Sarah Collins Reiki, Massage & Natural Beauty Therapy

Woman-Centred Holistic Therapy

If you do an online search on 'woman-centred services' you will find a wide range of different articles defining what this means as well as websites offering services based on women's needs and those of their families. Across a range of public and private service providers there is an awareness that women's needs, life patterns and experiences need to be mindfully and sensitively addressed in order to achieve genuinely equal access to services which are appropriate for them. Click onWomen Centre for a really interesting and inspiring West Yorkshire project which puts women at the centre of their services in a conscious and sensitive way.

What does this mean for the holistic and beauty therapist? There has been an assumption in the past that our services were aimed at women and that they were the majority of our clients, but a Mintel report showed that in 2017 almost half of young men surveyed (47%) had a spa or salon treatment, including massage, facial or body hair removal. This suggests that a rethink in how therapists plan their practice, market and target their services is due. For many, opening the door to all clients is the right thing to do, others offer services focused directly on the male client and others look for ways to differentiate themselves and aim at a specific group of clients. This means you may offer a range of different services, but with targeted options that enable you to tailor creative and specialist treatments for your client group.

Holistic therapies offer a unique opportunity to create a woman-centred practice offering women a safe space to enjoy relaxing and life-enhancing treatments tailored to support them through all the stages of their lives. So what are these stages? Traditionally, pagans thought of women as maiden, then mother, then crone! Nowadays we need to think about the different patterns which are emerging in women's lives as more of us achieve academic success, demanding careers and grow our own businesses alongside family life. This will suggest treatments and packages we can offer to women. Examples might include:

  • Stress relieving, relaxing therapies for young students taking exams and looking for work
  • Balancing therapies for young women with issues such as period pain, acne and other hormone related challenges
  • Treatments to support women trying to conceive
  • Therapy sessions for pregnant and post-natal mums
  • Therapies for pre-menopausal and menopausal women to address skin care issues, lack of sleep, etc

    Therapists typically have a varied skill set, enabling them to offer woman-centred packages of treatments such as holistic aromatherapy facials alongside balancing reflexology treatments for acne (either as a young person or as a menopausal issue) pregnancy reflexology with pedicure treatments, maternity massage with Reiki for anxious mums to be - the possibilities are almost endless, when I think about how versatile so many of my colleagues out there are.

    Creating a woman-centred holistic practice is a way of making yourself stand out in the marketplace, and giving you a focus for your own professional development. It invites you to reach out to other woman-centred practitioners - pregnancy yoga teachers, nutritionists who specialise in pre-conception or menopause care, counsellors who focus on helping women with relationship issues. This builds a community of women who support women, bringing useful and safe services to those who need them and a satisfying way of working and growing your practice.

    In my own work, I have spent the last few years learning how to teach pregnancy yoga and offer holistic therapies such as reflexology and massage to pre-pregnant, pregnant and post-natal women. I have been going through the menopause and post-menopause myself, and have explored natural ways to stay healthy and happy through this life change. I have found that there resources for my age group are quite thin on the ground, and that solid information about the change of life is something you have to actively seek out.

    Yoga has been a big help, but my practice has slowed, evolved into a more reflective one based on cooling, calming and dealing with difficult emotional times such as the loss of my beloved mother. Teaching pregnancy yoga has made me reflect on how sensitive a woman's body is, and how it changes over the years with the work we ask it to do. Aromatherapy has been an important therapy for me, keeping my skin healthy and combating ageing and handling the hormonal and emotional changes I have been experiencing. Using essential oils for fertility and pregnancy is a fascinating and rewarding practice, but it requires reading and research as well as sensitivity to the feelings of the client and their individual requirements. Reflexology is a tool for all of life, with much to offer women at every one of the gateways of change - regular treatments are helpful, but I ask why we don't teach more self-help reflexology to our clients maybe using the hands as they are easy for most people to reach and work on?

    If you want to develop a woman-centred focus in your therapy work, I offer several courses that will help you on your way, including maternity reflexology, pregnancy massage and aromatherapy and ayurvedic massage. Beauty therapies can also be offered with a holistic focus - facial treatments, manicure and pedicure all include massage and can incorporate aromatherapy and ayurveda too.

