Tag Archives: Cambridge


Mental Health First Aid or Emotional CPR?

Starting next year a programme starts that aims to have one in ten of the population Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trained. This is important for therapists even those who see clients predominantly for physical conditions as when in a vulnerable state for one reason other issues often come to mind. I saw a link to this on a Facebook group I frequent and was interested to read a response from someone who found the MHFA approach very medical model in its approach though that is not immediately obvious on the MHFA website that I looked at.

The person who responded was I think saying clearly which of the two approaches she would prefer. Emotional CPR  as described is certainly a person centred approach with the CPR standing for Connecting, emPowering and Revitalising.

I would hope though I have not read this yet that both approaches also say something about how the person responding to emotional distress can look after themselves. I also suspect that in reality there is a fair amount of overlap between the two approaches.

What does all this mean for me as an aromatherapist? Firstly, I need to respond to my clients’ distress when it occurs in a way that makes them feel heard. This is more than just saying, “I hear what your are saying.” I need to respond  to both the emotional and the factual content of what I hear and see which may range from my own emotional response to what I have heard to something like, “That must be really confusing/hurtful/painful etc. for you.”

I might also choose oils such as Rose, Jasmine, or Frankincense that I know from both training and experience are often helpful  in emotional distress. The nature of the distress may affect the massage I do or in some cases even whether I do massage or not. In some cases where comfort is what is required, I might do a massage where I do more holding and do more work using the whole of my arms rather than just my hands. The most important thing is that my choices help convey the message to the client that I understand something of their distress and care about them enough to want to help.This has been foremost in my mind with three friends who have come to me for massage this year following emotional trauma and also with a number of my clients whom I haven’t met before their first appointment.




Health or Illness

For over 30 years I worked in the National Health Service and one of the things that really struck me was how, apart from my obstetrics placement and even during some of that, I was primarily working with people who were already ill and working to resolve that rather than working to keep people healthy in the first place.

One of the common criticisms of complementary health is that it mainly treats the, “worried well.” While to some extent this is true, there are also many who find regular massage, osteopathy or other therapies something that helps prevent them from needing to see their GP or hospital doctor. This is why massage is used  so much by sports women and men  ranging from gymnastics to soccer and rugby. Others have massage and aromatherapy for their mental health.

That is not to say that massage, aromatherapy and other complementary therapies can not help after there is a problem but how much better to prevent a problem reaching the stage of needing medical intervention? Almost inevitably this is a far better course of action.

So if you want to see how an aromatherapy massage can help you either stay healthy or regain health, why not contact me on

dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com or





Change Your Mind?

When I worked at in-patient child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) units, it was not unusual for parents to ask  staff if we couldn’t just change the way a young person’s mind worked. Sometimes, particularly if the young person was particularly disruptive or on a particularly destructive path, I or another member of staff might be asked to, “sort  your patient out!” I would even sometimes be asked if I couldn’t do something with my aromatherapy in this regard. (This not withstanding the fact that the ethos of the therapeutic community unit where I practised aromatherapy  was to avoid the use of the heavy handed psychiatric drugs except as a very last resort.)

So, what can massage and aromatherapy do to change the way someone thinks?

At the IFPA (my professional body) conference at the weekend, I heard from someone who worked in schools and one of the things they did was to have a vapouriser in the cloakroom when the children came in which used Frankincense oil which was found to greatly reduce the number of incidents involving aggression during the day. The project also gave young people who had been excluded from school, 5ml oil bottles with cotton wool in then with a few drops of essential oils that they found helpful that they could sniff when they found something difficult. – This over a number of schools has resulted in zero exclusions whereas prior to that these were commonplace.

What I would say is that for individual work on psychological issues whatever the age of the client, just as in psychotherapy, they have to want something to be different and ideally want to change how they are in the world. (I would guess anyone who has done any sort of psychotherapeutic work with clients has had people who say they would be all right if it were not for other people!) – Of course, in the case of those being abused whatever their age, they would certainly be a lot better off without the abuse even if it didn’t solve all their problems.

So what specific benefits can Aromatherapy provide for someone who is unhappy about the way their mind works and wants to change it?

Firstly, almost without exception, those who come for massage and aromatherapy are calmer after a session. Mindfulness is always helpful for those trying to change their minds.

Rose oil encourages acceptance after loss or emotional injury. Pine is helpful with confidence. There are many other oils that are helpful with just about every psychological condition but just as with psychotherapy this does depend on the client’s readiness to change. However once ready essential oils can make a real difference to the speed of change and can often be the trigger that enables the change to start showing.


Back in action!

On Saturday I arrived back after a week away in Glastonbury and then Cornwall. I am feeling much refreshed (Though my legs did have to work hard cycling on those Cornish hills!) and ready to see clients again.

Taking a break is important for all of us, especially anyone involved in caring for others be that professionally, out of a sense of duty, or just because we care about the person involved.

For me, as part of that break, some connection with nature has to be involved and part of that was the near constant Cornish Mizzle or mist/rain that was present much of the time. Despite that I enjoyed my time there and would not hesitate to go again.

This connection with nature is also a large part of why I chose aromatherapy when I took early retirement from nursing.   The different aromas are evocative of the plants and where they grow which adds to their psychological effect on top of the effects they have which are based more on the interaction between the chemicals they contain and our physiology.

So  if  you are in need of a break but can’t get away or possibly just want to treat yourself before returning to work after a break do get in touch.

dave@cambridgaromatherapy.com or phone 07939273569


Dieting and the Myth of Calories

As an aromatherapist, I see clients of just about every body shape, from the anorexic to the seriously obese, though most are somewhere in between.  What I do have is a significant number of clients who would like to lose weight. Most of these clients main method of trying to lose weight is through cutting down on calories and dieting.

