Tag Archives: aromatherapy regulations

Titles, and Credentials, and Consumer Confusion…Oh My!

wizard of oz

A wonderful blog post was written in September about something that has been on the mind of many Aromatherapists regarding the titles that we use. This article was written from a personal standpoint as the author was essentially using the post to inform her clients and others as to her own training.  However the post went viral and the author went on to receive many emails from individuals who wrote to criticize elements of the post and to share their own personal viewpoints.  Others, like me responded to address factual errors regarding educational guidelines and the use of one credential in particular. Much to my disappointment, the post was subsequently removed.

I was happy to see this post as I had written one on the very same subject just two weeks earlier. In my post, I addressed the title of “Clinical Aromatherapist.” Many more people are using this term, but there are two way of looking at this title.  One is that it is a representation of the level of education that an individual possesses.  The other is the environment in which a practitioner works. This begs the question, “should we seek more clarity and ask schools granting the title to provide more clarity to the students for its use?”  For example, a graduate may be “Clinically-trained,” but only after experience in working in a clinical environment should they call themselves a “Clinical “Aromatherapist?”  This brings to mind Rhiannon Lewis’s AIA presentation about “Working at the Coal Face” to mind. It’s theory vs. practice. Are we working in the environment that we are trained to work in or are we teaching, writing articles or acting as consultants?  I never posted my blog article. I shared it with a colleague who asked the question “what if I am clinically-trained, not working in a clinical environment and training nurses to use Aromatherapy in a clinical environment?”  Good question.

While there is no regulatory body that oversees the practice or Aromatherapists, there are general guidelines that we learn about in school with which we must adhere to; the Medical Practices Act and massage laws within each state in the U.S., as well observing the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the industry associations we belong to. There are similar considerations in other countries as well. However due to the lack of government regulation, aromatherapy organizations have taken it upon themselves to set standards and guidelines for their members to support and follow in an effort to “self-regulate.” In the early days of the AIA I remember being a part a discussion in which there was a collective desire to review, evaluate and revise such standards and guidelines. The goal was to have the membership accept and support the educational guidelines and standards, and to promote the organization as a leader in the aromatic community. Our secret hope was that by providing these guidelines and a group of professionals working in support, if the U.S. government officials were ever to come knocking, the AIA and its practitioner members would certainly pass any scrutiny, be a model for other groups, and work in tandem with the government. I also recall discussions regarding how far the AIA could and was willing to go.  The AIA is not a “regulatory” body.

So how does this relate back to the topic of “titles” and “credentials” in Aromatherapy? For some time there appeared to be essentially two categories of Aromatherapists; hobbyists that possessed a basic level one (foundation) education and qualified Aromatherapist who possessed a certification (200 hour professional course).  The AIA, with a focus on “moving aromatherapy forward” into more integrative and clinical settings discussed the need for a higher level of learning to accommodate safe and responsible essential oil use in these settings, hence revising the guidelines for Levels 1 and 2, as well as creating the clinical Aromatherapy education guidelines. In doing so, there appears to be an increase in the number of “clinical” Aromatherapists, or is there?

In looking at the “recognized ” or “approved” standards of the aromatherapy education organizations in the U.S., there exists various of levels of education, however the content of that education and how it is evaluated varies between organizations.  For example, one organization considers level one to be a 30 hr course whereas another sets the standard at 100 hr. There is also some misinformation circulating with regard to how the AIAs education guidelines were established and what is contained in those guidelines (which is the subject of another article to come). So with the differences in the guidelines between organizations, not to mention that there are several schools out there that are not on the recognized or approved lists of either organization, there are several social media threads suggesting that possessing a certification is somehow no longer of value.

While there is no government regulatory body overseeing aromatherapy practitioners, I think practitioners can agree that possessing an education in safe and responsible use is of great importance. What seems to be at the heart of these recent discussions are the titles and credentials that practitioners are using to give an impression of their overall education level. One might think that would have been cleared up with the establishment of levels of education (Foundation, Professional, Clinical). In looking back to when I first started in Aromatherapy, if you went to school (200 hr) and earned a certification you became a Certified Aromatherapist (CA). Anything less and you could receive a “certificate of attendance.” If you elected to do so, you went on to take the ARC Exam to become a Registered Aromatherapist (RA). In addition, some schools had their own credential upon graduation, such as the Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Practitioner (CCAP) awarded to graduates of Jane Buckle’s program for healthcare providers. Other schools that applied and met the AIA would have guidelines for clinical level training offered their students the title of “Clinical Aromatherapist.” For me, my school said I could call myself a Clinical Aromatologist as I was trained in various methods of internal use, however it seems that term never really took off. Nowadays there are people calling themselves “Medical Aromatherapist” or a “Certified Clinical Master Aromatherapist” among others.  Some of the titles are created by the schools that offer training and others are created, as some may say, as a marketing ploy to impress upon potential clients that they possess a greater knowledge than perhaps another practitioner.  Regardless of where these terms have come from what they have effectively done is to create consumer confusion and animosity among peers in the aromatic community.

