Reflexology and Mental Health

You have probably heard many times before that the best way to overcome your fears is to confront them. I’m not sure I would entirely agree that allowing someone to stick countless needles in me (think tattoo artist more than medical procedure!) will cure me of my needle phobia. However, I do think that becoming better informed about a medical condition can be very helpful in developing confidence about your ability to work with sufferers.

When I first qualified as a therapist I had, so I thought, never encountered anyone with a mental health condition. This was probably due to the fact that mental health was a taboo subject and people just didn’t discuss it in the same way as physical illnesses, such as cancer. Together with which, if asked to name mental health conditions most people would start immediately with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and eating disorders. The medical definition of a mental health condition is “any disease or condition that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings” (medicinenet.com: 2017). In fact, it is only in the last two to three years that the NHS have put the spotlight on mental health and are prioritising funding for this area of medical need.

On reflection, my own nervousness was probably not helped by the commonly held belief that people with mental health conditions were somehow prone to unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable or violent behaviour. The idea of working with people with mental health conditions was definitely not something I felt equipped to deal with. I know that I am not the only therapist to have felt that way as over the years many of my own students have expressed similar concerns during case study discussions. Thanks to the work of counsellors, medical professionals and charities such as MIND, we now regard mental health very differently to the way we did twenty years ago. We understand that it is an umbrella term for a wide range of conditions and that someone’s mental health could suffer for reasons other than it being a genetic disorder. We also know that like physical illnesses, mental health illnesses can sometimes be temporary and respond to treatment.

At the time I qualified my practice was and still is in a commuter town just outside of London. My reflexology clients were mainly professionals, mothers or retired people. A good percentage of them did suffer problems such as anxiety and depression and through working with them I developed an effective reflexology routine to bring about balance and as one of my clients put it “take back the reins”.