My goal is to inspire you to take your practice to the next level by sharing with you how you can enhance your Aromatherapy practice with this useful tool and set yourself apart from other practitioners. Massage and reflexology require the practitioner to undertake additional years of education and requires licensure. Swiss Reflex Therapy (SRT) can be learned in a weekend and can be performed within the exemption of massage laws. In addition, SRT offers the practitioner a diagnostic tool to assess a client’s health needs, enhances the therapeutic relationship, provides a treatment, and encourages your client to be more proactive in their own care.
As an Aromatherapist, I felt as though I was a bit limited in my practice. After graduation I hung out my “shingle” and was a little surprised that I didn’t have more people knocking on my door. I was disappointed that potential clients would prefer to see a massage therapist than an Aromatherapist. Perhaps it was because a client knew what to expect when making an appointment with a massage therapist. Of course people really enjoy a massage and its healing touch. I later noticed that massage therapists were popping up on every corner. In order to compete with each other, they had to somehow offer something different to set themselves apart, so they started offering “Aromatherapy massage” using essential oils in their massage oils and lotions. This made it more difficult. Not only was the general public more familiar with what a massage therapist does they were now offering an Aromatherapy enhancement which made it harder to compete. Worse yet, many of the massage therapists possessed no training in safe and responsible use of these therapeutic essential oils.
Swiss Reflex Therapy (SRT) is the perfect enhancement specific to Aromatherapy practitioners by offering additional value to the therapeutic relationship between you and your client. As Aromatherapists, we are not allowed to diagnose, treat or perform invasive procedures, unless we possess another license that allows for that. However, many practicing Aromatherapists use reflex points for diagnostic purposes. Those who want to practice Reflexology as a treatment in its own right have to do further training, however Swiss Reflex Therapy (SRT) is an excellent alternative to the original practice of Reflexology. SRT provides a means to assess, care for and encourage a client to take charge of their health and well being. In the United States, many states have an exemption written into their massage laws that allows for the “manipulation of the soft tissues of the hands, feet and ears.” This will allow a Swiss Reflex Therapist to practice SRT without securing an additional license in massage or reflexology. Please check with your state’s Department of Health (Medical Practices Act) and/or massage licensing board to learn what your state’s requirements are.
I first learned about Swiss Reflex Therapy when I was on a course in France while studying with the American College of Healthcare Sciences in 2004. Our guest lecturers for the week were Len and Shirley Price. Swiss Reflex Therapy is a specialized technique developed by Shirley Price while she was in Switzerland in 1987. During this course, Shirley presented a “taster” lecture and demo of SRT. Shirley, being a qualified reflexologist as well as Aromatherapist, wanted to develop a treatment using essential oils and massage that would benefit clients in a non-invasive way. She wanted to find a way of helping people to help themselves, using the reflexes every day, which would be easy for people to do on themselves (or each other) and which, if done conscientiously every day, would give faster results (and be less costly) than a weekly reflexology treatment. SRT is a specific reflex massage technique that treats each area or body system to bring about balance and the health of the client. SRT has become a proven successful treatment that brings relief from stress, aches and pains and other common problems, including frozen shoulder and constipation.
A little history of me and SRT After attending the “taster” lecture and demo in France, there were many of us on the course that wanted to learn SRT so we could incorporate it into our practice. Shirley and I stayed in touch after the course and I invited her to come to the US to teach the course to those who wanted to learn it after attending the in France, as well as open it up to other certified Aromatherapists who were interested in learning a new modality. So she agreed and we held the course in Delaware in 2005. After attending the practical course that weekend, the participants were required to perform SRT and submit case studies in which the clients are seen two to three times each. Upon review of the case studies, the student may be become a Certified Swiss Reflex Therapist. Following that event, Shirley offered me a position with her daughter’s school in England (the Penny Price Academy of Aromatherapy). In accepting the position, I had to go through a process to become a board certified instructor by the Academy which included teaching SRT to their students. As it stands now, there are only three certified Swiss Reflex Therapists in the US and I am the only certified instructor in the US.
The Penny Price Academy and its former instructors offer training in Swiss Reflex Therapy. SRT is practiced in the UK, Ireland and many parts of Europe and Asia, with more instructors teaching in other parts of the world. Shirley Price first wrote about SRT in her book Practical Aromatherapy and later provided case studies in the editions of Aromatherapy for Health Professionals. She has a new book due out next summer on Swiss Reflex Therapy that contains more case studies and detailed information of the technique and how to perform it.
