I was stimulated to cover this subject again by some coverage on Radio 4 today. Both in the Today programme and at 12:15 on, “You and Yours.”
Over the years I have worked with a few anorexic clients, both when working in the NHS and more recently in private practice. When working with this group, I am clear that I am not using aromatherapy to treat anorexia. That is outside the scope of my practice and not something I am prepared to do.
What does not go away is my experience working with this group in in-patient and other settings in the NHS. This means I will not collude with unsafe behaviour and I will not work with someone if I feel it is unsafe. (This has only happened twice to me as an aromatherapist and only once with an anorexic.)
What I can do is listen to my clients, their frustrations and the struggles they are having with this illness. I can then offer a massage using essential oils which is supportive. I also need to be honest about the effects of essential oils. The citrus oils and those belonging to culinary herbs in particular will often stimulate salivation and in some cases hunger. I will not use oils with that as the primary intent unless the client is specifically asking for this. Treating someone behind their back as it were is unethical and unlikely to be successful anyway.
As a therapist, honesty is important and this goes for just about any branch of therapy. I have read about Milton Erickson telling a patient who believed he was a spy for the CIA that it was really important for him to do his job as if he were a perfectly ordinary geography teacher in order not to get caught and while, clever and something that may have worked in teh short term I do not believe this to be ethical.
Even if on occasion honesty is not appreciated, to me it is vital and I believe makes me a more effective therapist.