The explosion of this topic has been debated on social media for many months with a common question of who should be responsible for clearing up this mess? The schools?  The Aromatherapy organizations? One trade organization considered taking up this cause as well, but instead has put this back on practitioners to take up with the Aromatherapy organizations they belong to.

So what do you think? Should the aromatherapy organizations (in collaboration) create the titles we use, the qualifications for each, and trademark them for use in their respective countries? In an effort to have all Aromatherapists on the same page, should there be a larger, perhaps global, council that provides the gold standard for education guidelines, Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, and guidelines for the use of titles and credentials to provide a unified front in Aromatherapy and protection for consumers?  I invite your comments below?

Lora Cantele is a Registered Clinical Aromatherapist through the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) and a Certified Swiss Reflex Therapy (SRT) practitioner and instructor through its creator, Shirley Price.  Her work as former president of Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) has helped the organization flourish to become a leading voice in advancing an ethical practice of aromatherapy for personal as well as clinical use.  During her tenure at the AIA (2006-2012) she successfully lead the development and implementation of AIA’s aromatherapy educational standards to take the level of aromatherapy education in the USA to new heights.  In 2009 and 2010, she brought her professional expertise to a pilot program aimed at providing a better quality of life to children with life-limiting illnesses including; hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.  As an aromatherapy educator, writer, and international speaker Ms. Cantele continues to unite and inspire her colleagues to speak out about the importance of this work within an integrative health and wellness program. She is the editor/publisher of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy (IJPHA) and the co-author of The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness. Contact: lora.cantele@gmail.com Websites: www.ijpha.com and www.enhancedgifts.com

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The Aroma of Choice: Health Freedom and Aromatherapy

woman inhaling

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Dorene Petersen, BA, Dip.NT, Dip.Acu, RH (AHG)                                                     President, American College of Healthcare Sciences

This article first appeared in the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal, Edition Summer 2014 and has been revised for publication here on the IJPHA Blog.

Some of my favorite summertime activities in the States are gathering with friends and family for picnics and parties on the patio, at the park, or at the beach—especially on the Fourth of July. Even though I’m originally from New Zealand, there’s something about this celebration of freedom that fills me with hope and excitement for all the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead.

We’ve worked hard to build a society for ourselves where we are not discriminated against, where we can speak and write freely, and when we feel things need to change, we have the right to petition our law-makers. Yet, change is a process that takes time, particularly in the holistic health industry. Citizens seeking more natural approaches to healthcare have long had restricted access to services from natural medicine practitioners, such as Registered Aromatherapists (RA).

Aromatherapy and the Law                                                                        In many states, a practitioner can be criminally charged with practicing medicine without a license for offering alternative therapies such as herbal medicine, homeopathy,[1] and aromatherapy. This is also the root issue that spawned the “Health Freedom” movement, which supports patients’ rights to access alternative treatments and health practitioners of their choosing.

So what does this mean for aromatherapists? While the Aromatherapy Registration Council[2] (ARC) offers registration through an extensive exam ensuring RAs have demonstrated a core body of knowledge and commitment to safety standards and ethics, the ARC makes it clear that, legally, “it is important to realize that the ARC Aromatherapy Registration Exam and the ARC Registration in no way constitutes a license to practice medicine, diagnose, or treat patients.”[3]

California law provides a useful example of this type of restriction: “The unlawful practice of medicine is defined as: ‘Any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds him or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person…’ CA Stat. Sec. 2052.”[4] Considering the many uses and therapeutic service benefits of essential oils, the wording above makes providing a therapeutic aromatherapy consultancy fraught with pitfalls in the state of California, even as a Registered Aromatherapist through the ARC.

However, positive change is on the horizon. The National Health Freedom Coalition (NHFC) is an organization formed with the purpose of promoting and advocating for Health Freedom laws across the United States. As of 2013, there are nine states that have Health Freedom laws, including Arizona, Minnesota, California, Colorado, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Idaho, and New Mexico. Because legislation varies from state to state, RAs should be vigilantly aware of and compliant with relevant legislation and reform within the state where they practice. The NHFC maintains a listing of the state advocacy groups which can be accessed through their website.[5]

Safe Harbor and Health Freedom Laws: How Do They Affect Aromatherapists?                                                                                   Health Freedom and safe harbor laws mean greater opportunity for Registered Aromatherapists to practice ethically without fear of violating the rigid and over-arching definitions of “practicing medicine without a license.” The legal structure of a safe harbor bill or law can allow non-licensed practitioners to legally operate, as long as they comply with the provisions stated within the safe harbor law.

