Wellbeing. Work–life balance. Holistic health. These aren’t just buzzwords anymore but are now the mantras for many people, from corporate high flyers to students, mums and natural therapists. And it seems that the faster technology and the pace of life seem to get, the greater the interest in an approach that encourages overall wellbeing on all levels.
These days, everyone seems to be turning to natural therapies. The number of people visiting a complementary health professional increased by 51 per cent in the ten years to 2005, and that proportion is continuing to grow all the time.
The rise in popularity of natural therapies in recent years is testament to the fact that increasing numbers of people are seeking a more natural approach to health – one that incorporates exercise, a healthy diet, natural therapies, emotional balance and sound environmental practices. It’s all about putting together the pieces to the puzzle that makes up ‘wellbeing’.
With these changes in attitude and lifestyles comes unprecedented demand for qualified professionals. ‘Career opportunities abound in the natural therapy professions in Australia. There have never been the opportunities that currently exist for professionally trained healthcare professionals,’ says Maggie Sands from the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS).
The number of people working as complementary health professionals nearly doubled in the ten years to 2006, from 4800 to 8600. Paula Nutting, a remedial massage therapist, has certainly seen a surge in demand in her line of work.
‘In the health industry, massage and day spas are booming. People are much more attuned to complementary therapy now than they were 15 years ago. People don’t necessarily go to their local GP as their first line of preventative medicine – they often choose naturopaths, osteopaths, chiropractors, homeopaths and massage therapists first,’ says Nutting.
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The natural therapies industry is a great option for people who want to work in a field that promotes health and balance not just for clients, but also practitioners. Natural therapists can work for themselves and enjoy great flexibility, setting their own hours and choosing their clients. Many complementary health therapists work part time, allowing them to work around other commitments and enjoy a greater work–life balance.
Paula Nutting loves the flexibility and healthier lifestyle which she now enjoys after years as a burnt-out registered nurse. ‘It’s great. I choose what hours I work. In a busy week I would see about 30 patients, which is about 30 hours. I go to the gym a couple of days a week and I make sure I fit in at least a game of golf a week. I juggle my patients and clients around my life.’
Jenny Blondel, a naturopath, also loves her work and the variety that comes with it. ‘The beauty of it is that I can work in an established practice one day, be in the city in the corporate sector the next, and then I can work from home, where I have time to work on my website and on writing my e-books. It makes me feel that I have a very healthy work–life balance and that I manage my time very effectively – being a naturopath, I have to really practise what I preach!’
Naturopath Lenka Vysokai also finds her work as a naturopath at a pharmacy incredibly rewarding. ‘Helping people every day, sometimes on the most basic level, is worthwhile. I love everything about it, my working environment, patients I get to see every day and the diversity of problems people come in with. It’s never dull.’
Practitioners can opt to join a team in a clinic or work in a health food store or pharmacy, enjoying the benefits of a ready-made clientele and rooms, as well as herbal or homeopathic dispensaries.
There are also increasing opportunities within the corporate world. Jenny Blondel provides naturopathic services to corporate clients when she is not working in her clinic. ‘I do some corporate health work where I go into companies in Sydney and provide naturopathic consultations. Usually I use the company boardroom as a consultation room and patients come to see me for advice. I also offer wellness assessments in the corporate sector, which are 15-minute mini-health assessments.’
Many corporate offices also offer their employees massages, often at their workstations and without the need for massage tables and oils. It’s a great perk for employees and presents a fantastic new opportunity for massage practitioners. These sorts of therapies are coming to be seen less as indulgences, and more as necessities for health and wellbeing.
‘Employers understand that a happy employee is a productive employee. Mobile massage teams can help employees relieve stress, reduce anxiety and improve concentration. The benefit to the business is a more positive workforce, which can lead to improved retention and reduced absenteeism,’ says Janet Olliver, head of college at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies (ACNT).
‘The college has seen an increase in students mixing and matching courses such as manual therapies and fitness, to expand job prospects in the health and wellness sector,’ she says.
Opportunities for work have also opened up in hotels and resorts. Australian qualifications are well respected overseas, so you could take your qualification abroad and work as you see the world.
Many people are interested in natural therapies simply because they’re fun and fascinating and offer a way of gaining greater control over their own health through natural means – such as a better diet, herbal remedies or aromatherapy. ‘I was always interested in food as a medicine (thanks to my healthy upbringing and my family) so I started studying nutrition and after that went on to study naturopathy and homeopathy,’ says Lenka Vysokai.
Naturopath Kirsty Lander has also gained tremendous personal benefit from studying natural therapies. ‘My diet and lifestyle have changed radically since I studied. The difference in how I feel in my everyday wellbeing is immense,’ says Lander.
Massage is another area of interest to many – because who doesn’t love a good massage? Giving a massage can be almost as good as receiving, and it’s a handy tool to have up your sleeve.
Paula Nutting first took her massage course just for fun, and loved it so much that she is now a full-time massage therapist. ‘A friend asked if I wanted to do a massage course with her. I haven’t looked back since! I wake up every morning very happy that I’m a remedial massage therapist.’
There are a multitude of natural therapies courses to help you get started – everything from naturopathy to nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, massage and aromatherapy. The course you choose will depend on your interests and whether you are doing it for personal interest or professional qualification.
To practise as a natural therapist and register with a professional body, you will need professional training. Massage therapists usually require a minimum of a Certificate IV in massage (remedial or Swedish), while naturopaths, herbalists and other therapists usually require a diploma or advanced diploma from a nationally and government-recognised education provider in order to gain accreditation with industry associations such as the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) or Australian Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT).
Naturopath Vysokai has seen a proliferation of natural therapies courses in recent years. ‘There are more short courses, seminars and workshops to attend, and there’s always room for improvement, which means you never stop learning.’
Interested in massage, naturopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, nutrition, aromatherapy, shiatsu, acupuncture, reflexology or kinesiology? See a range of courses that could kick-start your natural therapies career.