I recently discovered after talking to a couple of insurance companies that offer malpractice insurance to aromatherapists in the UK that you are officially only covered by insurance for those oils you studied in your original course! Yes, it actually says "as covered in the course". Like me, as an aromatherapist you probably have experimented with lots of oils outside of the 40-60 you covered in your original training so what do we do in order to protect ourselves?
Ideally, you may have attended courses that discuss more unusual essential oils and achieved an attendance certificate but I would bet my bottom dollar that you have not done this often or for every essential oil in your box. I argued the case that in our aromatherapy training we are taught to understand the chemistry of our essential oils and can apply that knowledge to understanding the safety data for any essential oil - BUT how to prove that you have done it?
The answer is your evidence of continuing professional development or CPD for short.
Members of a professional association such as Complementary Health Professionals are asked to record 15 hours of CPD every year. 6 hours of this has to be face to face at a seminar, workshop or a therapy support group and you usually get a CPD certificate for this. The other 9 hours are to record evidence of other self learning and as practitioners, we are learning all the time in our practices. We created a log book for our members to record this type of CPD, which can be downloaded from our website.
So, for aromatherapists we strongly advise that you record the learning and knowledge you have attained on additional essential oils outside of your original training. This should be kept in a portfolio and also entered onto your CPD log, in terms of the hours spent on each oil. Then, should the ocassion ever arise where a legal lawsuit is instigated you will be covered by insurance for any oil you have used and can provide evidence of your CPD record. To help our members, we have created a template you can download to help you record your additional essential oil knowledge in the members area on our website.
If you are unsure of the essential oil list that you already studied, perhaps I can help a little. You can of course go back to your school and ask them for a list. If the school no longer exists you could ask your professional association for advice but these are the oils listed in the National Occupational Standards for aromatherapy and chances are you will have covered at least these (but maybe more):
List of Essential Oils generally covered in an Aromatherapy Syllabus:
Lavandula angustifolia Mill.
Lavandula x intermedia Emeric ex Loisel
Lavandula latifolia Medik.
Salvia sclarea L.
Origanum majorana L.
Rosmarinus officinalis L.
Thymus vulgaris L.
Mentha x piperita L.
Ocimum basilicum L.
Pogostemon cablin Benth.
Citrus aurantium L. (Sweet Orange, Pettigrain and Neroli)
Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck
Citrus bergamia Risso.
Citrus limon (L.) Burm.
Citrus nobilis Lour.
Citrus paradisi Macfad.
Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All.
Matricaria recutita L.
Eucalyptus globulus Labill
Eucalyptus citriodora Hook
Eucalyptus dives Schauer
Eucalyptus smithii R.T. Baker
Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel
Pelargonium graveolens L’Her.
Piper nigrum L.
Foeniculum vulgare Mill.
Rosa damascena Mill.
Rosa x centifolia L.
Jasminum grandiflorum L.
Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook.f. & Thoms.
Santalum album L.
Santalum spicatum (R.Br.) A.DC.)
Boswellia sacra Flueck.
Commiphora myrrha Engl.
Styrax benzoin Dryand.
Zingiber officinale Rosc.
Cymbopogon citratus Stapf.
Vetiveria zizanioides Nash ex Small
Cedrus atlantica Manetti
Cupressus sempervirens L.
Juniperus communis L.
This all of course will also relate to the carrier oils and any other base products you may be using that were not included in your original training, although these are far less likely to ever cause any potential harm. However, it is good practice to also include these in your CPD portfolio and helps to boost your CPD hours year on year.
In the past, many schools thought that teaching more oils than others would prove that they were better or of a higher standing but in truth it is better to study a few oils in depth and then gradually add to your knowledge as time goes on. I have always said that learning to be an aromatherapist was like learning to drive - you can pass your test but you don't really learn to drive until you have been out on the road driving for a while. I remember when I first qualified 24 years ago how nervous I was in the begininng with my shiny new diploma on the wall and now, after using the essential oils in practice for so long can I really understand them. However, I am still learning all the time!
Whilst on the topic of CPD, what actually constitutes ongoing learning?
Undertaken a full diploma course or degree program that enhances your practice in another modality.
Attendance at a full day conference or seminar that enhances your existing skills.
Attendance at a day/week-end or short course/workshop that is specific to the therapies you practice or enhances your work as a therapist i.e. Aromatherapy for Carers, Reflexology & Palliative Care etc., or introduces a modality that you can incorporate the use of essential oils if you are an aromatherapist or Essential Oil Practitioner.
Attendance at a lecture at one of the numerous Health shows/Expos
Attendance at a day/week-end or short course/workshop that enhances your existing skills.
Attendance at a course/workshop that enhances your skills in business practice, IT, or therapeutic relationships.
Attendance at a course/workshop that teaches you how to build a portfolio and/or how to carry out reflective practice, referencing and critical analysis.
Attendance at local therapy groups/clubs where you are sharing experiences with other therapists (attendance certificates can be given) or possibly mentoring another therapist who has problems with a client/patient. This must be accompanied by a reflective practice write up in your CPD logbook.
Attendance on a guided tour either in the UK or abroad which involves study of aromatic plants. i.e. a trip to lavender fields or Kew Gardens/Eden project.
Complementary therapy specific research undertaken where results are published.
Articles written on complementary therapies for journals and magazines. These should be referenced and contain a bibliography.
Where you have written a therapy book or published review of a therapy book.
Where you have written a therapy course, learning aids, one day workshop or a lecture/presentation on your therapy, using research resources.
Reading/researching from books/journals or the internet and writing up a reflective practice essay of around 500 words to show how you have integrated that learning into your practice.
Attending meetings as part of your association’s Council or attendance of meetings on behalf of your association at working parties/forums. You will need to write up a report to go on file in your portfolio.
Assisting in the organisation of one of the conferences. This can be evidenced by the manager of your association or organiser of the conference and they can sign an evidence sheet for you.
Receiving supervision in the workplace by a peer who writes out a formal assessment to put in your portfolio.
Supervising a complementary therapy student carrying out clinical placement as part of their course. You would need to write a reflective practice essay on how this affected your practice at that time.
Giving taster treatments at local events/open days or local care groups accompanied by a reflective practice essay of around 300-500 words.
Offering free sessions to local groups with specific special needs and or disabilities to enhance your experiences in these areas and accompanied by a reflective practice essay of around 300-500 words
Watching a video/film for educational purposes relevant to professional life accompanied by a reflective practice essay of around 300-500 words as always to show how you have gained from this experience as a practitioner.
If anyone would like any help with any aspect of this article do get in touch with me. I offer aromatherapy and essential oil training through my school at Natural Therapeutics - www.naturaltherapeutics.co.uk. I offer essential oil blending masterclasses every year as well as CPD aromatic tours of Kew Gardens through Complementary Health Professionals for qualified aromatherapists.