“What is the role of the complementary therapist today?” Jan de Vries and camexpo 2011

On 23rd October at Earls Court I had my first experience of camexpo, the UK’s only event dedicated to the complementary, natural and integrated healthcare sector. Camexpo 2011 highlighted the diversity in the field of complementary therapies. The show attracted 5333 attendees over the weekend and it was encouraging to see the sector thriving.

As well as exhibiting products, courses and professional services, camexpo 2011 was an educational event. Workshops and seminars provided opportunities for continuing professional development and plenty of food for thought. I attended a seminar with multi-disciplinary therapist Jan de Vries, who considered the question “What is the role of the complementary therapist today?”

Jan de Vries has worked in the field of complementary therapies for fifty years and has ten multi-disciplinary clinics in the UK. His Dutch accent is still pronounced after decades in the UK, but what came across most strongly as he spoke was his genuine pride in the NHS. The NHS, he said, is still the best healthcare system in the world. He suggested that it is by responding to the limitations of orthodox medicine, or “gaps” in the system, that the complementary therapist can help the patient.

Jan de Vries began by emphasising how important nutrition is for health. He stated, giving examples from his clinical cases, that a nutritional deficiency or allergy can produce symptoms that can lead to medical misdiagnosis. (If you would like advice on nutrition as the foundation for great health then see the link to Hypnotherapist, Coach and Wellness Practitioner Tricia Woolfrey’s website at the end of this blog.)

Jan de Vries expanded on the idea of “gaps” between orthodox medicine and complementary therapies. He stated that while orthodox medicine sees the patient’s symptoms on the physical level alone, the complementary therapist considers three bodies, or three levels – mind, body and spirit.

I would agree with Jan de Vries that seeing physical symptoms in isolation leaves part of the story unread. I also agree that a commitment to understanding the whole story is one of the strengths of the complementary therapist. In Shiatsu the practitioner remains sensitive to the way body, mind and emotions interact. However, it is often the single-minded study of physical minutiae that makes orthodox medicine so effective and has made the NHS what it is today.

I think that Jan de Vries’ mention of “three bodies” is open to misinterpretation. I have come to view the phrase “mind, body, spirit” as over-used and under-explained. Talk of the spirit is especially misleading. While it is important for complementary therapists to realise that a person’s spirituality is part of their life, the client’s faith is their own. Some clients may wish to talk about their spiritual outlook and experiences while others would rather not, so sensitivity and receptivity is key.

When the terms used within our field seem fuzzy they do not reflect the expertise and client-centred care provided by trained practitioners every day. An effective dialogue needs to be established between complementary therapists and medical professionals. Clear communication and mutual understanding will help us reach our shared goal of a healthier UK.

Jan de Vries also spoke about defending freedom of choice for the public, and how many herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies are no longer in circulation. The effects of hands-on treatments, however, are gradually gaining more recognition.

I’ve spoken to people who have benefited from complementary therapies like Shiatsu, Reflexology and massage in hospital. They are often used to help minimise the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy while reducing stress, improving the patient’s physical condition and their state of mind. The scope is widening for complementary therapists to work with the NHS, supporting its commitment to providing the best outcome for patients.

For advice on nutrition contact Hypnotherapist, Coach and Wellness Practitioner Tricia Woolfrey

For information on camexpo visit their website www.camexpo.co.uk





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