Finding a Qualified Aromatherapy Practitioner
The safest method for using aromatherapy to aid with specific physical or emotional conditions is to seek out the in-person guidance of a qualified aromatherapist. This is also generally the most effective method as well because you will benefit from custom blends created for you by an experienced aromatherapy professional.
The key word in the upper paragraph is the word qualified. Unfortunately, it's a whole heck of a lot harder to find a qualified aromatherapy practitioner than it is to find a good medical doctor (and I do know how hard it is to find a good doctor). Thus, you will have to do a little homework to find the right practitioner for you.
To the best of my knowledge, anyone in the U.S. can call themselves an aromatherapist, aromacologist, aromatologist or aromatherapy practitioner regardless of their training. In some countries, aromatherapy practitioners must be licensed, so it is recommended that you find out the specific licensing and educational requirements for practitioners in your country and ascertain if there is any difference between the types of titles that may be used. Unfortunately, I am unable to research the requirements for every country, so I'll need you to do a little research for the country that you live in.
An overview of aromatherapists and aromatologists in the U.S.
(If you live outside the U.S., you may still find this overview helpful)
Generally Accepted Definition of an Aromatherapist - An individual that has formal aromatherapy training and has been licensed in a hands-on field such as massage, nursing or cosmetology. Some people loosely use the term aromatherapist without such training, so you always need to confirm credentials with any prospective "aromatherapist."
Generally Accepted Definition of an Aromacologist or Aromatherapy Consultant - An individual that has formal aromatherapy training but does not have licensing for any hands-on field. An Aromatologist cannot touch clients in states or countries where hands-on licensing is required to do so.
Some states in the U.S. grants licenses and certifications for those in various "hands-on" fields that can include such professions as nursing, cosmetology and massage. Each state differs in its licensing requirements, and some states do not require a license to touch a client. It is my understanding at the time of this writing that there are no states in the US that currently grant licenses/certifications to individuals for the use of the the title of aromatherapist or even certified aromatherapist.
What is offered by aromatherapy educational institutions is usually a certificate in aromatherapy or a diploma in aromatherapy, not any form of statewide or federal "certification" to practice aromatherapy. Receipt of a certificate or diploma is different than being certified or licensed by the state. Again, there are no states that I am aware of that offer a license or certification specifically for aromatherapy.
Sometimes, someone who has received a certificate or diploma in aromatherapy from a school and (whether to be misleading or perhaps just out of confusion) claims he/she is a certified aromatherapist. Until there is true standardization of aromatherapy education and true aromatherapy certification available for individuals who want to practice aromatherapy with this distinction, it is essential that you ask the right questions when you are exploring the services and qualifications of an aromatherapist or aromatologist.
How to Find Aromatherapy Practitioners in Your Area
- Look in your local Yellow Pages directory under the headings, "aromatherapy," "aromatherapists," "aromatherapy consultants," "aromacologists," "holistic medicine," "alternative medicine," etc. Even if you find no specific listings for aromatherapists, calling around to establishments that are listed may generate some leads to qualified aromatherapy practitioners.
- Make calls to local massage therapists. Often, they will know about or have an on-premises aromatherapy practitioner.
- If you have any natural, herbal or alternative medicine stores in your area, pay a visit or call them to ask if they know of any aromatherapy practitioners in the area.
- Some aromatherapy practitioners are creating their own Web sites to alert the public to their services. Do a search on the Web by including the term "aromatherapist" and your city or the closest major city name.
Establishing the True Qualifications of an Aromatherapy Practitioner
Once you have found the names of one or more aromatherapy practitioners in your area, contact them to learn more about their qualifications and personality. These questions will help you identify the most qualified practitioner in you area. If the practitioner hesitates to answer, is suspicious or resentful of your asking these questions, or if you are only allowed to speak to a receptionist, be extremely leery. If the person insists that you make an appointment instead of respecting your desire to do a telephone "interview" first, move on to someone else. Any good practitioner should have complete respect for you for asking these questions; and may even compliment you on your thoroughness.
Consider asking these questions:
- Where specifically have you received your formal aromatherapy education? If he/she is self-taught without providing any solid details of lengthy experience, background, or related training, move on to inquiring with another practitioner.
- What was the duration and length of your formal training? Ask to see the certificates/diplomas for the formal education he/she claims.
- Are you specifically licensed in our state/country to provide hands-on aromatherapy work? Listen to the practitioner's answer. You may not need the services of someone who can actually touch you, but you are asking this question to see how the individual responds. If the practitioner doesn't seem to know what the heck you're talking about, then he/she probably doesn't even know the laws of your area, is ignoring such laws, or may be practicing or touching clients without proper licensing. If the individual explains that there is no licensing for aromatherapy practitioners in your state, that is probably true. You can call your state/country's licensing board to confirm this.
Are you licensed in the state/country for any other hands-on fields such as massage, nursing or even cosmetology? The most qualified practitioners will be nurses and massage therapists since they have a more rounded background in other related fields, but still make sure they have suitable aromatherapy experience too.
- How long have you been practicing aromatherapy? How much of that time has been in our state (or country)? With this question, you are trying to establish if this individual has many years or experience. You are also trying to identify if the person is new to your area (and hence tip you off that the person could possibly not be up to date on the specific laws in your area. If new to the area, it's an indication that you might just want to confirm his information with your licensing board - just to be sure).
- Are you insured for malpractice as well as standard business liability? Ask the aromatherapist if he/she is insured to practice aromatherapy (a form of malpractice insurance, not just general slip/fall liability insurance). Insurance carriers that supply this form of insurance to aromatherapy practitioners generally require the insured to have successfully completed particular aromatherapy training from established schools. If a practitioner doesn't have coverage, it not only means that you have no financial recourse in the case of negligence, but it can also tip you off that this person may not be properly trained or doesn't realize the serious implications that can arise from unsafe essential oil use.
- Briefly describe the goals you are seeking from consultation (don't expect this question to become a consultation in itself) and ask the aromatherapy practitioner for an overview of what you can expect from each session with him/her.
- Final Note: Did you enjoy your conversation with the practitioner? Was the individual respectful of your questions, caring, and seem knowledgeable? Or did the individual show any signs of being terse, rushed, rude, defensive, unknowledgeable or hesitant?