Aromatherapy fits well with a range of complementary health modalities. With my background in education and training (almost 20 years), and in particular coaching, I believe that aromatherapy provides another support tool to work with coaching. My business model for Aromatic Insights is to combine aromatherapy with NLP Coaching.
Coaching, whilst not considered a complementary health modality as such, it helps people move through structured processes to navigate beyond mental blockages; which are, to my way of thinking a complementary health practice.
Coaching is a collaborative, solution focused, results oriented, process driven approach in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of personal and professional growth of individuals. Greene and Grant (2003) describe coaching as being about ‘creating positive directed change. It is about helping people to develop their potential’ (p.xiv).
The coaching that I have trained in is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) based. NLP explores the relationships between how we think, how we communicate and our patterns of behaviour and emotion. The word ‘neuro’ refers to the nervous system. Our direct experience of the world comes to the brain via the nervous system and the five senses. The senses are the means by which we interact with the world. “Though you could think of NLP as a body of tools, and coaching as the framework of support that leads you towards your chosen goals, in truth both NLP and coaching work because they offer practical approaches which are focused on achievement and able to deliver it through specific techniques (Dermot and Jago, 2004, p.1).
In almost all NLP literature the focus is on Visual (sight), Auditory (hearing) and Kinaesthetic (touch) – referred to as VAK in the NLP world – gustatory (taste) and olfaction (smell) is mentioned but never explored. Of the five senses, our sense of smell is said to be the most primitive and most closely associated with our emotions and how our body respond to them. O’Connor and Seymour (2002) state that the sense of smell or olfaction is “not so important and is often included in the kinaesthetic sense’ (p.28). They concede that they serve as powerful links to the other three primary senses. This, to me, is where the aromatherapy can help. It can amplify and enhance the other primary senses, and assist client to make more powerful and lasting breakthroughs. When you combine more than one of the sense, you create a more powerful event.
Think about chef Heston Blumenthal and his multi sensory cooking style.
He states that ‘we eat with our eyes and our ears and our noses. You think about some of the most memorable meals you've ever had; the food will be good but it will often be about locating a mental memory and taste is inexorably linked to all the other senses and memory, so ultimately it is all about taste’ (McGarth, 2012).
The same applies to most, if not all of our experiences. We experience them in a multi sensory world, and thus we remember them in a multi sensory way. I know, personally, I can remember an event from childhood that is not a particularly positive event, and when I do, I get a horrible taste in my mouth as a physical response from replaying the memory.
So when dealing with a client in a coaching capacity, the more senses you employ, the more powerful the outcome. Aromatherapy can also provide the client with uplifting, calming, sedative and relaxing blends to assist them through the inner work they are doing.
How coaching and aromatherapy work together
Through structured processes and programs, I, as the coach, can help the client review their thinking, and reprogram using aroma as another means of support. The NLP coaching techniques and aromatherapy can be actively applied to assist clients to improve the way they think, feel and act. Aromatherapy can also be used to create a positive way to remember the coaching session, so the results and good feeling they have at the end of the session can be recaptured through using the scent used during the session.
An example of how this would work – using the “house of change”. The “house of change” is an exercise using the house as a concept or framework. Each wall/corner of the house represents our behaviour, emotions, thoughts and the situation, and how they all contribute towards the goal.
Through structured discussions about each aspect, the client can understand clearer how their actions are enhance or blocking their progress towards their goals. Introducing NLP process can help release those blockages, as can simple inhalation of certain smells – again, this is where aromatherapy can assist with the release of blockages and/or understanding.
The beauty of coaching lies in the fact that the answers are all the clients, not the therapists. The philosophy is that each of us have the answers to our own questions. The purpose of the coach is to ask the questions, guide the clients through processes to help them explore their understandings and develop their own answers.
Another purpose of the coach is to listen. Really listen. To listen to not only the words, the meaning, the fear, and also what is not said. “The real listening of coaching takes place on a deeper level. It is the listening for meaning behind the story, for the underlying process, for the theme that will deepen the learning. The coach is listening for the resistance, fear, backtracking, and the voice of that internal saboteur – the gremlin – who is there to object to change, point out the clients weaknesses and failure, and cite reasons for holding back’ (Whitworth, 1998, p.9). The use of essential oils during the session can assist the client and coach to delve deeper and explore further.
It is the job of the coach to maintain constant awareness of the client’s sense of balance. This means addressing all aspects of a clients life, not looking at the issues in isolation. This is where using the “Wheel of Life” tool can be effective. If a client comes up with a solution to one of their problems, the coach can get the client to look at how that solution will affect the other areas of their life. ‘Balance, in fact, is always part of the coaching backdrop whether it shows up in every coaching call or not. Balance itself is rarely the focal point of the work you do with the client. Instead, the work focuses on the area that is out of balance and needs attention, learning and action’ (Whitworth, 1998, p.141). Aromatherapy tools can be used to help support the imbalance the client in under.
In essence, aromatherapy can be utilised during and after a coaching session. It can support the client to make breakthroughs, and support them in between coaching sessions. A personal inhaler can be created for a client to use at home after the coaching session to emotionally support them, to uplift them. Or if the session has created anxiety about an issue, aromatherapy can be employed to help alleviate the symptoms of the anxiety. These modalities have been used separately for a number of years, but together they can create a more effective tool.
To contrast the two, in general aromatherapy is reactive – it is utilised to heal wounds both physical and emotional, whereas coaching is proactive – it is about exploration and enabling the client to realise their potential. The two modalities however, when used together, can create a powerful and supportive environment for development, release, growth and realisation. There are no real similarities between aromatherapy and NLP coaching, but aromatherapy is one of the missing senses addressed using NLP.
Aromatherapy is a glorious modality that can be practiced by itself of in conjunction with a multitude of other complementary practices. I look forward to applying these modalities together and separately in the future in my business.
Greene, J and Grant, A (2003). Solution Focused Coaching – managing people in a complex world; Pearson Education: Harlow, UK.
McDermott, I and Jago, W (2004). The NLP Coach – A comprehensive guide to personal well-being and professional success; Piatkus Publishing: London, UK.
McGrath, N (2012). Heston Blumenthal: 'My food is really emotional, Guardian newspaper, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/31/heston-blumenthal-olympic-airline-meals, Access date: 8 Oct 2013
Mojay, G (1996). Aromatherapy for healing the spirit – a guide to restoring emotional and mental balance through essential oils; Gaia Books: London, UK.
O’Connor, J and Seymour, J (2002). Introducing NLP – Psychological skills for understanding and influencing people; Element Publishing: London, UK.
Whitworth, L, Kimsey-House, H and Sandahl, P (1998). Co-Active Coaching – new skills for coaching people toward success in work and life; Davis-Black Publishing: Palo Alto, USA.