A word about Reflexology Most people are familiar with reflexology. In our Western medical books, nine body systems are discussed and their function can be logically worked out and proven.In Eastern medicine, these systems have been used for hundreds of years to dia-gnose and treat the known body systems and their related organs. The ‘meridian lines system’ used in acupuncture and acu-pressure is one example and the ‘zones system’ in pressure point therapy or Reflexology is another. Reflexology is one of the few therapies that brings relief through remote application.
Reflexology is a speedy and accurate method of client assessment that provides treatment of disorders by natural means. It is useful as a preventative for disease and can relax the whole body and mind making it invaluable as a release from stress, which is the underlying cause of 80% of all ‘dis-ease.
When pressure is applied to reflex points, this brings about relaxation and helps to normalize body conditions. These points are easiest to find in the feet, although they are also found in the hands and the ears. These reflex points can only indicate the probable organs where there may be some disorder – not what the disorder might be. Reflexology and SRT are not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment, however they can be extremely helpful and do not have any side effects when performed correctly.
Each organ and muscle in the body is connected, without crossing the spinal cord, by an energy pathway to a point in the foot (or hand, ear etc). The most fascinating thing is that these reflex points come to the surface in exactly the same position in which they are found in the body, and are most easily located on the soles of the feet.
If you sit with your legs stretched out in front of you with your feet touching, you can imagine that the big toes are the head, the balls of the feet are the shoulders and down the centre of the inside foot is the spine. The curve of each foot is comparable to the side view of a person’s back. Where the foot narrows correlates to the waist area thus, all organs found above the waist in the body are found above the waist of the foot.
If there is a malfunction for any reason in the blood circulation, which in turn affects the organs nearest to this malfunction, a blockage occurs in the energy pathway and crystalline deposits form at the reflex point representing the organ where the disorder is showing itself. These deposits can be felt when they are present. Equally they can be broken down by massage using the correct pressure to bring about relaxation and a relief from the symptoms being suffered.
The principle of good health is one of balance with all bodily systems behaving as nature intended, complementing one another to help the body to achieve and sustain good health. The human body, apart from its more mysterious attributes, like the ability to think, is an intricate machine in which the blood acts like oil; therefore it is of prime importance to the working of that machine that the blood circulation flows unimpeded throughout the body. If there is congestion in the body, then circulation is poor. If the circulation is upset by tension or stress then illness can occur, as the organs do not receive enough blood. Each cell is contracting and relaxing every moment, and when distress occurs this cannot be as regulated as it should be. This congestion can be felt in the feet when correct pressure is applied to the reflex points. In some cases is it felt as crystalline deposit (rather like a balloon filled with sand instead of air) and often times (as in the case of SRT) is felt as a sharp, knife-like pain.
So how does Swiss Reflex Therapy differ from Reflexology? Generally speaking, the reflexologist will perhaps ask questions or have you fill out a questionnaire regarding your general state of health, diet and exercise. The same is true for Swiss Reflex Therapy. Following that the reflexologist will examine your feet and may ask further questions. The treatment begins with some general relaxation techniques, followed by a precise thumb and finger walking technique aimed at applying pressure to every reflex area on the top and bottom of the foot. Sometimes when you see a reflexologist the room is likely to be dimly light, perhaps with some soothing music and the client is laying on a massage table with eyes closed. Once the initial consultation ends, the remainder of the session may be without any dialogue until the treatment is completed.
Swiss Reflex Therapy is done in three parts; Assessment, Treatment and Client Instruction.
As with Reflexology, SRT is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment. In most cases, a client is likely to have already seen and been diagnosed by their personal physician. Aromatherapists use the reflex points, together with a question and answer technique, to help them select the right essential oils to use with their client. When the reflex points are used for this purpose, they are pressed only long enough to tell whether or not a disorder is present.
