Tag Archives: Massage


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.


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.



Who is to blame?

Out of every ten clients I see, I can guarantee that at least five will be blaming themselves for something that is not their fault. More often than not this is because either at a very young age or at a point when they were extremely upset about something and unable to psychologically defend themselves they were told, “This is all your fault.”

Attacks like this do far more than hurt at the time, indeed often at the time some other hurt is so much the attack is not really noticed, certainly not noted as an attack that is entirely unjustified so it can be dismissed for what it is or defended against.


Rose oil is good for these situations, helping to heal the psychological wounds. Massage helps to add to the sense of being nurtured and cared for. On top of this it is important to care for ourselves in other ways as well as taking time out for Aromatherapy or other nurturing. We need to learn to be discerning and spend more time with people who are nurturing to be around and less time with those who have a negative effect on us. Ideally we need to do this without being judgemental. Just because someone is not nurturing for me to be around does not make them a bad person, just not good for me to spend too much time with.

Lessons like this are ones that most of us, certainly myself often need to re-learn or remind myself of. Like mindfulness exercises where if my mind wanders, I notice that this has happened and bring myself back, I need to do the same and be mindful in my choices of whom to be with.


When I see any clients for Aromatherapy massage, I strive to not make judgements of their behaviour or ways of being in the world. Rather, I try and help them identify patterns that are not helping them and help to choose oils that might help in changing those patterns.

Returning to an earlier point, very often the first step in changing patterns that have a negative effect on us emotionally or physically (usually if one then also the other) is to just notice it and then to consciously do something different. When (and most of us will at some point) we go back to those patterns again when we notice it make the change again and eventually we will keep the change.


Aromatherapy for pain, a look at the evidence.

Does Aromatherapy work for pain? I would imagine that just about every aromatherapist out there would say, “Yes it does!” This review on Pubmed  would seem to agree. I can’t quote verbatim from it currently as pubmed’s website is down right now.

However, statistics are one thing. What my clients with chronic or other pain want to know is, “Will it HELP ME?” They don’t care about whether it helps seven out of ten cats or whatever! Theyu want to reduce their own suffering.

In my experience, it is more likely to make a difference with severe chronic pain than severe acute pain. Acute pain is giving the body a message such as, “Take your hand away from the heat.” Chronic pain is often present long after an acute injury has healed or it may be from a condition such as Fibromyalgia etc. Here something is wrong with how the pain receptors in blood vessels are working. It is not a message to the body to sort something out. There is a need to disrupt the mechanism that these nerve pathways are using. That may be the pleasant sensations produced by a massage, the physiological action of the essential oils or even the emotional reaction to the aroma. All can play a part.


Abstract – now the site is back up!

“Background. Aromatherapy refers to the medicinal or therapeutic use of essential oils absorbed through the skin or olfactory system. Recent literature has examined the effectiveness of aromatherapy in treating pain. Methods. 12 studies examining the use of aromatherapy for pain management were identified through an electronic database search. A meta-analysis was performed to determine the effects of aromatherapy on pain. Results. There is a significant positive effect of aromatherapy (compared to placebo or treatments as usual controls) in reducing pain reported on a visual analog scale (SMD = -1.18, 95% CI: -1.33, -1.03; p < 0.0001). Secondary analyses found that aromatherapy is more consistent for treating nociceptive (SMD = -1.57, 95% CI: -1.76, -1.39, p < 0.0001) and acute pain (SMD = -1.58, 95% CI: -1.75, -1.40, p < 0.0001) than inflammatory (SMD = -0.53, 95% CI: -0.77, -0.29, p < 0.0001) and chronic pain (SMD = -0.22, 95% CI: -0.49, 0.05, p = 0.001), respectively. Based on the available research, aromatherapy is most effective in treating postoperative pain (SMD = -1.79, 95% CI: -2.08, -1.51, p < 0.0001) and obstetrical and gynecological pain (SMD = -1.14, 95% CI: -2.10, -0.19, p < 0.0001). Conclusion. The findings of this study indicate that aromatherapy can successfully treat pain when combined with conventional treatments.”

One area where a high quality study has been carried out is with Menstrual Pain, where the initial study compared abdominal massage with ginger essential oil compared with Thai Massage through clothes. The Abdominal massage group did considerably better. However this could have been the abdominal massage rather than the aromatherapy component . A further study was done comparing the abdominal massage with and without the ginger oil. Again the Aromatherapy group did significantly better.

So, if you wish to see how Aromatherapy Massage can help you with pain, do email me or phone. dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com or 07939273569 to book an appointment either in Trumpington or Central Cambridge.


Seedy Sunday 2017

Put the 5th February into your diaries if you have an allotment or garden and live near Cambridge.

This is a chance to swap saved seeds or if you don’t have any to swap, just leave a small donation. There will be seeds from the Heritage Seed Library, Waterland Organics and of course from others attending the event.

Trumpington Seedy Sunday is an important event because it aims to reduce our reliance on F1 hybrid seeds and the seed companies’ stranglehold on what we grow.


Close up of comb in the observation hive on Trumpington Community Orchard.

I will be selling my skin Balm made from wax produced by my bees on Trumpington Allotments a few hundred yards from Trumpington Village Hall where the seed swap takes place.  Other ingredients are organic olive oil and organic essential oils. I may also be offering short head and shoulder massages for those who need a break from walking around the tables. Book a one hour or ninety minute massage for later while at the event and get a £5 discount.


Skin balm is £7 for a 60ml pot. This is around half the price of a well known product sold at Waitrose among other places!

Essential oils used are Geranium and Frankincense but others can be made to order with oils of your choice or for an additional £15 consultation fee made up especially for your needs.