Counseling in the Age of Aromatherapy

Counsling and aromatherapy

Not too long ago, people reflexively associated the word “counselor” with two occupations: school guidance counselor and marriage counselor. They were typically mentioned in hushed, disapproving tones: “He had to be sent to the guidance counselor.” “They’re in counseling, you know.”

While a doctorate is a routine requirement for work as a licensed counseling or clinical psychologist, counselors can be licensed with a master’s degree. And in certain settings, such as substance abuse counseling or community health centers, a bachelor’s degree is often acceptable. All states have regulatory boards, licensing laws and training standards that have to be met by independent practitioners, and they vary. The American Association of State Counseling Boards (http://www.aascb.org) is a good resource for information on requirements.

Counselors are often regarded as a product of the second half of the 20th century, even though professional family services existed in the U.S. as early as the 1870s. But when you think about it, healers of the emotionally broken have been in business far longer than that. Every civilization has had its counselors and treatments, from high priestesses to witch doctors to clergymen, from therapeutic touch to talk circles and sweat lodges.

The employment outlook for counselors of all types is good. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos067.htm) predicts faster-than-average growth for this occupation through 2014 (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006 – 2007 Edition).

What caused the image change? The pace at which we move through life is much faster than it used to be. Stress levels and expectations are higher than they were forty or fifty years ago. Younger generations are more comfortable seeking professional assistance in dealing with problems that used to be sources of awkward conversation.

Different from psychologists and psychiatrists, who focus on treatment of severe emotional disorders, counselors help people resolve situational, “here and now” problems such as addiction, self-esteem issues, career changes, parenting and relationship crises. Continuing professional training requirements differ according to area of specialty, but all counselors employ similar approaches in working with their clients. These include, but are not limited to:

• Observations and interviews
• Evaluation of abilities, personality traits, interests and skills
• Identification of negative behaviors; development of strategies for prevention
• Implementation of behavior modification techniques

But there’s more.

Do a general search of counseling and therapy websites, and you may wonder if you’ve crossed a portal into another world. Here’s an example, from a real web page. The owner has a doctorate from a well-known institution and is state licensed. Additional certifications and competencies advertised include:

• Transformational Breath Facilitator
• Reiki Master Practitioner
• Advanced Master Shapeshifter
• Quantum Physics Thought Training
• Soul Retrieval

Suddenly, terms like “behavior modification” sound charmingly old-fashioned. Let’s decode a few of the credentials and treatment specialties now appearing with frequency on randomly chosen websites:

Aromatherapy

An alternative medicine using volatile liquid plant materials (known as essential oils) and scented plant compounds to alter mood or health. The word dates back to the 1920s, attributed to a French chemist who dedicated his life to studying the healing properties of plant oils. Practitioners believe these oils are distillations of plants’ life forces and promote well-being by clearing negative vibrations from the body’s energy field.

Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy

An interactive hypnosis relating a person’s present to his or her past experiences through “emotional bridging.” Heart-centered hypnotherapy traces negative behavioral patterns back to their origins – even pre-birth. The goal is to teach the conscious mind to change negatives and replace them with good habits and self-acceptance. Practitioners believe the process releases energy once tied up in the repression of bad memories.

Quantum Physics Thought Training

Personal empowerment training based on principles of quantum physics:

• Physical reality can be reshaped. We can create what we want from life.
• Particles of light and matter behave differently when humans observe them. The mind, using holographs made from light and sound waves, can create a physical universe.
• Energy follows thought. Thought underlies power; focused thought is focused power. We can be trained to use the mind’s power to create the reality we want.
• The inner world is the blueprint for reality. Physical matter is attracted to this design. If we create an inner world that attracts positive outcomes, then positive outcomes result.

Reiki

Depending on the source material consulted, a 19th or 20th century Japanese or 2,500-year-old Tibetan healing technique, applicable to both physical and emotional well-being. Practitioners use “laying of hands” as the delivery system for transfer of energy and believe that reiki (“universal life force”) can relieve pain and boost the immune system. Physical manifestations of pain are thought to be linked to emotional and mental states.

Shamanism, Shape Shifting and Soul Retrieval

Linked, spirituality-based healing practices whose focus is the mind/body connection. The word “shaman” in the original Siberian language refers to a person who makes journeys to alternate realities in an altered state of consciousness. Practitioners believe shamanism underlies all other spiritual traditions on earth.

These “New Age” treatments evoke strong reactions from mental health professionals whose training is evidence-based science – from skepticism to open dismissiveness. But one truth remains. No matter where you stand on the subject, as long as human beings look to other human beings for advice on solving problems, there will be jobs for counselors.