The session begins with some basic movements to relax the foot before the therapist begins to conduct an Assessment. The client is sitting on a massage table with the feet right at the end of the table. The therapist sits at the end of the table with the client’s face is full view. In the Assessment, the therapist will apply pressure using the tip of the thumb to determine if a blockage is present. Any blockage is noted on the Reflex Card. This can be felt by the client as anything from a strong discomfort to a sharp pain when the reflex is pressed. Throughout the assessment, the therapist engages the client in an affirmative dialogue based on what they feel and see in the client’s body language and feet. For example, when pressing on the solar plexus reflex, if the client seems to “jump” off the table, the therapist may say “so you are dealing with a lot of stress at the moment.” To which the client will confirm. Alternatively, if pressing on the sinuses and there is no response from the client nor any blockage felt in the reflex, the therapist will say “so you are not suffering from any sinus condition or allergies at this time.” The client will confirm what the therapist is discovering and at the same time will offer additional information without being asked. The therapist assesses each body system, first on the client’s right foot, and then the left foot, moving back and forth between both feet until each body system has been assessed. (The number in parenthesis is the number of reflexes checked for each system or area.)
Reflex Areas in SRT
- Nervous System (4)
- Glandular System (10)
- Sinus, Eye & Ear (14)
- Bone & Muscular (16)
- Respiratory System (2)
- Digestive System (8)
- Reproductive System (6)
- Lymph (6)
- Excretory System (6)
There is a great interactive map at: http://www.dk.co.uk/static/cs/uk/11/features/reflexology/footchart.html
Factoring in the dialogue with the client, the therapist will then determine the top three areas of concern for the client.
Using the “quick guide,” the therapist will determine which essential oils are best suited for the client’s needs. The “quick guide” is a list of essential oils found useful in treating a number of conditions within each body system. Starting with the first condition, the therapist indicates the oils useful for that condition. The same is done for the second, then the third. Any oils that are repeated across the three lists are noted and the formula is developed based on how often an oil appears. The essential oils are then blended and 30 drops are mixed into an one ounce of an unscented reflex cream base.
The Treatment is carried out by massaging the client’s cream into the affected reflexes. Rather than having pressure applied as in the Assessment, a very small amount of cream is used and massaged into the area using the side of the thumb. The entire reflex area is massaged in slow circular motion with pressure until the area is no longer painful to the client (generally within 5-30 seconds). If it is still sensitive after one minute, the therapist will move on to the next reflex. The treatment always begins with the solar plexus reflex and ends with a kidney “flush” (which is a sweeping movement that clears the kidneys and moves anything you’ve shifted on its way out.) The treatment is carried out entirely on the client’s right foot, then on the left foot, not back and forth as in the Assessment, with the exception of treating the digestive system which moves back and forth between the feet to follow the flow of the digestive system.
The third part involves you teaching your client – or their caregiver – how to perform the massage on the affected reflexes. I make a copy of the Reflex Card and I number the reflexes in the order in which they are to be treated. I also draw a set of arrows over the reflexes as a reminder of how they should massage each reflex. Depending on how acute the condition is, I will have the client perform SRT on themselves once or twice a day. We discuss when the best time of day is for them to do this as it has to fit into their lifestyle in order to assure client compliance. In most cases it is before dressing in the morning and again just before bed. Many remark that performing SRT before bedtime relaxes them and they sleep better. I normally have the client perform SRT once or twice daily for week and then have them come back for a follow-up to ensure they are doing it properly and to check their health progress. In many cases, the condition has improved or is no longer and issue within a week or less. You will often find that people are very good at complying for the first four days and then slack off a little as they begin to feel better. For this reason, I often have them do it twice daily so they get off to a good start. For those who are unable to touch their feet or are suffering from a condition that makes them unable to perform the massage themselves, I will have them bring a caregiver and I will show the caregiver how to perform the massage.
You may be asking yourself how teaching someone to help themselves boosts your business. I have found that over time, people tend to find it difficult to schedule weekly reflexology sessions or they become resentful of the cumulative costs associated with such care. In educating your client and providing them a tool to be more proactive in their own health care is empowering! In my practice and among those practicing SRT abroad, we have found that clients are very DIY and are also appreciative to be able to have the power put back in their hands for their health care. The responsibility for healing is theirs and if they aren’t healing they tend to assume it is due to their lack of commitment or performance and not yours, which in many cases spurs them on to be more responsible with performing the massage and attending their follow-up visit. Additionally, when they have achieved success, the next time they have a condition or concern they more likely to return to you to find out how to address it.
Often a client will continue to use the cream as a general foot cream before bed and call you for more when they run out. So it is possible to continue providing products for that client as well.
