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The working life of a complementary therapist

Author: Pat Hunter
29 September 2017

Pat Hunter is the complementary therapy lead at Willow Wood Hospice in Ashton-under-Lyne. Here she explains why she feels privileged to be in this line of work.

My background is in nursing, but in the 1990s I took the opportunity to do a reflexology course at my place of work and soon became fascinated about how it could help relaxation, sleep and the feeling of wellbeing. I later went on to qualify in other complementary therapies to extend the range of treatments that I could use, and now I lead a team of volunteer therapists giving treatments to both patients and their carers in the hospice.


Here at Willow Wood we use massage, gentle and rhythmical touch using cream or oil, aromatherapy using essential oils blended for massage, reflexology which is gentle pressure to the feet or hands to enhance relaxation, and reiki, the use of light touch to achieve relaxation and balance.

A typical day begins with meeting the other day services staff to plan for the day ahead. I check the therapy rooms and get out notes for myself and my colleagues. I then attend the hospice admission meeting to find out whether any of the inpatients or their carers would benefit from treatments.

In day services, all new patients have had an assessment with their key worker and have been referred to our team for difficulty in relaxing, relief of anxiety or a need for time for themselves. Each therapist can modify the treatment to suit the patient’s individual needs, whether that be the duration of the treatment or how it is to be delivered, for instance in a chair or on the therapy bed.

Although not all therapies may be appropriate for all patients, we give the patient choice about which treatments they might like to have, and there then follows a course of four appointments arranged on a weekly basis. In addition, my colleagues may have identified carers in need of treatment to give them an opportunity to relax also.

 Whichever therapy the patient has it is complementary to any other treatment that they may be having and the main aim is for relaxation . We often find that people return to us saying that they have been sleeping better, that they feel less pain because they are more relaxed or that they just feel better in themselves. Many people find the treatments have a cumulative effect and I have often had people say after attending for a couple of weeks, “Pat, I know I am going to sleep better tonight.”

Our service extends to our inpatient unit where we will see either patients or their carers. We are able to adapt treatments for patients who are bedbound or in recliner chairs often using very gentle massage or reiki. We can see carers either in our own therapy rooms or, if they would prefer, in the patient’s room if they do not wish to leave their loved one.

It is an immense privilege to work with these therapies and to see an anxious and stressed person come in to see you, and after a treatment open their eyes and say, "that was wonderful!”

For more information visit Willow Wood Hospice

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