    I invite you to do an online search, seek out what woman-centred services there are in your area, and think about how your skills might fit into any gaps you can see.

    There are many ways for a therapist to find their special niche, to specialise and build a rich and rewarding practice and this is just one of them. There are others to explore too!

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    Private Training Matters - 55.8% of therapists learn with private providers like me!

    Every therapist needs quality training to be able to deliver worthwhile treatments with the background knowledge, expertise and practice management skills they need. In the past, most therapists trained with FE Colleges offering QCF qualifications such as NVQ (SVQ in Scotland) and other courses considered to be the equivalent such as ITEC.

    These courses typically take up to a year, and they are aimed at the post-16 or post-18 student in need of their first professional training. Classes can be large, up to 20 in some colleges, and each student is vying for the teacher's supervision and help in a massage or facial treatments practical lesson. An important element became the requirement to carry out case study treatments and produce copious written notes on them for assessment. This was valuable when the treatments were done in college salons under the supervision of qualified therapy teaching staff, but nowadays most case studies are done outside college on friends and family. Students are also required to spend a lot of time developing basic key skills like literacy and numeracy, and they have to churn out lengthy assessed written assignments, rephrasing and restating the information about therapies they have found in text books, course notes and of course online.

    For many years FE courses were state-funded for most students, and many professional bodies would only accept therapists as members if they had taken these courses. Adult students accepted that there was little viable alternative to taking a 'college' course, and often embarked on an NVQ following redundancy or on returning to work after a career break. It was a big step to leave full-time paid jobs to go into full-time further education, and not possible for many people.

    Since I started teaching Reiki, holistic and natural beauty therapies over ten years ago, I have argued that a QCF course is not the ideal way to train for many adults with a good academic education alongside work and life experience. I have always offered one, two and three day courses alongside online theory learning for anatomy and physiology and other areas which can be covered by 'textbook' teaching. Courses are accredited and insured with professional bodies like The Beauty Guild which accept my methods of teaching and with reputable insurance brokers who recognise the value of my training courses. Other training providers have always worked the same way, and for many years I have worked with organisations including London Therapists and Face the World running original training in areas as diverse as Holistic Massage and Holistic Facial Treatments.

    Students over the years have come to recognise the value of our training courses! A recent survey by the UK's largest trade body, The Beauty Guild, indicates that 55.8% of therapists now hold private qualifications compared to 44.2% who have QCF training such as NVQs. It seems that all along I was in the swim along with other trainers working to deliver flexible, short, high quality courses aimed at the adult market. Private providers are free to supplement the basic National Occupational Standards requirements in their training and offer teaching in specialist areas such as Candle Massage, Japanese Hand Massage, Holistic Manicure and Pedicure and facials incorporating meridian massage. We can react to a changing market and adapt both our course content and our methods to new technologies and new treatments which are being introduced all the time!

    It is of course important to be confident that your trainer is going to teach you competently and that you will gain the skills you are looking for. Check that insurers will accept the course you are going to take for professional cover, and if the provider says that the course is accredited with a professional body look it up on their website or simply phone them. Ask the trainer whether they have undertaken teacher training and how many years they have been delivering courses. They may be expert therapists, but experience counts in any area of work, and not everyone can pass on their knowledge effectively.

    And me? I have been qualified as a teacher in adult education and teaching Reiki, holistic therapies and natural beauty with a heart-centred approach for more than a decade. Many of my courses are ones I have written myself, on the basis of knowledge and experience gained from my own work and a love of the therapies. I have lots of successful therapists in a number of different countries to show for it!

    Mindful Crafting

    Everyone claims to be promoting mindfulness these days! Crafting is fast becoming the popular way of achieving mindfulness. It involves beautiful materials, you have to focus on it, it's repetitive so calming and best of all you have something nice and usable or wearable to show for it.

    Reiki has got in on the act, and the triangle of Reiki, mindfulness and craft is a strong natural shape. Colleen Benelli has been running her Reiki Lifestyle project in the States for many years, and has an awe-inspiring website with some lovely ideas you can download and try for yourself. She has inspired me to look at and practise my crafts in a different way. From knitting wraps to keep client and healer warm, jewellery making to keep a memory safe, pouring beeswax candles (which you can use in your Reiki Burning Bowl ceremony), crafting goat milk soap made with loving intentions and journalling (including paper making and producing your own special book) there is a myriad of ideas to focus on Reiki and fashion useful and beautiful things with intention.

