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  • Writer's pictureDan Stephens FFHT MCHP

The Journey into CAM

To introduce Natural Balance, I’m going to start by telling you how it started. Which may take a while, but hopefully it will give you more information on us and why I love what we do!
It all started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Yep, you read that right! season 4 was when Willow really showed off and became a WITCH! -yes it does become relevant- Me being a bit of a weirdo was like “wow that’s cool, shame it’s not real” but it turned out it was! I read and I learned, until 3 years later i found a witchcraft shop in my town! So now i could learn in person. A big part of this learning process was meditation and herb use, from quick herbal remedies to incense and the way the scent effects us on a deep level. It was fascinating! How on Earth could me eating a leaf (feverfew) cure my migraine?! I wanted to know more, but i didn’t know how to find the right information.
Skip forward to 2008, I had done 2 years of AS levels, I failed every single one. I was bored in class, and to be honest much preferred to get stoned in the park and relax in nature. So my Mum told me I was not going back to college and would be getting a job (i already had 5 part time jobs but now i had to get a full time one). I started to work for her, as a nursery assistant, occasionally doing 1 to 1 with special needs. I really liked this but as a 18 year old working and living with your Mum isn’t cool. Add to that 30 screaming kids…not fun. One day I looked in the paper and found the only course left open at the college was Holistic Therapy. What was it? So i called and booked an appointment to find out! Never hurts to keep your options open.
I went, learnt that Holistic therapy was a combination of natural treatments to treat the whole person, body, mind and spirit. If i enrolled I would learn about massage, Aromatherapy and Reflexology. AND if i did good, they would also teach us Indian Head massage and Thermo-Auricular therapy (ear candles). I decided then and there I was joining. I reduced my work hours and looked for evening work so i could maintain my income. Finally everything seemed to come together.
Over the next few months I studied and learnt so much! Honestly the tutor was a horrible woman, but this was for me, I knew I could do it even if she didn’t think a guy could ever do this, so I kept going. Then, something happened that destroyed my hopes to become a therapist, I had a car accident. Head on collision. The other driver was on the wrong side of the road, coming around a bend. We had no time to stop or get out of the way. For the next 8 week I was stuck at home. Not able to complete my case studies and so not able to finish the course. My parents and I tried to get me back into the class next year to finish, but the tutor said “not unless you pay”, and what 19 year old really has a couple thousand pound hanging around?
There was nothing i could do. I just had to wait, see if the insurance claim could get me enough money to finish my studies. My solicitor asked for the college to write and say that if the car accident hadn’t happened I would’ve passed and become a therapist. They refused. (actually the tutor was pretty horrible, telling us that I was “the worst student she had ever taught” and that “I would never pass, I couldn’t massage to save my life and my knowledge of aromatherapy still wasn’t even out of the basics”. That hurt, both my feeling and my case. So again, I wait. In 2010, a good friend, who was also a reiki master, offered to teach me Reiki. Of course i jumped at the chance, studying both Reiki 1 and 2 within the year. This was my first voyage into energetic healing. I loved it! I’ll go into detail on each therapy and what I think of them in other posts later on, so lets continue! Fully trained but not qualified. Then one day (5 years after the accident (March 2013) I get the email. Your case is closing, the cheque is in the post. By this time, the college has closed down the holistic therapy department. So I look online and find a highly recommended teacher a couple of towns away. I go in and book my courses. It’s a very strange feeling to drop nearly £4000 in one go, but i did it and within a month i had completed my first course. 2 Months after that I had 2 more. By the end of that year I has completed Ear candles, Swedish massage, Indian head massage, Hot stone massage, EFT & matrix re-imprinting.

After completing the first few courses, I joined the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT), there will be a post about them in the coming weeks.

In 2014 I worked as a mobile therapist, never making much money but getting some really great life lessons on how this business works! How much cancellations suck, why you need a business phone (calls at 4am to book appointments!) and how quickly people will take advantage of you. I was happy though, I was able to do the work I enjoyed and make enough to get by.

This year , My Reiki master decided i was ready to go to the next level, although she wasn’t prepared to take me there. She put me in touch with her Reiki master and even though she was retired, she agreed to teach me.

The thing with Reiki, and all Reiki masters tell you this, is that it makes you shift. Your energy changes. If you don’t change with it, things just don’t seem to work out. I never believed this until 2014. Nothing seemed to go quite the way i planned it after this attunement, relationships just weren’t working, my work just wasn’t as good as I thought it should be. But I was doing things the same way i always did. I had to change. So later that year, i decided to move. I left my home and moved in with a friend 3 hours away.

In a new town (city i guess), I tried to build a client base. Although i went home once every two weeks or so to see my old clients. It was slow. After a month or so, three of us went in and rented a room at a salon. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but £350 per week and no client base already built up, it failed. While trying to build up this business a few things happened, some good some bad, the scariest was a company came to talk about an “opportunity”. They had found me through my ads, they were an advertising agency working within several NHS buildings. And for £20/week they would design business cards and leaflets and place them in all local GP offices as well as the hospital. Of course i jumped at the chance. What they forgot to say was that they required all this up front (£250 the first month which i could do-and did- then I thought it was £20 from then on, which was affordable, but they tried to take £250 again, which sadly was not affordable when you’re struggling and they haven’t got any clients to you so far!) so I defaulted on the payments. Very embarrassing, but I cut all ties with this company, I didn’t want to be taken advantage of again.