For example, in 2009, New Mexico passed the safe harbor law, “Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act,” which specifically places aromatherapy under the definition of “‘complementary and alternative health care service’ [defined as] the broad domain of complementary and alternative healing methods and treatments.”[6]

This means that an aromatherapist is protected from being in violation of New Mexico medical licensing laws as long as (s)he complies with the provisions listed within the act. Section 3 states:

A complementary and alternative health care practitioner who is not licensed, certified or registered in New Mexico as a health care practitioner shall not be in violation of any licensing law relating to health care services pursuant to Chapter 61 NMSA 1978 unless that individual: A. engages in any activity prohibited in Section 4 of the Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act; or B. fails to fulfill the duties set forth in Section 5 of the Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act.[7]

One important provision to note in Section 5 of the New Mexico “Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act” is the requirement for the aromatherapist to supply an “informational document” to the patient or client. This is more commonly known as an “informed consent” document. This is a common provision within many safe harbor bills in the U.S., including Louisiana,[8] Minnesota[9] (which also specifically refers to aromatherapy), Rhode Island,[10] and California.[11] This document can be labeled differently in different states—you may see it called something like a “client bill of rights” or “disclosure.”

Under New Mexico law, the informational document notifies the patient or client:

  • of the nature and expected results of the aromatherapy services to be provided
  • that the aromatherapist is not a healthcare practitioner licensed by the state of New Mexico
  • of the aromatherapists’s degrees, education, training, experience, or other qualifications regarding aromatherapy
  • of many other details surrounding the aromatherapist’s background as well as the patient’s rights to honesty and privacy[12]

Some of these states require this “bill of rights” to be visibly posted within the aromatherapist’s office as well as an individual hard copy document.

While this type of requirement varies state to state, many Registered Aromatherapists find it useful to provide an informed consent document regardless of the law. The New Mexico Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Project LLC. (NMCAAMP) has a useful checklist for creating this informational document for New Mexico practitioners, which can be found on their website[13]: www.nmcaamp.org.

While a great number of states are still without Health Freedom laws, many holistic health advocates are campaigning for safe harbor bills. Melissa Toye, an ACHS graduate and owner of the natural products company Midwest Herbs and Oils, is currently advocating for a safe harbor bill in Missouri.[14]

States Without Health Freedom Laws                                                     It’s extremely encouraging to see our industry progressing. However, even though our society and the allopathic medical community are becoming more comfortable with the idea of alternative modalities like aromatherapy, there are still many states without Health Freedom laws.

As with any healthcare practice, it’s essential that a Registered Aromatherapist be highly informed about the laws of his or her state in order to legally practice aromatherapy in a state without a safe harbor law. Legislation varies from state to state, and I would highly encourage all aromatherapists to visit their state’s legislative website and review the laws relating to healthcare and practicing medicine. But I would also like to offer a few basic guidelines and key functions—the do’s and don’ts—of a Registered Aromatherapist.

Let’s start by discussing what an aromatherapist does not do:

  • Diagnose disease: An aromatherapist is free to evaluate a client and determine possible causes of imbalance, but he or she cannot diagnose disease, and should always refer clients back to their primary care physician for a diagnosis when necessary.
  • Treat disease: As with diagnostics, the aromatherapist does not focus on disease, but rather shares helpful information with clients, empowering them to take control of their own health and wellness.
  • Prescribe drugs or pharmaceuticals: An aromatherapist offers education surrounding essential oils, herbs, natural remedies, and holistic nutrition.
  • Perform invasive procedures or touch therapies without licensing: Registration through ARC does not license an aromatherapist to perform touch therapies such as reflexology, chiropractics, or massage. However, if an aromatherapist is also a licensed chiropractor or massage therapist, the modalities can be used in tandem with one another if it is within the scope of practice of the profession.

There are still many ways an aromatherapist can be a helpful and useful holistic health practitioner without resorting to the “don’ts” listed above. An aromatherapist does…

  • Understand good health and recognizes that it requires a holistic approach, including fresh water, physical activity, fresh air and sun, plenty of rest, and a focus on proper nutrition.
  • Share knowledge about achieving and maintaining health and wellness regularly with essential oils, homeopathics, herbs, and other natural modalities.
  • Evaluate each client with a holistic approach, recognizing that daily nutrition, the environment, and lifestyle choices have a large impact on health and wellness.
  • Empower their client to achieve improved health by addressing any imbalances caused by poor sleep quality, imbalanced nutrition, and any other negative lifestyle habits.
  • Recognize when allopathic healthcare is needed, and is always prepared to refer a client to their primary care physician for diagnosis and/or treatment.

Ambassadors for Aromatherapy and Natural Medicine                        While the Health Freedom movement is growing and legislation is changing, aromatherapists have an obligation to uphold the highest standards and ethics to maintain integrity within our industry.

