My current series of interviews with professional aromatherapists are focusing on Australian aromatherapists and, following my interview with Wendy Norman of Blossom Aromatherapy, I was contacted by fellow Australian aromatherapist Maria Mitchell who had an interesting story to tell! Maria Mitchell was one of the first people to graduate as an Aromatic Medicine Practitioner, a term that may be familiar to British and European aromatherapists, but not so familiar to American trained aromatherapists. In addition, Maria has just written an extremely comprehensive reference book for Aromatic Pracititioners, a source that will probably become invaluable to the serious aromatherapist and practitioner. Read this interview with Maria Mitchell to learn more!
AN: First of all, thank you Maria for taking the time to answer some questions about aromatherapy. Can you tell us how you first got interested in essential oils and aromatherapy.
MM: Thank you for including me Sharon. I can’t remember exactly when I became interested. It feels like the appreciation of the essential oils was always in me, and then one day I was studying aromatherapy and not even conscious of when the decision was made to do so! I just followed my passion and here I am.
AN: Tell us a little bit about your business, where you are based and what services you offer.
MM: I treat patients with herbal and aromatic medicine, which means using aromatherapy in all the usual ways and also in combination with herbal medicine. Depending on the presenting symptoms, I may prescribe a perfume, cream, oil blend, herbal mix, or an aromatic blend of herbs and oils, along with nutritional advice and supplements, then the remedies get charged up with good energy using the healing techniques I have learnt.
At heart I am not only an aromatherapist but also a teacher. I offer short courses in aromatherapy, and some of my week is spent teaching aromatherapy students at a college here in Sydney (Australia). In 2012 I am planning to take a tour group to India to see Kannauj where the beautiful attars are made. I love learning, and teaching gives me such a great opportunity to learn, so expect more short courses and books in the future.
AN: I understand that you were one of the first people in Australia to graduate with as an Aromatic Medicine Practitioner; can you explain how this is different to general aromatherapy practice?
MM: Basic difference is that I am trained in the ingestion of essential oils.
The courses here in Australia are structured such that a certificate and diploma in aromatherapy must be completed before entering the advanced diploma of Aromatic Medicine. I have worked many years as an Aromatherapist before completing my studies in Aromatic Medicine along with an advanced diploma in Western Herbal Medicine. Herbalists and Naturopaths can legally prescribe ingestion of oils in Australia, unfortunately not many of them learn about essential oils. The Aromatic Medicine qualification allows for prescribing essential oils and actually covers how to do that safely. For me there is an overlap with the studies in Herbal Medicine as we source from many of the same plants, use teas as part of our prescription, and some of the same external applications. So it is difficult to distinguish when I am being strictly a herbalist or strictly an aromatherapist – bridging this gap is to me aromatic medicine.
I now choose not to do aromatherapy massage as part of my practice as I want to focus on all that the oils can do, and quite happy to refer my clients to another practitioner for the massage. Having come from working as a spiritual healer to now being a practicing herbalist, I just love the fact that the essential oils could make that complete journey with me. I love that they work vibrationally and chemically – talk about wholistic!
AN: You are also writing a reference book for Aromatic Practitioners. What is the book about and when (and where) can we purchase it? (and do you ship to the United States for me!) 🙂
MM: Yes I can ship to the US, ‘The Aromatic Practitioners Reference’ will be published in July this year, and you can buy now at the special pre publication price and it will be shipped to you when it has been printed.
The book is one I wanted to have when studying, but wasn’t available, so I decided to write it. It is designed as a in-clinic reference for practitioners. You know when you can’t quite remember if an oil has a particular property you want, or you need to check the precautions but don’t want to flip through pages and pages on how to do aromatherapy to find what you want? Or your mind goes blank on how to calculate the dose you need to make up a home remedy? Or need just a starting point for blending, a formulation you can adjust to suit your client because it’s a condition you don’t treat often so can quite remember the sort of dose to use? Hopefully my book will answer all these questions for you quickly and concisely. I am getting rather impatient to have the finished copy when I am in clinic seeing clients, so working on it frantically. The link to buy the book is:
AN: You are vice president of the International Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine Association in Australia; why is this organization important to the credibility of the aromatherapy industry as a whole?
IAAMA is the only professional body in Australia dedicated to aromatherapy, so all we do, journals, conferences, meetings etc centre around aromatherapy and it professional practice. Other professional associations accept aromatherapy but are not dedicated to it as we are at IAAMA. We support practitioners in their work, we set standards for aromatherapy practice, we provide a forum for teachers of aromatherapy to improve the training. Without IAAMA’s focus, it is possible for aromatherapists to be listed as just another type of massage therapist, and with all due respect to massage, we are so much more than that.
AN: How does the health profession in Australia regard/accept the practice of aromatherapy?
MM: Aromatherapy is well accepted as a relaxing massage, amongst both health professionals and the general public alike. There needs to be more research and education for aromatherapy to be better accepted for all that it can do.
AN: Do you have any other advice for those considering a career in aromatherapy?
MM: Get used to people telling you that you smell….in a good way 🙂
But seriously, I advise anyone to follow their passion, a career is hopefully something you do for a long time, so there has to be passion for it, that’s what will drive you and give you satisfaction. Can you live life any other way? For me it had to be aromatherapy, will it be for you?
AN: Finally, where can people go to learn more about you?
AN: Thank you once again Maria for such an enlightening and insightful insight into aromatic medicine practice in Australia! 🙂 Good luck with the publication of your new book – now, I’m off to order my copy – and who knows, once I’ve read it, I may just feature it in my series of aromatherapy book reviews 🙂
You can find the full list of interviews with professional aromatherapists here; next week, I will have another aromatherapy book review of a book that is not a “traditional” aromatherapy book – but one that I think is personally fascinating if you enjoy ancient history and plant medicine! 🙂