You might know our guest blogger today as the founder of the Online Therapy Institute. Her name is DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC BCC. However, in recent years, DeeAnna has expanded her focus to include founding the Online Aromatherapy Institute. She is also Managing Co-editor of TILT Magazine – Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
My interest in having DeeAnna join us today is related to her work in aromatherapy. After all, many of us in private practice already choose to use scented candles in our offices but have done very little research to really understand the evidence supporting the use of essential oils in support of our clinical work.
DeeAnna Nagel joins us today to share her thoughts on how to ethically integrate the use of essential oils into our clinical work.
A Guest Post by DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC, BCC
Mainstreaming Essential Oils
If you are a mental health practitioner or otherwise identify yourself as a coach, helper or healer, you have probably heard of essential oils and/or aromatherapy. It seems essential oils are all the rage and some may be asking if this oils revolution is just a fad. I don’t think so- chances are, the use of essential oils to support health and wellness was a “fad” that is now mainstream and here to stay. But as with many mainstream approaches and ideas, mental health practitioners are often slow to embrace what may be perceived as new, different or alternative.
We are taught not to utilize modalities or approaches that are not backed by research that demonstrates efficacy. So, for the sake of simplicity, I will focus on lavender as the example oil for this blog post. Lavender is known for supporting enhanced mood. Many articles and studies exist as evidenced by Google Scholar search, “lavender essential oil” “mood”.
The Ethical Use of Essential Oils
So if we can establish that lavender is efficacious in enhancing a positive shift in mood does that mean we can or should be peddling lavender to our clients? Not so fast. In most instances it would be unethical to sell lavender essential oil to your clients. And if the essential oil company is a direct sales network marketing company, setting your client up with a wholesale account places you in a dual relationship with your client. I blogged about this about a year ago at Online Therapy Institute.
But I am a firm believer in utilizing the senses as much as possible in conjunction with traditional talk therapy. For years I practiced online therapy- and I encouraged in-person clients to engage in occasional text-based therapy through email or chat because the cognitive and sensory-motor stimulation of writing, combined with a therapeutic response from the therapist and talk dialogue enhanced the process for clients who were open to the possibilities. With that said, introducing scent into the therapeutic process can be very beneficial.
“But I am not an aromatherapist!”
Get Educated About the Use of Essential Oils
If you haven’t had training about the use of essential oils, I highly recommend prioritizing this as part of your continuing education/professional development arsenal. You don’t have to be an aromatherapist to begin using natural aromas in your work setting. Introducing lavender essential oil by cool-mist diffusing in a waiting room or in the consultation room is a very appropriate way to start. Unplug the fragrance plugins and remove those fragrant candles. Replace them with therapeutic grade essential oils that do not contain any chemicals or other catalyst/carrier ingredients.
There are other experiential ways you can introduce your clients to the use of essential oils that do not include selling a product directly to the client or working outside your scope of practice. I use essential oils daily and the process has been transformative for me. Your own personal use of quality essential oils is a perfect starting point.
Top Ten Ways to Introduce Essential Oils Into Your Practice
- Begin Using Essential Oils yourself, in your home and in your life- have your own immersive experience.
- Diffuse essential oils in your waiting room
- Diffuse essential oils in your consultation room
- Choose an oil that is familiar to many such as lavender, peppermint or lemon
- Using the three oils mentioned, diffuse them in combination- in a cool mist diffuser using ½ cup of water, use 2 drops each, lavender, peppermint, lemon
- Once you familiarize yourself with the basic oils and their therapeutic uses, ask your client if he/she would like to experience an oil by slowly bringing an open bottle of oil up to their nose
- Ask your client what the aromatic experience was like and process your client’s experience
- Educate your client about that particular essential oil
- Explain that essential oils can be used to support and enhance wellness much like other efforts toward wellness such as meditation, visualization, self-help books, and eating healthfully.
- Point your client to reliable resources for education and purchase should additional information be requested.
Do you use essential oils in your practice? I would love to hear your experiences!
About the Author: DeeAnna Nagel, LMHC BCC is a former psychotherapist turned wellness coach. In addition to client services, she also offers professional development courses and certifications to practitioners including Certified Intuitive Practitioner, Certified Aroma Coach and Reiki Master Teacher. You can find more about her services at Online Aromatherapy Institute.