While working here a good thing that happened, and actually led to the end of my work in the salon, was I met someone. He worked in the Military & lived about half an hour from me. One day he noticed that I was particularly lethargic and asked why. Again, embarrassing, I hadn’t make enough money to cover rent and food, so hadn’t eaten for a day or two. He instantly got me lunch and found me a spa job to apply for. Yes he’s lovely!

During my interview at the spa, all i had to do was give a massage. Even then i was mixing massage techniques to provide the best massage for the client, and within 5 minutes of starting I was hired. I was super happy, but the spa was a 45 minute drive from me (but only 20 minutes from my guys house). I wouldn’t be able to afford to get there every day until i had my first paycheque. That’s when we made the crazy decision (after only a month of being together) that i would move in.

I worked at the spa for several months, got nominated for therapist of the year, but I had issues with the way the business ran. They paid minimum wage £6.50/hour while charging the clients up to £90/hour. The “aromatherapy” treatments were standardized which any aromatherapist knows just doesn’t work! (and on top of that the oils were at a tiny dilution making them mostly ineffective). The massage couches were fixed heights, which meant for some therapists they were way too high and others (like me) they were too short, causing everyone to get wrist, back and shoulder problems. While i was there a good thing did happen though, I met some amazing therapists, who became great friends!

After a month off work, i started working for a massage temp agency. This was fun, and to make me more appealing to various spas I learnt some new techniques, studying advanced massages and holistic facials. but eventually decided i no longer wanted to work in the spa scene, I preferred to get to know my clients and actually help them with their issues.

We moved house (in the same village) and i got to have a treatment room at home. This really opened up what I could do. So I saved up and decided to learn more. I found a lady who taught lomi lomi (Hawaiian) massage. Invited her to stay and run this course from my home. We quickly became friends and she offered to teach me Advanced clinical aromatherapy too. Later I learnt how to Wax, something i never thought i would do, but I only wax men as this was something that i was asked for repeatedly and no one in the area was trained in this.

November 2015, I messaged a lady about her course in Lomi Lomi, and we arranged for her to come down and teach, as long as i provided her with 4 students. She would stay in a local hotel and teach from my home. Sadly I couldn’t get 4 people, but i did get 3. So i offered for her to stay with us, saving her the same amount of money she would’ve spent on a hotel. She was happy with this.

Fast forward to February, She arrives, and that evening we chat and she asks about my qualifications and tests my knowledge. We have some wine and then she spends 3 hours telling me off! Why are you not a clinical aromatherapist?! What were you thinking doing that course?! Why don’t you have a website?! All i could say was…I haven’t got the money to do all those things! We left it at that and went to sleep.

After the training, she took me to one side and offered to train me in advanced clinical aromatherapy, taking money off for all the things i was already qualified in. BOOM! Of course i took her up on the offer!

Over the next few months i passed all tests of skill and actually needed very little tutoring. Instead, She asked me to help get her qualifications accredited and become a teacher for her! WOW, I was blown away. This was no easy task though. All courses had to be upgraded and re-written. And i did this all by myself just handing over the finished product. and eventually we were an accredited institution in the UK under the Complementary Health Professionals (CHP-I will talk about them in another post, but they are awesome!) and I had 3 courses to teach that were just for me, Indian head, Ear candles and Swedish body massage. I would also help with the other courses on offer aromatherapy, reflexology and eventually Reiki (passing my Reiki teacher training in January 2017).

Once this was complete we asked what could we do next? The answer we came up with was run a retreat! An apartment complex in Spain had just posted online that they could offer rooms to therapists and their clients plus flights for £200! This was great! We planned and planned, making sure everything should go perfectly. We had 4 clients having 2 treatments per day each. The week went well, I actually ended up doing 3/4 of the treatments that week, which led to a bit of a bad feeling, but the clients got good results and I was happy.

In 2017, two students messaged to say they didn’t feel ready to take exams as they hadn’t learnt enough of anything (anatomy and physiology/aromatherapy/massage) so we worked over skype to get them to a point where they were ready. THEY PASSED! but doing this meant that my relationship with the other teacher blew up as she felt i had taken over too much. sadly we parted ways. This was not amicable, she tried to get me kicked out of my professional organisations and tried to ruin many relationships, but in the end everything turned out fine.

Soon after this I got married. My now husband is American and so the race began to try and make sure my qualifications were good enough to work in the USA. They were not! Gutted! but hey, how can i make this better? I found a school in England, run by two ladies who both trained in America! Over the next months, (February to October) i traveled to Brighton, learning basic trigger point work, Advanced Myofascial release, Advanced rehabilitation, orthopedic testing and exercises for injuries. My treatments were now Amazing (words from clients, not my own!). I was able to tailor treatments as never before, and no one got off my treatment couch until they felt good.

In November, we came to America, my qualifications still not enough, and of course no work visa. What could i do? Not much, so i studied. I found online classes from American massage schools, studying everything from ayurvedic massage techniques to ethics. I also discovered a free online course library, created for the biggest and best universities in the world to give short courses. It was great! So much learning while chilling at home!

In early March a client/friend in England asked me to design a retreat for them, 1 week, similar to what I had done before except run from his home. This gave me something to look forward to and to work on. I had to boost my knowledge on nutrition and supplements to make wise recommendations for our week together too, the free online education had the perfect course! I started that and signed up with a UK based supplement company so he could get discounts and i could have a good contact in England whenever I felt people needed a little extra help in the nutrition side of things. ( their stuff is great! and if you use SD010 and put me as your recommending practitioner you get 10% off!)

Shortly after I was talking to someone from CHP on facebook, letting her know what I was up to, and she asked me to write a CPD course on Lesser known essential oils, so that’s in the works too!

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