Aromatherapy Clients: Full Disclosure is a Necessity!

Jan 30, 08:09 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

As a practicing aromatherapist, I refuse to do phone or e-mail consultations, although I get many requests for them. I feel that a consultation with an unknown and unseen individual, who is often willing to disclose only minimal information, is a recipe for disaster. It's also unethical and unprofessional.

It's hard enough getting someone to give you a health history in person. In my experience, clients are often loathe to disclose personal information (despite my persistent requests and detailed explanations for the necessity) because they can't possibly understand why an aromatherapist or bodyworker would need to know about any of their current health conditions, previous surgeries, or any medications being taken. A client will often omit (or deny) taking a commonly prescribed medication such as an SSRI because of shame, embarrassment, or concern that I might "judge" them. It's not my position to judge, but it is my responsibility to provide them with proper care based upon the information they disclose. Which is confidential, by the way, just as it is between any client and any health care worker.

A perfect example of the necessity for full disclosure occurred this evening. My longtime client, George*, arrived for his appointment in obvious discomfort. George is a top executive at a major company infamous for its pressure cooker work environment. He has uncontrollable HBP (with medication) and a family history of cardiac problems. He originally came to me for help with his persistent migraine headaches, which we have been able to successfully control for several years... until recently.

George arrived at my doorstep short of breath and clutching his chest."I have a really bad headache, " he gasped, thrusting a small box at me, "And my doctor just started me on this new migraine medicine. I took it about 20 minutes ago and my chest is really tight."

I opened the box and quickly scanned through the drug literature. Tightness and pressure in the chest was listed as a common side effect, and George's doctor had not warned him about this. Fortunately, the pressure subsided in a few minutes, as did his headache. We were both relieved to know he was not having a heart attack, but I encouraged him to notify his physician of this incident.

I continued to read the warning label, and a red flag jumped out at me. "Do not use this medication if you are on SSRI, SNRI medications, or any seratonergic drugs." I often use lavender, sweet marjoram or Roman chamomile on George for their sedative and/or hypotensive effects. He had been diffusing lavender in his office today. These EO's raise serotonin levels and had the potential to markedly alter the effect of his migraine medication, a triptan known to sometimes cause "serotonin syndrome." This potentially fatal excess serotonin condition involves muscle spasms, spikes in blood pressure, tremors, mental confusion and a host of other frightening symptoms. He did very well with the frankincense, petitgrain and grapefruit blend I chose for today's session instead. We concentrated on craniosacral therapy, a non-invasive modality that would not overstimulate his upper body circulation and raise his blood pressure.

George was the perfect client: smart enough to disclose a change in his medication which might cause problems with our session. Both he and I are very grateful that he did so this evening. I was able to make adjustments to his usual oils and overall session to avoid possible complications.

Do your aromatherapist a favor. Keep them informed of changes in your health, and they can keep your best interests at heart. Better safe than sorry.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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