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Online training or not online? That is the question

I have been an educator for over 10 years teaching complementary therapies and have also been involved in setting standards of practice for the Reflexology Core Curriculum. For many years all was well with standards of training and guided learning hours, but these standards were written before the development of internet courses, which may on the surface comply with the learning hours but do not fulfil the need for a student learning a practical skill. It is with this in mind that I hope to give direction to potential students in the currently confusing world of therapy training in the UK, with guidance on which courses are most suitable for delivery online, which needs face to face training in a classroom and therefore, which courses best suits your needs.

What is the problem?

Over the past few years, slowly but surely we have seen an increase in online courses for complementary therapies. In principle there is nothing wrong with this and yes, there are many reputable online theoretical courses out there, including some we deliver ourselves at Complementary Health Professionals where it is possible. It makes the work accessible and so more user friendly and it also gives us control in our hectic lifestyles. By working at home at our own pace online courses may better suit our needs regarding the commitment of our time when trying to balance studies with work and family life. Some courses can and do work very well online as long as they give direction for research to improve our theoretical understanding in order to ensure a sound working knowledge. They also require the use of a Virtual Learning Environment where along with course material and other resources, it is possible to show tutorials and video clips to substantiate knowledge followed up with the backup of online tutor support. This is a credible system that can work very efficiently in today's hectic world to allow the time it takes us as an individual to understand and learn new concepts and ideas in our own time. However, how can it ever be possible to learn and develop the practical skills to effectively treat clients when you never once meet a tutor, nor have your skills assessed before launching yourself onto the unsuspecting public? The truth is that for the bodywork therapies and for many of the mind therapies it simply cannot. Where you need to develop a skill that goes along with your therapy, such as massage or reflexology, you have to have face to face contact with your tutor in order to become competent in your craft. Let's face it, would you want to go to a dentist or chiropractor who had done all of their training online only?

I have found myself wondering what purpose these online ‘professional’ diplomas courses with a

practical element needed but no contact hours actually serve. They may look effective and easy to follow but they do not allow for individual learning or development of the skills required to become a competent therapist. Sure, they provide a video showing you a technique but who is going to correct you if you pick up bad habits and teach you how to adapt your technique for the individual needs of your client? In essense; they don't and my concern is that unsuspecting people will buy these courses but never be able to become successul practitioners. It also pull down the standards of our profession as clients may go to someone who has never attended a single class and think that all massage therapists, aromatherapists and reflexologists are that bad. Also, when we consider learning, students work at different paces; some have inherent skills and will need help with adapting their posture and stance (for their own health and wellbeing) whilst others need guidance with pressures and precision, pin pointing areas of the body. Human beings are clearly not all one shape and size so how can that be factored in to an online course? This is why, in my opinion, practical skills can only ever be taught and effectively learnt in a classroom environment.

Photo shows Julia Wood, CHP Director and Massage Tutor demonstrating advanced massage techniques

Buyer beware!

When learning practical skills as a student it is not easy to ‘see’ what you are doing as you become so involved in trying to remember the movements you are supposed to perform. This is where a tutor can work as your eyes and correct areas that need correcting for you as an individual. To learn a skill effectively you need to first learn the idea of the movement. You then need to work on mastering it, and to do this well you may need to pick up bad habits and be retaught the movement, which allows you to perfect your craft and makes you competent in your technique. All of this can only be done with the guidance of a professional tutor and ideally one that is currently in professional practice. So please don't be seduced into thinking you can take short cuts or save money because in the long run it will end up costing you more not only in the monetary sense but also in the respect and benefit your clients will have for your therapy skills. If the course is not up to the standard expected, you may still be able to gain insurance as insurance comapnies are happy to take your money but the leading professional associations will not recognise your training and you will not be able to become a member and/or get registered with the regulatory body for complementary therapies.

Tips for choosing a complementary therapy diploma course:

  • Word of mouth

  • If you have a treatment and like how it is performed ask your therapist where they trained or who they trained with.

  • Research your tutor - book a treatment with them if possible

  • Colleges should insist that tutors are also practitioners, this give them the ability to remain current with their therapy and better able to advise you at students

Image shows left to right CHP Directors and Practitioners/Tutors Julia Wood, Carole Preen and Julie Quinn

Content of course

  • You should ensure that you will be taught Anatomy and Physiology to a Level 3 standard as well as business practice and good professional practice as part of your course. This will save you having to take on further studies in order to gain a full perspective of working as a therapist and will set you up with the skills you need to work in a therapeutic environment. We offer an excellent online anatomy, physiology and pathology course - click here for details.

What is Blended Learning?

  • These are where all the theory is delivered online and the practical skills are taught face to face with nine months or more to hone your skills and develop an effective technique as well as complete your cases studies to a good standard. This is what we offer at Complementary Health Professionals. Our courses that need you to learn a specific technique all have workshops for you to come and do this. Whilst learning you also undertake case studies and it is at the workshops where you can discuss these with your tutor and find out what you need to do and how to adapt your technique. We aim to deliver not only the best possible training so that you become successful but also the skills that will make you a thinking therapist who can deal with any situation with confidence. We also keep in touch with you after training so that you become part of our therapy family and join our professional membership. This also gives you loads of additional benefits and means that you always have someone to call if you ever need advice. Working as a therapist can be quite a solitary existence otherwise. Take a look at our professional training courses by clicking here.

More top tips for choosing the right course

  • Check that you will be able to receive membership of a professional association and regulatory bodies. We also accredit lots of other schools and colleges. See our accredited schools listing for information and also our events page to see when courses are scheduled.

  • You should always seek to be a member of a professional association who will give you the kudos and update you with any changes in legal requirements keeping you current in your therapy knowledge. In order to work in some areas you may need to be a member of a regulatory body and to do so you will need to hold a recognised level of qualification, if you do not you will need to make up your training to bridge any gaps in your qualification, which will take time and can work out expensive.

Final thoughts - Remember....

Nothing worth having comes easy so don't look for a quick cheap way to complete your training, Trying to learn and perfect a new skill in a 3 month period and work with confidence in your therapy knowledge with only a video to guide you is clearly not a good idea. Many eminent therapists and educationalists have come together to develop the therapy standards for a reason - because they know what it takes to be a good practitioner of complementary medicine. If you want to join the ranks and become one of us, then choose your training wisely and don't cut corners. You are dealing with real people, who deserve our care and attention and all of whom have different needs and perspectives. Many are on medications and have complex health problems. Make sure you learn how to treat your clients properly and respect them, yourself and your therapy.

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