How to Become an Aromatherapist

What is an Aromatherapist?

An aromatherapist is trained in the art and science of putting the aromas of plants to use for their healing properties. Specifically, aromatherapists seek to help their clients have a more balanced and harmonized state of physical health.

Workers in this field also seek to address spiritual and mental difficulties with the healing power of plants to facilitate things like improved relaxation or better sleep.

In other words, an aromatherapist uses scents from plants for holistic healing purposes. That is, these plants are not selected merely because they smell good but because they have therapeutic applications.

What Does an Aromatherapist Do?

Though the primary focus of an aromatherapist is to use the healing powers of plants and their aromas to facilitate improvements in  physical, mental, and spiritual health, there are plenty of tasks that aromatherapists must complete to provide the best services to their clients.

The first aspect of an aromatherapist’s job is to meet with their clients and get a basic medical history. This is an essential first step so that the aromatherapist understands the ailments that brought the client in. Additionally, it’s important to understand what medications (prescribed or over-the-counter) the client is taking, that way the appropriate plants can be selected to avoid negative interactions with those medications. For example, if you have high blood pressure and take medication for that, your aromatherapist would be sure to select essential oils and hydrosols that do not interact with your medication.

The next step in the process is to develop a treatment plan based upon the information gathered from the client. It is important to note that the treatment plan is not one of a medical nature, as aromatherapists are not medical doctors. Instead, their goal is to create a blend of the most appropriate plants and aromas to facilitate the body’s natural healing process. Typically, aromatherapists will involve their clients in this process, having them smell the various ingredients used to create their special blend of aromas to ensure the final result is a pleasing smell for the client.

Part of the treatment plan involves determining the best way to administer essential oils from plants. Often, these essential oils are delivered via evaporators, steamers, or vaporizers. Sometimes, though, an aromatherapist might apply the oils directly to the client’s skin via massage or offer ways to ingest the essential oils orally. Less commonly, clients will take an aromatic bath so that the selected oils can be absorbed through the skin.

From there, aromatherapists work with their clients to monitor their progress toward their health goals. For example, if the reason the client sought help was because of migraine headaches, and the headaches have not gotten better during the course of aromatherapy, the aromatherapist would likely devise a new treatment plan to try to better address the pain associated with migraines.

What Do You Learn in an Aromatherapist Training Program?

Aromatherapist training programs provide an in-depth education in a wide-range of knowledge and skills that are required to practice aromatherapy effectively. Some of the primary learning targets for these programs include:

  • History of aromatherapy – Students in aromatherapist training programs learn about how essential oils have been used for centuries to help people live healthier lives.
  • Identification of oils – Aromatherapists must be able to identify 50 essential oils and understand their health benefits.
  • Drug interactions – Coursework in this area emphasizes an understanding of how essential oils used in aromatherapy might interact negatively with a client’s prescription or over-the-counter medication.
  • Aromatherapy protocols – Students learn how to mix different oils to address different health concerns and learn how to do so in a manner that is safe for the client.
  • Anatomy and physiology – Students learn about the structures of the human body as well as their particular functions.
  • Pathology – Aromatherapist training programs require students to understand the biochemical changes the body experiences when illness, injury, or disease is present.
  • Research – Many training programs in this field include coursework that teaches students how to conduct research on critical topics in aromatherapy and how to be good consumers of research.
  • Business practices – Students often complete business-related courses that assist them in developing strategies for starting an aromatherapy business.
  • Ethics – Students must demonstrate knowledge of and a commitment to ethical practice, including maintaining confidentiality and ensuring clients’ privacy.
  • Wellness – As part of the natural health solutions community, it’s necessary for aromatherapy students to understand the concept of wellness and how their services can facilitate improved wellness for their clients.
  • Duty of care – Students learn the limits of their training and are educated in the instances in which they need to refer their clients to licensed healthcare professionals.

Are there Any Online Aromatherapist Training Programs?

There are many online aromatherapist training programs, though it is important that you select a program that’s approved by the central governing organization of aromatherapists, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Attending an NAHA-approved school makes it more likely (though is not a guarantee) that you’ll receive better education and training as it pertains to the practice of aromatherapy.

Like brick-and-mortar training programs, online aromatherapy training programs offer students a wide range of courses that help familiarize them with various aspects of aromatherapy, from mixing essential oils for specific client needs to recording health information to developing an understanding of the human body.

What are the Requirements to Become an Aromatherapist?

The specific requirements to become an aromatherapist are broken down by the type of aromatherapist certification. These requirements are as follows:

NAHA Certified Level 1 Aromatherapist

This minimum certification level requires applicants to complete at least 50 hours of coursework in aromatherapy-related studies. Courses include a review of the history of aromatherapy (including its development as a natural health solution), the physiological effects that essential oils can have on the human body, the methods of application used to apply essential oils to a client, and learning the profiles of 20 essential oils.

Additionally, applicants for a Level 1 Certification must already work as a health professional as a massage therapist, herbalist, nurse, physician, and so forth. Applicants must also be able to prove that they have completed an anatomy and physiology course from an accredited postsecondary institution, demonstrate that they have completed five case studies in aromatherapy, and must also take a Level 1 examination.

NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist

The Professional Aromatherapist Certification ups the required coursework to 200 hours. In addition to the Level 1 requirements outlined above, professional applicants must take botany and chemistry courses, demonstrate completion of a Level 2 anatomy and physiology course from an accredited institution, profile 40 essential oils, and complete a minimum of 10 case studies.

Further requirements for a professional certification include completing a 5-10 page research paper, provide proof of completion of at least 10 continuing education credits, and pass a Level 2 certification examination.