    It is all part of living with more thought, making our own things by hand, living slowly and savouring the things we do and own.

    Mindfulness is Reiki and Reiki is mindful, and it is good to explore as many ways to this quietness as we can. Come along to one of my Reiki Courses and experience this peace and calm for yourself, here in the heart of the Pennines.

    If you want to explore mindfulness through craft, then come and enjoy a half-day experience with me to learn to make something beautiful for you, alone or with a partner or friend. I offer half day courses to learn how to make a specific, special product to take home - a rose candle, a lavender balm, lemon soap. The details of all these experiences are on the Product Making for Beginners page.

    This is not a mad scramble to teach everything to everyone so that they can go and start a business or stack a craft stall! No, it is a quiet day spent learning how to craft a candle for a ritual, a balm to calm and soothe, a soap to cleanse and refresh you. It is a course for people who want to live with thought, do things slowly, experience the moment. And you go home with all the skills you need to make more of your special item, and information on the herbs, essential oils and oils and waxes you've used.

    If you want to do one of my half day craft courses, then email me to book a date to suit us both and then we arrange for payment. So simple, and I arrange everything personally to work for you. If you are coming from away, then I can offer information on local accommodation. Haworth is full of hotels, B&Bs and holiday lets at all price levels and we have fantastic restaurants and characterful pubs too! Not to mention heritage sites galore and beautiful scenery!

    You won't find my courses on booking websites and they are written by me so you won't find another tutor who does the same course. I work from my Haworth cottage and share my own knowledge and experience.

    I am a crystal healer too with a well-established Crystal Therapy course for beginners, and I am also planning some stunning half-day craft experiences to bring their energy into our daily lives, wardrobes and homes.

    Reflexology Socks!

    I've had a lot of consumer selling aimed at me lately, from trendy yoga leggings to reflexology socks and massaging devices with little wires like an egg beater. Now, I'm not going to buy any of this stuff but I enjoy hearing about it as it always gives me a good laugh because some of it is truly bizarre and the idea of actually picking it up and using it is hilarious.

    On a more serious note, I'd like to talk about those flip flops with spiky insoles which call themselves reflexology footwear, and reflexology socks which have little bobbles on the soles. No way of avoiding this, they are nothing whatsoever to do with reflexology! It astonishes me that their makers and marketers think for one moment that a professional therapist would want to sell them to clients or indeed put a pair on themselves. But why not? After all, don't the little bobbles and spikes stimulate the reflexes and isn't that just the same as having a reflexology session with me? By that token, isn't a barefoot walk on a pebbly beach or a gravel driveway just the same as treatment with a reflexologist?

    And here we are, straight into the world of the debunkers of reflexology. What is the difference?

    Intention is the point of a reflexology treatment. We are not poking at a client's foot at random and everywhere at the same time, and the aim of reflexology is not only to provide direct physical stimulus to the reflexes. It is to achieve an energetic connection between the therapist and the client, and to achieve balance within the layers of the client's own person - mind, body, soul.

    The reflexes are a map on the feet (and indeed hands and face) of the organs and tissues of the body. The reflexes reflect the energetic level of the client we are treating, and when we stimulate a reflex we bring the energies of that part of the person into balance to enable optimum function at all levels. By this I mean that we stimulate the lung reflex, for example, in order to aid respiration but also to help the client breathe easily at an emotional level and perhaps to clear emotions which may be held here. The therapist brings concentration on the treatment, focus on the client and compassion to the process, and this achieves a strong healing intention in the room. A successful reflexology treatment takes knowledge of the body, empathy, the ability to listen to the client's needs, and the technical ability to give good foot massage and effective and accurate stimulation to the reflexes.

    Laughing apart, those socks and sandals and egg-whisky things are trivialising a deeply helpful and indeed sacred process - the therapy session. I thought it needed saying, in order to maintain the integrity of our work and to assert its value.

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