Therapies & Treatments for Health and Wellbeing
Therapies and spa treatments can be classified and described using different generic terms and phrases (see below). Such words used by therapists, spas and therapy centres tend to reveal attitudes and emphasis that may be of interest to people considering arranging an appointment. Details about the specific therapy or treatment are often more important than the overall style of presentation chosen by the therapist or centre.
Alternative medicine is a general expression used to refer to a wide range of techniques and approaches to well-being generally considered to fall outside the scope of allopathic medicine - which is commonly considered 'conventional medicine' in many developed countries, incl. across Europe and North America. However, some people including some practitioners, prefer to think of certain non-allopathic treatments, remedies or supplements, as merely 'supporting' whatever allopathic care the person is receiving. Those people might refer to the approaches they consider merely 'supporting' forms of healthcare as 'complementary', as in the expressions complementary medicine and complementary therapies. Other people disagree with the premise that specific alternative therapies are merely 'complementary therapies'. Whichever (if any) of these descriptions appears on therapists' literature, in many cases the recipient of the treatment can choose to receive the therapy either in addition to ('complementary') or potentially instead of some or all forms of allopathic medicine ('alternative') according to his or her own choice. Further, some therapy practitioners may privately respect their clients' preferences to receive treatments either along side or in place of conventional medicine but still describe themselves as 'complementary therapists' due to concern about potential litigation if clients' conditions deteriorat, hence their decision to indicate professional deference to allopathic medicine in every possible way.
Still other people don't think of the same treatments, e.g. aromatherapy, massage or reflexology to mention just a few possibilites as either 'alternative' or 'complementary' because they don't receive (or provide) such treatments for the purposes of curing or attempting to cure or manage any unwelcome physical or other signs or symptoms of injury or dis-ease for which one might consider using a form of medicine, but instead purely for relaxation and enjoyment ... that is, simply well-being.
Labels and descriptions of what therapies 'are' are 'are not' according to a particular publication, writer, therapist or therapy tutor can be confusing. For example, many therapies mentioned on these pages are often referred to as holistic therapies, which begs the question: What does holistic mean ?
Words commonly used to describe therapies include:
- Alternative - which puts the emphasis on choice.
- Complementary - which implies deference to allopathic medicine together with the idea that the treatment offered is really only intended to 'go with' or 'help' some other (main) treatment.
- Complimentary - which generally means "with compliments", i.e. without charge or FREE. This is widely seen on signs, adverts and therapists' literature where, presumeably, it is a spelling error, "complementary" being intended.
- Holistic - works with all aspects of the person, often stated as 'mind, body and soul' or 'mind, body and spirit' i.e. not just at the physical level.
- Natural - usually used to indicate use of naturally-occuring rather than synthetic products and ingredients. That sounds good, but as poisons occur in nature, 'natural' doesn't necessarily mean 'safe' or even 'safer'.
Many therapies and approaches to well-being involve the use of products, or in some cases the formulation of products such as lotions or blends of oils, as part of the process or treatment. For example, aromatherapists who provide a truly personal service often blend oils for each specific client after the pre-treatment conversation, immediately before use. This could be in order to take into consideration the client's individual preferences, mood, plans for the rest of the day and so on when selecting which oils will be most beneficial to him or her at that particular time.
In general, use of products can result in use of even more words that should inform but often confuse, such as:
- Natural - often meaning no synthetic ingredients, though specific definitions vary.
- Local - how local ? Were the ingredients produced, e.g. grown, locally - or just blended or packaged nearby?
- Organic - refers to how the ingredients were produced and usually includes assurance that no genetically modified (GM) substances are included.
- Not Tested on Animals - sounds clear but has sometimes been used to indicate only that the final product has not been tested on laboratory animals even though at least some of the ingredients had been. There are also many other similar labels whose meaning with respect to animal testing and animal ingredients may be unclear, e.g. dermatologically tested, cruelty-free, and expressions such as "[retailer xxx] does not test on animals and funds research into alternatives" ... which provides no specific information about the testing of the ingredients of that particular product or even an assurance that animal testing of that product has not been carried out by or for another organization.
- Eco-friendly - can have various meanings. For example, some people consider organic to be 'eco-friendly' while others are more concerned with the use of energy to produce the item and especially any carbon emissions attributable to production of the item. This leads to further labelling questions such as the meaning of "carbon neutral", etc.. Environmental issues also extend to concern about the packaging used to transport and present the item. In some cases symbols indicating that packaging is recyclable appear more prominently than information about the product itself!
There are many wonderfully relaxing, rejuvenating, healthy options for pampering and spa treatments. There are also many safe, effective, non-allopathic options for treatment and/or management of medical conditions. Introductions to some spa treatments and other therapies are included on this website. In all cases and especially if any medical conditions, injuries, or concerns apply, specific personal advice should be obtained from an appropriately qualified expert.
The therapies featured on pages in this section include some of the most widely available holistic treatments in the UK today. In many cases these pages have been written or reviewed by practitioners qualified in the treatments described. However, only general overviews are presented.
Visitors to these pages are advised to consult an appropriately qualified practitioner in person concerning the suitability of any particular treatment for their individual case and situation before proceeding with treatments, use of remedies, dietary supplements, or other forms of management of health and well-being.
Finding Practitioners in your Area
Personal recommendation is a popular way to find a therapist. Assuming that the person looking for a therapist has no objection to mentioning that to other people it may be easy to ask friends, family, colleagues or others for their suggestions. Associations that represent the interests of a therapy (or set of therapies) and practitioners of it are often willing to put members of the public in contact with qualified practitioners in their area.
In the cases of most of the therapies listed in these pages there are one or more associations that:
- Regulate and approve the training of practitioners
- Offer appropriate insurance for qualified practitioners
- Represent the interests of the therapy and its practitioners and users to government, relevant regulatory bodies and others
- Make information about the therapy, and often also information about their members, available to the public
In many cases these are national associations so interested parties need to find the most geographically appropriate organization(s).
Check your therapist is qualified and insured to provide the therapy you are considering receiving from him or her.
Finding Training Courses
If possible, ask for recommendations from people you know in your area.
Anyone interested in learning a therapy because of benefits received from it might consider asking his or her therapist if he or she can suggest or recommend training courses locally.
Associations representing the interests of specific therapies or types of therapists are usually able to help people seeking information about training. Some such organizations also run or accredit training courses - both for intending new practitioners and refresher or continuing professional development (CPD) courses for existing practitioners.
Choosing a course generally involves considerations of location, cost, duration, the qualification expected on successful completion and of course the standard of teaching and likely enjoyment of the process. It is a good idea to ask people who have recently completed a course or qualification you are considering following about their experience of and satisfaction with the training provided. Also consider sources of information online.