Degrees of interest in complementary therapyJason Firmager
Rosemary Pharo approaches the controversial subject of training, and while this article was published in HTM print in issue 6, it is something that is as relevant now as it was then, and so worth a read… Remember if you would like to get your hands on any HTM back issues – just CLICK HERE.
How do you create excellent complementary health practitioners? Are you worried about the kind of pressures that may be exerted on practitioners in the future over what type of courses to take? Or are you concerned about the diversity in standards of training?
A few years ago, an educational consultant stated in a review process that I was involved in, that they believed that all complementary therapists should be educated to degree level. This sent up red flags for a number of reasons: firstly the idea that a degree by itself; an academic, intellectual, training would somehow produce superior Reiki practitioners is really quite laughable. An apprenticeship model, as in an old fashioned guild – yes! A craft that is learnt and honed – yes! Writing a paper on, for example, how to scan a client will not actually prove in any way that you can do it, or, most importantly that you have done sufficient work on self-development; an absolutely crucial ingredient for many therapies.
For many excellent hands-on practitioners, whose skills have been honed over years of practice, the idea of academic study may bring up bad experiences of school or college. Ex-nurses are sometimes the most vehement opponents of medicalisation. Of course, degree courses are standard for certain therapies: osteopathy and acupuncture for instance, where a medical-standard training in anatomy and physiology amongst others is required.
However, foundation degrees are also springing up in ‘complementary therapies’, in general covering a number of subjects, for example, at Reaseheath College you have been able to take Reiki as part of a foundation degree in a Equine Science degree for a number of years now. But with fees running at six thousand pounds or so, per year for many of these courses, in what is generally a part-time profession with key users such as hospices relying on volunteer therapists, exactly how viable is this?
And yet there is no doubt that training standards in how to run a practice and client handling skills have, in the past, been taught superficially or not at all, in some areas. This has been remedied in Reiki, by the presence of the Reiki Council’s Core Curriculum and more teachers are adjusting courses and material for people who wish to practise professionally.
Is a degree, then, just another of those ‘passports to work?’
At a CamExpo lecture, last autumn (from the time of writing this), Paul Medlicott of the Sports Massage Association, pointed out that during their degree-level training, physiotherapists may have done very little massage training in their courses, and yet will be covered for massage by insurance companies, whereas massage therapists whose training is hands-on massage, who may far exceed graduate physiotherapists, would find it much harder to have an insurance company pay out for their greater experience.
However, in the last few years some of the best known degree courses in complementary therapy, e.g. at Westminster University have closed down, ostensibly due to lack of students, but also due to pressures from ‘scientists’ who rage about ‘nonsense’ subjects. Steeped in their materialist worldview, there has been a sustained campaign against CAM. And yet, if they wish to use a little bit more of their grey matter, they could do worse than consider the reasoned arguments put forward by M Franks, using logical arguments and physics breakthroughs in his 2003 book “The Universe and Multiple Reality”.
The joke is that while materialists may lambast complementary therapy for not being ‘evidence-based’, one of their chief chorus masters, Ben Goldacre, brilliantly outlines exactly how what constitutes everyday evidence-based medicine where drugs are concerned is, in fact, very often not evidence-based medicine, but rather marketing-based evidence. Poor trials, with unflattering data left languishing unpublished, major academic journals that may piously refuse to publish research on complementary and alternative matters, apparently bankrolled by drug companies by agreements to, for example, pay for two thousand reprints of specific research articles. And academics – possibly the people training graduates in degree courses – are putting their names to articles, mainly written by commercial writers employed by the sponsoring company. Oh, and the doctors who may well pooh-pooh complementary treatments may almost certainly be having their Continual Professional Development (CPD) paid for by drug companies.
Well really, that’s exactly the kind of things the complementary therapy industry can do without. While Chinese Herbal Medicine, with a 2,500 year unbroken tried and tested tradition of use is said to be “unproven”. Unproven? Or, unacceptable?
If we are all paying twenty-five percent more for drugs than is necessary (according to Ben Goldacre), then is it not time to put pressure on the Department of Health to squeeze a little of the money that is spent in prescribing over-priced versions of drugs into good quality research for lower-cost complementary treatments? Massage is one of, if not, the most popular therapies in the UK. The gold standard research body, The Cochrane Review, notes that massage may be beneficial for low-back pain. Cochrane also notes that concerning touch therapies for pain relief “studies with greater effects are carried out by highly experienced Reiki practitioners”.
In this economic climate, training needs to be accessible, not exclusively for those with deep pockets! And good quality research needs to be financed by a department of health that’s looking for evidence that could save it money.
The Universe and Multiple Reality. M Franks, 2003, Iuniverse
Bad Pharma, Ben Goldacre, 2012, Fourth Estate
Sacred Science DVD dir. Nick Polizzi, 2012 thesacredscience.com