I was really interested to hear the Analysis programme this week on BBC Radio4.  This reported on research that shows that our calorific intake has actually dropped significantly over time but that the number of calories we consume through exercise has dropped even more. I for one was all for blaming junk food for the rise in obesity in society. It is not perhaps surprising that the researcher who looked at this was told by a colleague, “I don’t believe your data!” Yet this has been checked out and there is little doubt that it is our sedentary life style rather than increased food intake that is  responsible for the current trends.

Clearly, I need to modify or at least add to the advice I give clients who ask for help with weight loss. Exercise such as going to the gym, cycling, running, swimming etc. are clearly going to be part of the answer but for many it is important to build some of this into a daily routine as well. Our current tenant is training for an Iron Man Triathalon at the end of this month where she will complete a 2.4mile swim, a 112mile bicycle ride and a marathon. Unsurprisingly, she does not need advice on managing diet and or exercise!

However for most of us today, it is largely our lifestyle that is to blame. Compare the number of people walking or cycling to work today with even thirty years ago. Jumping into a car is all too easy for most of us. How many of us do jobs where we are sitting at a desk most of the time? – The percentage of us doing that has gone up massively. Even farm work is often largely sedentary with vast acreages being managed by combine harvesters etc.

What does this mean for me as an aromatherapist apart from advice on diet and exercise? Well, I will be thinking about oils that can be used to encourage these clients to feel more energetic. Citrus oils, Rosemary, Ginger, Pine and others will all come to the fore here and I will be encouraging clients to use them during the time between sessions as well. And I won’t be totally ignoring dietary advice but I will increase the emphasis on exercise in the advice I give with some clients, recognising that we are all individuals and a change in research information does not automatically apply to everyone.




Thoughts after Permaculture Intro

I loved having another Introduction to Permaculture course running in Trumpington, Cambridge. As ever, a lovely bunch of people and, each time I end up with slightly deeper knowledge of the subject to carry on in my own permaculture practice.

Again I am struck by the links between permaculture and aromatherapy.

Two of the principles of permaculture come to mind in particular.

Each element should have multiple functions


Each function should have multiple elements.

If we think about each oil in a blend being an element, it will always have several functions.

Take Lemon for example.

It is an an oil with both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It can be used for treating depression. It also promotes clarity of thought and is good for digestive problems. This makes it and some of the other citrus oils especially good for treating depression as thought clarity often suffers with the depressed client thinking they aren’t good enough or no one will like them etc. They are also more prone to infections and constipation is common in depression.

But as with conventional medical treatment for depression, Lemon may not be the best oil for all individuals with it, the same with Bergamot which is often thought of as the best oil for depression and shares the above properties. The main difference being Lemon is usually better for promoting clarity of thought and Bergamot better for feelings of being stuck.

However a blend of oils for depression will usually  include some other oils too. Frankincense is often good and is particularly good for helping calm the agitation that some depressed clients feel. Another oil that is particularly good for depression is Rose which is an amazing oil for healing the hurt that goes with loss after a break up or bereavement or from abuse. – All common in depression.

If sleep is a problem, I might well add Roman or German Chamomile, both oils that are good for sleep, digestive issues and agitation.

While I have used depression in this example, any other issue is also going to have a range of oils that can treat it with each chosen oil also treating other aspects of a client’s reasons for seeking treatment.

to book an appointment email dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com or phone 07929273569.



Making Aromatherapy Work for You

I often hear friends and others saying that this or that therapy doesn’t work for them.  I have heard this said of Massage, Osteopathy, CBT, Psychoanalysis  Acupuncture and quite a few others.

Now clearly, the areas I can address why therapy might or might not work are Massage and Aromatherapy, though I suspect the reasons for other therapies not working may  be similar. Some years ago,  I read in a psychotherapy journal some research that found the relationship between the therapist and the client made far more difference to the outcome than the type of therapy. To me this makes a lot of sense given that my personal experience of working in therapy from both sides is that where the relationship is good, the therapy is much more effective. Indeed, when I worked with adolescents in in-patient mental health units, there were some patients, I formed a strong relationship with and was able to do a lot of effective work with and others whom any work I did was of little effect.  Others on the teams I worked with found they did more effective work with different patients from myself.

This doesn’t make my approach or theirs right or wrong, just different. However, there are some common threads that I believe are important. All of us who worked effectively really listened to those we worked with. Not only did we listen but we respected what we were told. This is a cornerstone of my work in Massage and Aromatherapy. It doesn’t matter that a client has been told by a GP, pain clinic or whoever that their pain is all in the mind. The pain is real, whatever the cause.

With physical pain, I believe that psychological factors are usually more important than physical ones in improving matters whether or not there is an identified physical cause but if I don’t believe my client, I am not going to be able to help them.

The other cornerstone of my practice besides a knowledge of the oils I use and of Massage is Mindfulness.  by practising this, I can give better attention to my clients both during the consultation and during the actual massage. It is an interesting though not particularly pleasant exercise to be massaged by someone who is being mindful and by someone who is doing mental arithmatic at the time. When being a client it is very easy to tell the difference.

I also encourage my clients to be mindful during a massage. That way they can tell me more quickly if something is not right for them. I also believe that even if they don’t have anything to tell me about how I am massaging them, it still helps them to get more out of the massage. I find these two cornerstones of listening and mindfulness to be if anything even more true of my Massage and Aromatherapy Practice than when I worked in Mental Health in the NHS. This holds for working with both the physical and the psychological, the latter making up eighty percent or more of my work.