Aromatherapist sector trends

Woman receiving back massage with massage products in front of her

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the complementary and alternative medicine sector

Recent years have seen a large increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), for a number of reasons:

  • GPs are often perceived as having little time to devote to their patients
  • conventional healthcare has become more impersonal
  • patients are concerned about the increasing use of powerful drugs
  • many conditions such as asthma do not respond satisfactorily to conventional treatment
  • patients are better informed and more willing to try alternative therapies
  • complementary therapists are providing an increasingly professional service
  • the medical profession has acknowledged the benefit to patients of providing both conventional and complementary treatment
  • the number of complementary therapists has grown, so that people can more easily access them
  • policy changes that are designed to give patients more choice over the type of NHS-funded treatment they receive
  • initiatives like the Integrated Care 4 NHS CAM directory that help GPs and other health professionals to find local complementary therapists

The five most common therapies are acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, herbalism and homeopathy, although aromatherapy is becoming more and more popular. In fact a recent survey of members carried out by the Federation of Holistic Therapists found that aromatherapy was the third most requested complementary therapy, after reflexology and massage. Currently only the osteopathic and chiropractic professions are regulated by law.

Although complementary therapists in other disciplines have pressed for statutory regulation in the last decade or so this has not occurred, meaning that many therapies have gone down the self-regulation route instead.

The Aromatherapy Consortium, which consisted of many professional bodies that represent aromatherapists, worked towards voluntary self-regulation for the whole profession during the early 2000s. (The Aromatherapy Consortium was intended as an interim body to give the profession enough time to decide on the structure of the voluntary self regulatory body.) The General Regulatory Council For Complementary Therapies (GRCCT) was then set up in 2007 as a voluntary federal regulator for the complementary therapies, including aromatherapy. In April 2008 a similar regulatory body the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was launched to maintain a register of qualified complementary and natural therapists - also including aromatherapists.

Registration with a regulator is currently voluntary for aromatherapists and there is no programme of compulsory statutory regulation planned at the moment.

In July 2013, a new EU cosmetic products regulation was introduced to control the safety of cosmetic products sold in the EU member states, including the UK (this replaced similar existing regulations). Aromatherapists who make up their own products may be affected by these regulations, depending on the exact nature of the products. There is further information about the regulations on the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) website. The Aromatherapy Trade Council website includes guidance on selling and manufacturing aromatherapy products.

Although in general demand for aromatherapy treatment is relatively strong, you will have to decide whether:

  • there is enough demand in your area to support your proposed aromatherapy practice
  • you will be able to compete against existing aromatherapists and other complementary therapists in your area

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a professional association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments. There are a number of associations that represent aromatherapists in the UK, including:

  • the Aromatherapy Trade Council
  • the British Complementary Medicine Association (BCMA)
  • Complementary Health Professionals
  • the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
  • the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA)

Many associations require members to comply with a code of conduct and to obtain certain recognised qualifications.

Some associations also produce regular trade journals (such as the IFPA's In Essence) which may be provided as a benefit of membership.

Trade shows

You will be able to obtain a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the aromatherapy sector. You will be able to meet suppliers of complementary medicines, herbal and ayurvedic products, equipment and much more and plan your future stock buying. Visit the Exhibitions UK website for further information of forthcoming exhibitions.

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