will the course enable me to achieve this?
  • Does the course include clinical practice (work with patients), as well as theory?
  • The course should last for a reasonable length of time - you can't expect to learn a whole branch of complementary medicine in a few weeks.
  • Where do students who have completed the course work? Have they gone on to be successful in their area of complementary medicine?

Which qualifications do I need?

The qualifications you need to enter training vary, again depending on the area of complementary medicine you're interested in.

There is a wide variety of courses, at different levels, from short courses to full- and part-time degrees and postgraduate courses. Therefore, entry requirements will vary depending on the course level.

Entry requirements also vary between the different course providers, so it's very important to check prospectuses carefully, as well as seeing if the course is recognised or accredited by a relevant professional body.

To enter some courses, there's no formal entry requirement - for example, for some courses in aromatherapy (although GCSEs in Biology or Science would be useful).

Many schools and colleges focus more on personal qualities, ability to study at the course level, and possibly relevant work experience, rather than academic qualifications.

For other careers (such as osteopath and chiropractor), the recognised courses are at degree level, so you'll need A levels, usually including at least one science subject (universities may ask for specific subjects, depending on the type of complementary medicine).

Equivalent qualifications might be acceptable. Please check prospectuses carefully.

Further Information

Aromatherapy Council (AC)

Email: info@aromatherapycouncil.org.uk

Website: www.aromatherapycouncil.org.uk

British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)

Address: 63 Jeddo Road, London W12 9HQ

Tel: 020 8735 0400

Email: info@acupuncture.org.uk

Website: www.acupuncture.org.uk

National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH)

Address: Clover House, James Court, South Street, Exeter EX1 1EE

Tel: 01392 426022

Email: info@nimh.org.uk

Website: www.nimh.org.uk

Society of Homeopaths

Address: 11 Brookfield, Duncan Close, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6WL

Tel: 0845 4506611

Email: info@homeopathy-soh.org

Website: www.homeopathy-soh.org

British Reflexology Association (BRA)

Address: Monks Orchard, Whitbourne, Worcester WR6 5RB

Tel: 01886 821207

Email: bra@britreflex.co.uk

Website: www.britreflex.co.uk

Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine (ICNM)

Email: info@icnm.org.uk

Website: www.icnm.org.uk

British College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM)

Address: Lief House, 120-122 Finchley Road, London NW3 5HR

Tel: 020 7435 6464

Email: info@bcom.ac.uk

Website: www.bcom.ac.uk

Reflexology Forum

Address: Dalton House, 60 Windsor Avenue, London SW19 2RR

Tel: 0800 0370130

Website: www.reflexologyforum.org.uk

General Chiropractic Council (GCC)

Address: 44 Wicklow Street, London WC1X 9HL

Tel: 020 7713 5155

Email: enquiries@gcc-uk.org

Website: www.gcc-uk.org

British Wheel of Yoga (BWY)

Email: office@bwy.org.uk

Website: www.bwy.org.uk

Yoga Biomedical Trust (YBT)

Email: enquiries@yogatherapy.org

Website: www.yogatherapy.org

General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN)

Address: 1 Green Lane Avenue, Street, Somerset BA16 0QS

Tel: 01458 840072

Email: admin@naturopathy.org.uk

Website: www.naturopathy.org.uk

UK Confederation of Hypnotherapy Organisations (UKCHO)

Address: Third Floor, 207 Regent Street, London W1B 3HH

Tel: 0161 6522284

Email: petermatthews@manageyourstress.co.uk

Website: www.ukcho.co.uk

General Hypnotherapy Standards Council & General Hypnotherapy Register

Address: PO Box 204, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 6WP

Tel: 01590 683770

Email: admin@general-hypnotherapy-register.com

Website: www.ghsc.co.uk

Complementary Therapists Association (CThA)

Tel: 0845 2022941

Email: info@ctha.com

Website: www.ctha.com

Professional Association of Alexander Teachers

Address: Room 706, 'The Big Peg', 120 Vyse Street, Birmingham B18 6NF

Tel: 01743 241478

Email: info@paat.org.uk

Website: www.paat.org.uk

General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT)

Address: Box 437, Office 6, Slington House, Rankine Road, Basingstoke RG24 8PH

Tel: 0870 3144031

Email: admin@grcct.org

Website: www.grcct.org

Yogacampus

Tel: 020 7042 9900

Email: info@yogacampus.com

Website: www.yogacampus.com

Alexander Technique

Address: 1st Floor, Linton House, 39-51 Highgate Road, London NW5 1RS

Tel: 020 7482 5135

Email: office@stat.org.uk

Website: www.stat.org.uk

Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)

Tel: 020 3178 2199

Email: info@cnhc.org.uk

Website: www.cnhc.org.uk

General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR)

Address: PO Box 204, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 6WP

Tel: 01590 683770

Email: admin@general-hypnotherapy-register.com

Website: www.general-hypnotherapy-register.com

College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy

Address: Oak Glade, 9 Hythe Close, Polegate, East Sussex BN26 6LQ

Tel: 01323 484353

Email: pamela.bull@phytotherapists.org

Website: www.phytotherapists.org

British Osteopathic Council

Address: 3 Park Terrace, Manor Road, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 3HN

Tel: 01582 488455

Email: boa@osteopathy.org

Website: www.osteopathy.org

General Council and Register of Naturopaths

Address: 1 Green Lane Avenue, Street, Somerset BA16 0QS

Tel: 01458 840072

Email: admin@naturopaths.org.uk

Website: www.naturopaths.org.uk

Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM)

Address: Office 5, 1 Exeter Street, Norwich NR2 4QB

Tel: 01603 623994

Email: herbmed@rchm.co.uk

Website: www.rchm.co.uk

Scottish College of Complementary Medicine

Scottish enquiries

Address: Complementary Medicine Centre, 11A Park Circus, Glasgow G3 6AX

Tel: 0141 3324924

Email: info@coursesintherapy.co.uk

Website: www.coursesintherapy.co.uk

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