Notes from the 2011 AIA Conference

Oct 13, 05:57 PM

Although I returned from the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) conference a week ago, I  haven't had time to write down my thoughts, since I've been playing catch-up (the perpetual curse of the self-employed). Now that I can take a breather, I've got to say... the breadth and caliber of speakers at a conference of this size was extraordinary!

We convened in Minneapolis, a veritable hotbed of CAM therapies and integrative medicine. Many of my fellow attendees were nurses from the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. The gods were smiling upon us, because Minneapolis was enjoying an unusually long and balmy Indian summer.

I arrived a day early for a pre-conference workshop given by Rhiannon Harris on using aromatics for preserving skin integrity. Rhiannon is not only a nurse, but a respected aromatherapy researcher and editor of the International Journal of Aromatherapy. A seasoned educator, she managed to cover aromatherapy interventions for almost every imaginable skin condition, from contact dermatitis to fungating ulcers. As part of the regular conference, Rhiannon spoke on palliative and cancer care. Finally, I have met someone who has a successful protocol for working with chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy. Thank you, Rhiannon, for sharing your expertise so generously!

The first day of the conference was devoted primarily to integrating aromatherapy within traditional healthcare models. Dr. Mary Jo Krietzer of the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing spoke of the interest in going mainstream with CAM therapies, even down to incorporating greenspace and evidence-based architecture into the hospital environment. Linda Halcon, RN and Pam Conrad, RN, both gave very detailed presentations on research projects conducted within their respective facilities. Both women were adamant about sharing their successes and failures in designing and implementing clinical studies, a huge help to those who are struggling to get their aromatic research projects funded and off the ground. Dr. Jane Buckle gave a synopsis of unpublished studies by her students, which included everything from MRSA control to easing the phlebotomy process via topical application of essential oils.

At the 2011 annual meeting, Shirley Price was honored with AIA's lifetime achievement award. Many of Shirley's students from years past were in attendance, thrilled to see her accept the award live via Skype connection. Shortly thereafter, much to my surprise and delight, I received an award as AIA's "most valuable volunteer."

The next day began with a delightful presentation by herbalist/author Mindy Green on using essential oils in kinesiology and chakra balancing. Mindy's presentations are usually of the hardcore herbal research genre, and her ease with the more metaphysical aspects of aromatherapy was reflected in the excitement of the audience. During lunch, participants were treated to a bonus lecture on Australian essential oils by the straight-talking and über-knowledgable Bill McGilvray. The entire afternoon was given to Raphael d'Angelo, MD, whose lecture was the hands-down favorite of many conference-goers. I really don't know how to explain Raphael's tour-de-force presentation, other than to say that he somehow managed to cover alternative interventions for virtually every illness known to man in every organ system of the human body. And he did so with aplomb, in a mere 3 hours.

Our last day began with hints and tips on developing an engaging aromachemistry curriculum, by chemist Howard Freund (sans partner Debbie Freund, RN, who had a last minute collision with the flu and remained homebound). I presented on the European concept of terrain and covered holistic blending for body/mind/spirit via archetypal profiles of vetivert, cypress and frankincense, using case studies from my practice. Kris Wrede followed with some more case studies, all of them specific to plastic surgery and healing of surgical incisions and scars. AIA's resident financial whiz, CPA Bev Day, gave us valuable input on record keeping, as well as preferred legal and tax structures for small business. The conference ended with Sharon Tessier's examination of self-actualization through the vehicles of aromatherapy and art therapy.

Jane Buckle gave a post-conference intensive on "M" Technique, her proprietary form of healing touch. I was unable to attend but understand that it was very well received.

While at the conference, attendees were able to shop for essential oils, aromatherapy supplies, educational materials, natural perfumes and other delights in a small but high quality exhibitor's hall. Each morning, we had the opportunity to start the day with an hour of kundalini yoga by Nancy Graves, who skillfully wove aromatherapy into her stretching and meditation routines.

Needless to say, the 5 day event concluded with everyone exhausted and happy, their heads overstuffed with invaluable information. I'm still downloading, but already looking forward to the next conference.


  1. Great overview of the conference Kath. Thank you!

    Lora Cantele · Oct 24, 09:12 PM · #

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