Case Study: Plantar fasciitis The client had Plantar fasciitis, a condition that that manifests as movement-related pain under the sole and heel of the foot. It is a disorder of the insertion site of ligament on the bone and is characterized by scarring, inflammation, or structural breakdown of the foot’s plantar fascia. It is often caused by overuse injury of the plantar fascia, increased exercise, standing for long periods of time, weight or age. Though plantar fasciitis was originally thought to be an inflammatory process, newer studies have demonstrated structural changes more consistent with a degenerative process. The pain can manifest from the lower back down the legs.
The client “R” is a sheep breeder and his symptoms occurred unfortunately during “lambing time” when he could not stop working. He had been standing for long hours in cool and damp conditions. The pain was not relieved by pain killers.
The client was normally very fit and leads a very active lifestyle.
The client received Swiss Reflex Therapy and a leg massage at the initial visit. The heels of both feet were very painful to the touch. The client found it easier to get off the massage table at the end of the treatment, then to get on it.
The following essential oils were used in his treatment:
Clove bud for its pain relieving properties and warmth Juniper berry for pain relief and detoxification Sweet marjoram for pain, swollen joints, and warmth Rosemary for pain relief in muscles Ginger for sprains and relieving cramp
6 drops of each oil (30 drops total) were blended into one ounce of the reflex cream base for use in Swiss Reflex Treatment.
His wife was asked to continue massing his legs and performing SRT on his feet on a daily basis.
A massage oil was made for his wife to use containing 3 drops of each oil (15 drops total) blended into 50 ml Hypericum infused oil for leg massages at home.
He was advised to rest his legs as much as possible when not at work and to visit is general physician to confirm his condition. His GP did confirm this diagnosis and X-ray and physiotherapy appointments were made. His pain lessened within a couple of days and continued to abate.
At the second visit (1 week later), he received Swiss Reflex Therapy. Although his heels were slightly tender, they were much less sensitive and he had been back to work for about four days. With his wife continuing daily treatments at home, his response to the treatment was such that he found he did not require a third visit/treatment.
The client was pleased with the outcome. The therapist was surprised at how quickly he responded to the treatment, as two professional treatments and the supplemental ones carried out by his wife were sufficient to relieve the problem. The condition has not reoccurred and he did not experience any problems the following year during lambing time.
Six weeks after treatment he received notice of his initial physiotherapy appointment at the local hospital. He took great pleasure in informing them that he would no longer require the appointment.
Case Study: Arthritis pain in the neck Mrs. “A,” 58 years old, was recovering from her second attempt at a hip replacement was to undergo an operation in six months time to fuse her cervical vertebrae due to the arthritis pain located there. She was reluctant to have the surgery as her husband had recently passed and she needed to continue to be able to drive a car. She had to wear a surgical collar in the meantime, which she hated.
At the first visit, Mrs. “A” received Swiss Reflex Therapy on her feet and was shown how to perform the treatment on herself at home. The following oils were selected for use:
10 drops Rosemary for its anti-inflammatory action 4 drops Sweet Marjoram, 8 drops Juniper berry, and 8 drops Lavender all for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic action
The essential oils were blended into one ounce of a bland cream to take home for self care.
At the second visit (2 weeks later), the therapist (Shirley Price) was disappointed that there was no improvement. She discovered her client had been faithfully massaging the wrong reflex. This experience indicated the importance of giving a client a marked Swiss Reflex card, illustrating exactly not only the sequence of the treatment, but also the reflex points to be massaged.
Two weeks later, Mrs. “A” was experiencing somewhat less pain and slight improvement in neck mobility. The improvement continued over the next two weeks and at the fourth appointment Mrs. “A” arrived smiling and wearing a home-made collar of firm foam wrapped in a pretty scarf.
The client continued to check in every two weeks to ensure all was progressing. Six weeks after the fourth appointment, with no further clinic treatments she had her appointment with her surgeon prior to the operation. He was amazed at the change in her mobility and the lack of pain. He asked her what she had been doing and unfortunately she was too embarrassed to say she had been rubbing her big toe. As it was early in the history of complementary therapies in the UK, her reluctance was probably understandable.
