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Finding a Complementary Therapist

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Complementary Therapies Complementary

There are thousands of people in the UK practicing as complementary therapists, and the popularity of this type of therapy is steadily rising. Integrated healthcare – that is, healthcare that combines traditional medicine as well as complementary therapy such as osteopathy or reiki has only really been established for around 30-40 years, but most people now accept that there is a place for complementary therapies alongside more scientific treatments, even for illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Why Use a Complementary Therapist?

Complementary therapies can be used in place of drugs for milder conditions or long term problems such as backache or migraine. Many people turn to complementary therapies when they feel that their doctor can’t help them, and some people try the holistic approach first. Complementary therapists usually treat the whole person, rather than just a series of symptoms, and take into account the effects on your body, mind and spirit. The idea of a complementary therapy is to improve your emotional and psychological well-being as well as your physical health.

Where Can I Find a Complementary Therapist?

Due to their rising popularity, some complementary approaches are now available through the NHS, even though many of these holistic approaches aren’t really approved of by the medical establishment. Many enlightened doctors do believe that complementary therapies can benefit patients, but only in a supporting role. Naturally, they're unlikely to support any plans to substitute conventional treatment for complementary approaches. Speak to your doctor and see whether there are any recommended therapists in your area, and if they are available through doctor referral.

If you can’t get a referral, which is likely, find a local practitioner through one of the complementary therapy organisations such as the British Complementary Medicine Association:

  • bcma.co.uk/RegisteredTherapists.htm
  • Or the Complementary Medicine Association - the-cma.org.uk/

What Should I Always Check for?

Make sure that you select a qualified therapist who belongs to a professional body. Find out about the duration of the treatment before you agree to anything, as some complementary therapies can be expensive when you add up the cost per weekly visit. Find out how many sessions you are likely to need before you’ll start to feel the benefits – complementary therapies can take some time to take effect.

Ask about qualifications so that you know your chosen practitioner is properly trained and make sure they have adequate insurance, especially if the therapy involves physical manipulation (like chiropractic) or is invasive techniques (such as acupuncture) If the therapist doesn’t belong to a professional organisation, ask whether they have liability insurance.

Have a look at the clinic or therapist’s premises to make sure they are clean and hygienic. This is especially important if you are thinking about having acupuncture – you should check that the therapist always uses disposable, sterile needles. If you are given any remedies to take away, make sure that they are properly sealed and packaged and follow any storage instructions properly.

What to Watch Out For

You should always avoid any complementary therapist who claims that they can cure you completely of a chronic illness, or tells you that you should stop taking conventional medicine without consulting your doctor. A legitimate, properly trained therapist will never advise you to go against your doctor’s advice.

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