Aromatherapy training widely varies from country to country and from provider to provider. Both the UK and the USA have similar regulations for aromatherapy practitioners, although I would say the UK is slightly ahead in trying to 'standardize' the practice of aromatherapy.
However, that is not to say that the UK has strict guidelines for an aromatherapy practitioner; it is possible in both the USA and the UK to set up as an 'aromatherapist' with no training in aromatherapy or essential oils. At the other end of the scale, in France, only a medically qualified doctor can authorize (professionally) the use of essential oils.
So, for someone who wants to practice as a 'professional' aromatherapist, where do you start? There are hundreds and thousands of aromatherapy courses out there from online, distance learning and taught classes ranging from a couple of hours to years in length.
Probably the best place to start is with an introductory course to aromatherapy or essential oils to discover if you would like to learn more. These are very informal classes and can be done online or at a local college.
Next, if you decide to progress further, choose a quality course that will give you a good grounding in the basic essential oils, an anatomy and physiology course and the safe use of essential oils. Knowing the basic botany of plants is also useful. A quality course will require you to take an exam or be continually assessed through assignments.
So how do you choose a 'good' course provider? In the USA, you can check the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website for course providers; in the UK, check out the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists. Look for a course provider who has experience and training in their field, is willing to answer your questions before you sign up, can provide you with literature about the training school etc It may also be possible to speak to past students of the aromatherapy school to see what they thought of it. Also ask for recommendations of schools from like minded individuals.
Also consider what you want to get out of the course and what you want to do when you have completed the course. Some courses focus on massage and the use of essential oils; others focus just on essential oil use. Some post-grad courses focus on the science and use of essential oils in more complex ways, but you usually have to have completed the basic course first.
You can use aromatherapy and essential oils practice in many ways. After completing a course, you can:
- practice aromatherapy in a massage setting, either set up your own business or apply for work in spas/massage centers (although in the USA, depending on state, you may have to become a licensed massage therapist (LMT))
- with further knowledge and training, teach aromatherapy
- write about aromatherapy if you have writing skills
- speak about aromatherapy at conferences, groups etc
- launch your own essential oil blend products (but check out local and country regulations required to do so)
- combine aromatherapy with other holistic practices such as reflexology and herbal medicine.
As for my professional training in aromatherapy, I studied with the Penny Price Aromatherapy Academy in England, although training with Penny Price is also available in the USA. I have been in the USA for 3 years now and, having had my own aromatherapy practice for a couple of years, am now considering a change of direction, having learnt a lot about how aromatherapy is practiced in the USA. Just recently, I found the aromahead institute in Florida and will be taking their teacher training course in April 2010 to further my aromatherapy education and business.
In the USA, it is also possible to become a registered aromatherapist, and although not a requirement to practice aromatherapy, it shows, to some degree, the professionalism of an aromatherapist. You are required to take an exam and your registration is good for 5 years. There are differing opinions on the validity or value of the aromatherapy registration in the USA but it is something I hope to do in the near future.
If anyone has any recommendations or comments about their own aromatherapy training or future training in essential oils, please let me know!
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