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Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils from plants to treat conditions such as stress. Aromatherapy practitioners may be healthcare professionals who take additional training in aromatherapy -- such as doctors, nurses or massage therapists -- or individuals who have no formal training except in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy certificate programs, available at colleges, aromatherapy schools and from online sources, range from 30-hour programs to programs of 400 hours or more.
Aromatherapy programs typically cover basic topics such as botany; knowledge of various systems in the body, such as the nervous, digestive and respiratory systems; chemistry related to the use of essential oils; and how to develop and maintain therapeutic relationships with clients. Students are taught how to use essential oils alone or in blends, and how to use carrier oils for dilution purposes to prevent skin irritation. Most programs also cover business skills, ethics, confidentiality and marketing.
Categories of Schools
The Alliance of International Aromatherapists, or AIA, notes that aromatherapy schools fall into one of three categories. All offer certificates rather than diplomas or degrees. Foundation-level schools provide a minimum of 100 hours of training. Professional-level schools must provide at least 200 hours of training, and clinical-level training must be at least 400 hours long. In addition, some schools and private practitioners offer short-term certificate courses in aromatherapy that may last from from 30 to 40 hours.
More advanced programs cover other topics or go into much more depth on basic topics. For example, a foundation program may cover at least three blending theories, while a professional-level program covers more theories and the holistic – or whole body -- effect of blends. Clinical-level programs teach students how to modify blends for certain purposes based on the latest clinical research.
Because aromatherapy practice is neither licensed nor regulated, it can be difficult to determine what certificate program to choose. Programs recognized by the AIA offer a standardized curriculum, and some AIA-recognized programs offer more than the minimum. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, or NAHA, has standards for foundation and professional programs, although they differ from those of the AIA. For example, the AIA requires a foundation program to present 100 or more hours of education, while the NAHA requires only 30 hours. Careful research should help you choose the best program for your circumstances.
Aromatherapy Certification Examination
If you have completed either a professional or clinical aromatherapy course, you are eligible to take the Aromatherapy Registration Council certification examination. ARC requires at least 200 hours of aromatherapy education in a program approved by either the AIA or NAHA. You must provide copies of your transcripts with your application. Testing is completed online at a Professional Testing Corporation facility. The examination fee is $325. You should receive your results about six weeks after the examination.
- National Cancer Institute: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®)
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy Education
- Alliance of International Aromatherapists: School Recognition Program
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: Exploring Aromatherapy
- Professional Testing Corporation: ARC ™ Registration Examination in Aromatherapy
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