This requires vigilance when working with essential oils for clinical use. It’s important, for example, that an essential oil is not labeled to imply that it’s intended for use in the diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and intended to affect the structure or any function of the body. This type of claim categorizes the oil as a drug, and all “new drugs” require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, for example, as an aromatherapist you cannot say, “This oil is supportive for cholesterol.” Though the statement does not include the word “treat,” it implies cholesterol is high.

Registered Aromatherapists should always choose the highest quality of pure, unadulterated essential oils. This requires a thorough knowledge of sourcing, production, distillation, and labeling. There are many unregulated and misleading terms when it comes to essential oils such as: “spray free,” “all natural,” “therapeutic grade,” and “CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®.” These are unregulated marketing terms, and in no way mean the oils are truly pure, organic, or unadulterated, and often lead consumers to falsely believe that they are superior to Certified Organic essential oils.

We are ambassadors for the practice of aromatherapy. With all of these exciting changes, it’s ever more important to maintain the upmost integrity when practicing aromatherapy. I often find it helpful to re-read the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy’s Code of Ethics[15], the AIA Code of Ethics[16], the AIA Standards of Practice[17], and the ARC Disciplinary Policy[18].

I am encouraged by the progress we have made in our efforts to make aromatherapy and other natural modalities more readily available and accepted. The road to Health Freedom is long, but I couldn’t be more excited to be part of such a courageous and inspiring community of healthcare practitioners.

Dorene Petersen is President and Founder of the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She holds a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from Otago University, New Zealand, is a NZ trained Naturopath and ran a busy clinic in NZ specializing in aromatherapy and herbal medicine. She is also a certified acupuncturist with specialized training in Chinese herbal medicine and moxibustion. Dorene serves as Chair of the Aromatherapy Registration Council and is a member of the Research and Educational Standards Subcommittee of the Distance Education Training Council. In addition to her work as President of the College, Dorene also teaches courses for ACHS and leads the annual ACHS study-abroad program to Indonesia and other locations, which explore holistic health, traditional herbal healing, aromatherapy, and essential oil distillation and production, among other topics.

*This article originally appeared in the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal Summer 2014.2: http://www.naha.org/bookstore/nahas-aromatherapy-journal-summer-2014.2

[1] National Health Freedom Coalition (NHFC). (2012). Mission and Case Statement. Retrieved from http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/aboutNHFC/mission_statement.html

[2] You can learn more about this organization on their website at http://aromatherapycouncil.org/

[3] Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC). (2011). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://aromatherapycouncil.org/?page_id=75

[4] National Health Freedom Coalition. (2012). Mission and Case Statement. Retrieved from http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/aboutNHFC/mission_statement.html

[5] You can learn more about the National Health Freedom Coalition at: http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org

[6] Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act HHGAC/HB 664 Retrieved from The National Health Freedom Coalition (NHFC), Health Freedom Laws Passed: http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/documents/NewMexicoHB0664_2009.pdf

[7] Ibid.

[8] 2005 Louisiana Revised Statutes 20-37 VI-B. Retrieved from Louisiana State Legislature: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=321645

[9] Chapter 146A. Complementary and Alternative Health Care Practices. Retrieved from 2013 Minnesota Statues: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=146A

[10] Relating to Health and Safety – Unlicensed Health Care Practices. Retrieved from State of Rhode Island General Assembly: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText02/HouseText02/H6719a.pdf

[11] 2001 California SB577 – California Complementary and Alternative Health Care Practitioners. Retrieved from legalinfo.ca.gov: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/sen/sb_0551-0600/sb_577_bill_20020923_chaptered.html

[12] Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act HHGAC/HB 664 Retrieved from The National Health Freedom Coalition (NHFC), Health Freedom Laws Passed: http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/documents/NewMexicoHB0664_2009.pdf

[13] New Mexico Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Project LLC (NMCAAMP) Check list for creating the ‘Patient Information Document’ Retrieved from http://www.nmcaamp.org/downloads/6_PatientInfoChecklist20090619a.pdf

[14] Oberholtz, C. & Rittman, E. (2014, February 20). KCTV5. Missouri woman seeks bill to support alternative medicine. Retrieved from http://www.kctv5.com/story/24767135/missouri-woman-seeks-bill-to-support-alternative-medicine

[15] National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). (2014). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.naha.org/membership/code-of-ethics/

[16] Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA). (2014). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.alliance-aromatherapists.org/aromatherapy/code-of-ethics/

[17]Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC). (2014). About. Retrieved from http://aromatherapycouncil.org/?page_id=195

[18] Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC). (2014). About. Retrieved from http://aromatherapycouncil.org/docs/ARC_DISCIPLINARY_POLICY2004.pdf