Are you a health nut with a passion for helping others? Do you prefer natural treatments over prescription medication? Well perhaps you may be interested in a career in natural therapies.
Natural therapies encompass a broad range of disciplines, all of which aim to treat the physical and emotional wellbeing of clients without the use of conventional drugs or medication. While most operate outside the medical arena, there is a growing acceptance of natural therapies within the medical community, with many GPs working alongside natural therapists to offer an integrated approach.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, natural (or complementary) therapies have become increasingly popular in Australia over the last few decades, with the number of people consulting a natural therapist in a two week period increasing from 500,000 in 1995 to 750,000 in 2005. And the industry continues to grow. In fact, market research shows it is now a $4 billion industry in Australia, employing over 33,000 people and with an annual growth at 4.1% over the past five years.
While careers in natural therapies are broad and varied, here are a few of the more popular ones for you to consider.
Naturopathy is a holistic approach to wellness based on the principle that the body has the inherent ability to heal itself. It uses the healing power of nature as well as gentle therapeutic techniques such as: herbal medicine, dietary and nutritional advice, hydrotherapy, soft tissue manipulation and homoeopathy to treat clients as a whole person rather than just their illness. As well as a desire to help others, important traits of a naturopath include strong communication skills, empathy and the ability to motivate people, instil trust and build rapport.
Aromatherapy uses concentrated plants extracts called essential oils to promote psychological and physical well-being. After a detailed client history, the aromatherapist chooses the appropriate oil or blend of oils to address both physical symptoms and the perceived root cause. They then apply the oil to a range of techniques including massage, topical application, inhalation and water immersion. Aromatherapists can assist with a broad range of issues including depression and anxiety, pain management, muscle and joint pain relief, sleep promotion and skin conditions.
3. Nutritional Medicine
Calling all health-loving foodies! One of the cornerstones of holistic health, nutritional medicine looks at the role of food and nutrients in maintaining health, preventing disease and treating illness. As well addressing problems known to be related with diet such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and eating disorders, practitioners also provide dietary advice and nutritional supplements as “medicines” to help treat a broader range of health conditions.
4. Western Herbal Medicine
Western herbal medicine uses medicines made from plants to prevent and treat a range of illnesses. It is one of the oldest forms of medicine, based on herbal traditions dating back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Native Americans and the indigenous inhabitants of the British Isles. Western Herbal Medicine has a broad range of suggested uses including support for digestive, respiratory, circulatory, immune, endocrine, and nervous system processes.
5. Traditional Chinese Medicine
Dating back thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) encompasses a broad range of practices including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, dietary therapy and exercise and breathing techniques such as tai chi and qi gong. These practices all incorporate the underlying concept of qi or life energy, which in a healthy person flows through a network of invisible channels called meridians. However, according to TCM when these meridians become blocked, the body loses harmony, balance and order, which leads to illness and disease. An ancient practice that is continually evolving and increasingly respected across the globe, TCM can be a financially and spiritually satisfying career for those who are prepared to work hard at it.
Whatever discipline you choose, a career in natural therapies generally offers high job flexibility, allowing you to work from home, in a clinic, a day spa or as a corporate consultant. Additionally, due to the emphasis on overall wellbeing, natural therapists often enjoy the greater work-life balance recommended to their clients.