NAHA Certified Clinical Aromatherapist

The most stringent certification is the NAHA Certified Clinical Aromatherapist. This designation requires students to complete at least 300 hours of studies, profile 50 essential oils, complete a minimum of 20 case studies, and learn the properties of essential oils and how they are applied in a clinical framework.

What’s more, clinical aromatherapy students learn about the toxicology of essential oils and how to use them safely and responsibly with various populations, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions. Coursework in the NAHA Code of Ethics, scope of practice, and record taking is also required.

Prerequisites for a clinical certification include completion of a pathophysiology course from an accredited institution and passing a Level 3 examination. To maintain certification, clinical aromatherapists must complete at least 15 NAHA-approved continuing education credits every year, be actively practicing or teaching clinical aromatherapy, and have proof of professional liability insurance.

What is a Registered Aromatherapist?

The process one must undertake to become a registered aromatherapist is quite straightforward. To be eligible, one must complete a 200-hour (minimum) Level 2 aromatherapy training program from an institution that is approved by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA). Additionally, applicants for registration will be considered if they can provide evidence of training that is commensurate with an NAHA or AIA training program.

Further requirements for registration include being a member of NAHA or AIA, committing to the disciplinary policies of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC), filing an application, taking and passing an examination, and paying all the associated fees. Likewise, registered aromatherapists must undertake at least 100 hours of continuing education every five years and pay a renewal fee every five years to maintain status as a registered aromatherapist.

What Skills are Needed to be an Aromatherapist?

Being an aromatherapist requires a mixture of personal traits, qualities, and hard and soft skills. Among some of the most important of these are the following:

  • Mixing essential oils – Understanding what oils to use to address their client’s ailments as well as how to mix various oils together to get the desired result is a hard skill all aromatherapists must have.
  • Attention to detail – Mixing essential oils requires a keen eye, a steady hand, and a commitment to understanding the appropriate dosages of each oil to get the desired effect.
  • Problem-solving skills – Aromatherapists should possess the ability to identify the problems their clients are experiencing and understand how they can help alleviate those problems.
  • Critical reasoning skills – Being able to think critically about each client’s ailment and devise potential treatments for their ailments is a must for workers in this field.
  • Effective communication skills – Aromatherapists must be able to communicate with a variety of clients and have a deep understanding of how to read non-verbal cues as well.
  • Trustworthiness – It is incumbent upon aromatherapists to have the skills needed to build a trusting professional relationship with each client they serve.
  • Record-keeping skills – Workers in this field are required to keep detailed and accurate records about their clients and their clients’ ailments and treatments.
  • Understanding of aromatherapy theory – Aromatherapists should have the ability to examine best practices in aromatherapy and be able to apply different theories of practice to best serve the needs of their clients.
  • Treatment planning – Every client will have different needs, and as such, aromatherapists must possess the skills required to devise successful treatment plans for each client.

Where Does an Aromatherapist Work?

In many cases, aromatherapists are self-employed and work in their own office space. This allows workers in this field to operate on their own terms, offering the specific products and services that they prefer and working hours that fit into their specific schedule. Many self-employed aromatherapists will even offer at-home services for their clients.

Other aromatherapists work in health clubs or spas, where they offer their services as part of a larger scope of services. For example, a member of the club or spa might seek out aromatherapy, massage therapy, have a pedicure and manicure, and so forth. Less commonly, you’ll find aromatherapists in health clinics or perhaps even doctor’s offices to supplement medical services with alternative health solutions.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being an Aromatherapist?

Being an aromatherapist can be a highly rewarding career with many advantages. These include:

  • Helping others – In many cases, people that seek out aromatherapy services are suffering from one (or more) physical ailments that can be mitigated with the healing powers of plants. Helping other people to feel better and function better is highly rewarding.
  • Promoting psychological well-being – Not only can aromatherapy help ease the effects of physical ailments, but it can also help clients with psychological troubles, like anxiety and depression. Again, helping other people live healthier, happier lives is a huge benefit of working in this field.
  • Excellent employment opportunities – Aromatherapists can work in any number of locations, from self-employment to natural health clinics. That being the case, there are often plenty of aromatherapy positions open.
  • Flexible schedule – Working as an aromatherapist – especially a self-employed one – means that you can work hours that suit your lifestyle the best.
  • Great side income – If you’re looking for a part-time job or need to supplement your primary income, working as an aromatherapist is a great way to earn more money.
  • Low educational requirements – Working as an aromatherapist often requires little more than a high school diploma and completion of a certification course. That means you can begin working in as little as a few months.

Though there are many benefits associated with working as an aromatherapist, there are a few cons of which to be aware:

  • Low wage ceiling – Though some aromatherapists earn an excellent living, for the most part, the average wages earned in this line of work are fairly low.
  • Bias against natural health solutions – Though natural health solutions have become much more popular and accepted in the Western world, there still remains much skepticism about the efficacy of aromatherapy.
  • Competition for clients – In some areas, competition for clients is fierce. Even though it might be relatively easy to become an aromatherapist, getting the clients needed to make a good living can be difficult.

How Much Does an Aromatherapist Make?

According to a 2018 analysis by PayScale, the average hourly wage earned by an aromatherapist is just $13.48 per hour. Though this is significantly higher than the minimum wage in most cities and states, it is still on the lower end of hourly wages for professional occupations.

When parceled out for the year, workers in this field earn an average annual wage of around $35,360. Again, this is a respectable wage, but far less than what many other alternative health practitioners make in a year. Granted, there is very wide income potential for aromatherapists, with those that are self-employed and working in a large, urban area more likely to make more money per hour and per year.

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