Considerations When Choosing a Career in Complementary Therapy

Choosing a career in CAM

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM therapy) embraces a comprehensive healing approach, employing treatments not currently part of standard healthcare, typically in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Complementary therapists often aim to restore the body’s natural balance, considering the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of an individual, hence the often used phrase ‘holistic’, which means ‘whole’ approach encompassing mind, body, and spirit.  This distinguishes complementary therapy from conventional medicine, which often focuses on addressing a specific aspect of a person, such as stress relief and injury prevention.

Another common aspect of complementary therapy is drug-free pain relief. Often, practitioners are approached by people who wish to be seen quicker than they can in the NHS, or want to access methods that are not offered by the NHS, or not very quickly anyway, such as acupuncture, massage and even Battlefield Acupuncture.

A wide array of holistic approaches, provides individuals with the opportunity to explore different therapies and find what resonates best with them.
Additionally, many therapies can be synergistically combined to optimize benefits. For example, acupuncture practitioners may integrate 
massage into
their practice, or personal trainers might enhance their sessions by incorporating 
neuromuscular release to enable them to help with muscle tension
issues while in a session with a client. This flexibility allows individuals to tailor their holistic wellness journey to their unique preferences and needs.

Although some complementary therapies like physiotherapy and dry-needling acupuncture are offered within the NHS, their availability is limited. This scarcity prompts many practitioners and even nurses, to establish private practices. If you’re considering this route, you might wonder where to start.

Embarking on a career in holistic therapy begins with the crucial step of selecting the specific type of therapy you intend to practice. Many professionals are drawn to a particular branch of complementary therapy based on personal benefits they’ve experienced. Alternatively, your
interest in a specific area may motivate you to delve deeper. After determining your chosen therapy, the next essential step is to undergo the necessary training and qualification process.

In the UK, most holistic therapies lack official regulation, allowing anyone to label themselves as practitioners. Understandably, this absence of regulation can impact the credibility of the profession. Hence, it becomes crucial for practitioners to obtain relevant qualifications, establishing trust with prospective clients who seek the assurance of professionalism. It’s advisable to research your specific area of interest, as different holistic approaches may have distinct training requirements.

Given the limited regulations in holistic therapies, many professionals opt for voluntary self-regulation. This involves affiliating with a professional body, such as the British Acupuncture Federation (BAF), which establishes standards of practice and a code of ethics. Joining such organizations not only validates your professionalism and credibility to clients but also provides opportunities to network with fellow practitioners, stay informed about industry changes, pursue continuous professional development and get membership benefits that include discounts off essential services.

While you are training, it’s good to look around at others offering similar services to yours, and see what they are charging, then come up with your own pricing structure.  This will help you, as when you start practicing, it can catch you out when someone asks you your prices for the first time!

Once you have started earning money as a complementary therapist, you will need to register as self-employed with HMRC before the 5th October in the same tax year that you started earning in, arrange insurance cover including indemnity, arrange any licencing you need for your clinic, and start purchasing equipment.

You will also need to start marketing your business.  Many people “hang out” on local business forums on social media, and advertise using this and a website, however one of the most powerful ways of advertising, is to offer a few heavily discounted treatments to friends, and ask them to recommend you in return.  This can be a real boost as recommendations from someone you know is the most powerful advertising there is.

You will also need to consider what your membership organisation requires for CPD hours.  Some will start how many of these need to be classroom
based CPD, and others will just require that you do a certain number of hours.  Remember, not all CPD is in the classroom, some you can gain by reading up about concepts that are new to you, researching into methods of other practitioners, or getting online tuition.  Some organisations may have books you can borrow, and the internet has many free resources, so CPD doesn’t have to cost the earth

Engaging in a career in health therapies can be profoundly gratifying and enjoyable, offering the opportunity to equip you with the tools essential for your own personal health and well-being journey as well.

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