Case Study: Range of motion The client, Frank had been in a mining accident 19 years earlier. A beam had fallen on his shoulder and damaged it. He suffered a broken rib which had pierced his lung. So apart from being unable to move his arm away from his side, he walked by shuffling his feet 6″-7″ at a time, and was having breathing difficulties.
He had been seeing a doctor for the whole nineteen years following the accident and was becoming progressively worse, rather than better. His wife had heard Shirley Price speaking on a radio program about Aromatherapy and contacted her about treatment for Frank.
He received Swiss Reflex Treatment twice a week for two weeks, followed by once per week for two further weeks, then one treatment every other week for a month, then once per month, and eventually once every two or three months. Some treatments at the clinic were carried out by Shirley herself and the others by Debbie Moore, another therapist.
The essential oils selected include:
Black Pepper and Juniper berry for their expectorant, antispasmodic and analgesic properties Frankincense for its immunostimulant and expectorant properties Lavender for its antispasmodic, analgesic and general tonic properties
Frank’s wife was taught how to perform the daily treatment on the reflexes. It was apparent that she never missed a day. After six weeks, Frank could raise his arm about 10 cm. After another two months this was increased to 30 cm. His shoulders and head were halfway to being erect and his feet were able to take steps as long as his foot.
Six months later, not having seen him personally for three months, Shirley saw him leaving her clinic with his head erect and an almost normal, albeit slow step. She went outside to see him. When she walked up to him, he proudly showed her he could lift his arm almost to shoulder height and was looking forward to the day he could comb his own hair. With continued SRT he was able to achieve that.
How do I get trained? Swiss Reflex training is available to certified Aromatherapists trained at (a minimum) 200 hour course in Aromatherapy. It is a 2-day course taught typically over a weekend. The course reviews the history, some case studies and provides detailed instruction. The students work on each other and models that have been brought in. There is a review and practical assessment at the end of the course. After completion of the course the students are required to do a minimum of five case studies in which the client has been seen at least two to three times (depending on the severity and progress of the client’s condition.) The case studies are required with a few months of taking the course. Upon successful completion the student receives a certificate and becomes certified practitioner.
I would love to see more Aromatherapists incorporating SRT into their practice. The treatment is simpler to learn than the techniques involved in reflexology. It is important to know the position of each reflex and attending a practical course.
In summary When a client comes to see you they are looking for a more immediate sense of well-being. The use of essential oils often isn’t the magic bullet they are seeking. It is a slower road to wellness or recovery, and one that usually elicits failure in client compliance. The “touch” component in SRT offers an immediate sense of comfort and healing. Connecting with the therapist through verbal dialog is more effective than filling out a form with medical history and a list of chief complaints. Of course you still want your client to provide you with this information and to have an informed consent form on file, but wouldn’t it be great if you were able to elicit more information than what they quickly wrote on a form? And what about those clients who came to you without seeing their doctor for a confirmed diagnosis first. How would you begin to learn what they truly need?
Swiss Reflex Therapy offers you, the Aromatherapist, an opportunity to assess your clients needs and get to the “root cause” of their dis-ease. As you move your way through the reflexes in the feet, you engage your client in this “affirmative” dialog that often elicits more information. The process of selecting the oils is simplified and helps you to discover the most effective oils for your blend. Engaging the client to “tweak” the aroma ensures client compliance. Performing the SRT massage on the affected reflexes provides the immediate comfort touch your client seeks and begins the healing process right away. The best part is when you empower your client by showing them how to perform the massage for themselves on the affected reflexes. Complete healing for many conditions often occurs within just a few days! It is easy for them to perform and they can feel themselves improving. The associated aroma brings them back to your office and the holds them in a “healing space” and your nurturing and care.
Swiss Reflex Therapy is a wonderful enhancement to your Aromatherapy practice, as it provides additional value to your client and gives you an opportunity to better serve your client’s needs.
For those in the US, I will be offering this course throughout 2015. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information was presented at the Alliance of International Aromatherapists Educational Teleconference Presentation on October 15, 2014.
The case studies shared originally appeared in Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 3rd and 4th eds.
Lora Cantele is a Registered Clinical Aromatherapist and Certified Swiss Reflex Therapist and Educator. She is the editor/publisher of the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy (www.ijpha.com), a featured writer for Aromatherapy Thymes Magazine, and the co-author of The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness (Robert Rose Books, Canada).
To see a treatment being provided visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywE6aA4ul4w