Not All Aromatherapists Are Created Equal

You can get aromatherapy advice from just about anyone: the lady at Whole Foods, the direct sales rep, or the natural mom on your Facebook feed. But you’re smart. You know essential oils are potent and need to be treated with respect. Instead of playing doctor with essential oils, you decide to seek a certified aromatherapist’s advice.  

Good for you! You’ve taken the smart approach. So all you have to do is find someone who calls him/herself a certified aromatherapist, right? Wrong.

Meet Rosemary. Rosemary is an essential oil enthusiast who wants to become a professional aromatherapist. She looks around at schools and sees that some schools require a lot of intense course work and training. They require a research paper to be written. They require at least 10 case studies to be completed and evaluated. They require final exams to be passed. Rosemary feels overwhelmed until she sees a weekend course in a city close to hers. The description says “Become a certified aromatherapist in only a weekend!” Rosemary signs up for the class, gets her certificate, and calls herself a certified aromatherapist.

Now meet Melissa. Melissa is also an enthusiast who wants to pursue a career in aromatherapy. Melissa sees the different schools’ standards and decides to go with a school that requires intense course work, exams, research papers, case studies, etc. She wants to learn as much as she can. Melissa works for many months/years along with the top aromatherapists in the world and the curriculum that they have designed. She gets advice from them and is given ways to improve. She is able to ask questions and get feedback. She is encouraged to continue her education after she graduates and gladly does so because she sees the importance of a proper education.

Now, you tell me. Who would you rather go to for a consultation, Rosemary or Melissa? Would you really want someone who didn’t see the importance of a proper education to give you advice on essential oil safety? Someone who did a minimal amount of training just to receive a certificate? I know when I look for a professional anything; I look for the most qualified.  But how do you know if an aromatherapist is qualified? I will tell you what to look for and what the different titles mean.

First of all, aromatherapy is not licensed. Therefore there is no government standard that needs to be met in order to earn the title “certified aromatherapist”. This is where the professional organizations step in. The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) have developed standards for those wanting a proper aromatherapy education.

Look at NAHA’s vision. “NAHA will be the leader in promoting and elevating holistic aromatherapy through the active dissemination of educational material to the general public, trade/professional associations, business owners, the media, and practitioners.” 

AIA’s mission is “AIA unites aromatherapists from around the world to advance research and professionalism within the aromatherapy industry.”

In other words, they have set educational standards for aromatherapy schools to follow. They have set the bar high to make sure only those who are truly educated about aromatherapy should refer to themselves as professional, qualified aromatherapists. They have a set curriculum, which not only involves aromatherapy training and education but in-depth anatomy and physiology.

So now you have been introduced to the professional aromatherapy organizations and their importance to the aromatherapy field. How do you know if an aromatherapist is really qualified?  I’ll make it easy for you.

Step 1: Check to see if they graduated from a NAHA/AIA approved school. Here is the list for NAHA. Look here for AIA. You should look for schools and courses that provide level 2 or Professional Level certifications.

Step 2: Look for the initials CA, CCA, CCAP, CMAIA, or RA. These are the most common initials you will see for qualified aromatherapists in the United States.

CA=Certified Aromatherapist- someone with over 200 hours of training. Be careful with these initials. As I stated, anyone can make this claim. Make sure they graduated from a NAHA/AIA approved school too.

CCA or CMAIA=Certified Clinical Aromatherapist- someone with over 400 hours of training and must continue their professional development

CCAP= Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Practitioner- Some schools give this designation to certified clinical aromatehrapists

RA=Registered Aromatherapist- someone who is a CA or CCA/CMAIA and passed an exam from the Aromatherapy Registration Council.

Step 3: Check if he/she is a professional member of the AIA and/or NAHA. These aromatherapists have an ethical code they must follow. They keep up to date with the most recent research. They also continue their professional development and have access to databases meant for professional aromatherapists.

Still confused? I’ll make it SUPER easy for you.

Click here. NAHA's website has a “Find an Aromatherapist” feature. You specify where you live and there will be a list of qualified aromatherapists in your area. Go ahead. Check it out! Find the Melissas!