Aromatherapy Consulting in the Era of Social Distancing

Virtual aromatherapy consulting is often considered less than ideal, as ours is a deeply personal practice. However, in these exceptional times, fears around the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the stresses of social distancing, and financial insecurity, aromatherapists have an unprecedented opportunity to support our communities, and we need to be flexible. 

For these reasons, I do feel that distance aromatherapy consults are an excellent support option right now, if done mindfully. In my work educating aromatherapists across the country, I have seen some truly inspired action. 

Here are some tips for professional qualified/certified aromatherapists. 

Reach Out to Current Clients – AND New Ones

  • We’re natural carers, and I’m sure you are feeling the call right now – so use it! This is a great time to reach out to current clients and explain that you’re offering online services. It eases the transition for you, gives your clients extra options for support at a difficult time, and helps you keep these precious relationships going.
  • Stay active on social media. Talk about how you’re able to support people right now. Share quick tips that are directly relevant to the current situation, but be sure to stay within your scope of practice. What’s your favorite sleep support blend? Tell people about it, why you love it, and why you created it.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to practice educating your clientele. Share with them the value of aromatherapy for stress management and why it works. The trust and credibility you’ll develop are invaluable to your business.
  • Video is such an important way to bridge the gap right now – people feel disconnected, and so open to calm support and helpful information.
  • Consider setting up an online store to sell your most popular products or blends without a consultation.

During the Consultation:

  • Video meetings give you much more nonverbal information (body language, facial expressions) than phone calls. 
  • Get familiar with your video conferencing software/app before your appointment. Test with a family member or friend. Maintain a professional image. Use a headset if there are others in your home. 
  • Make it clear what you can help with (general immune support, stress, sleep, comfort) and what you cannot (diseases like COVID-19).
  • Keep neutral language that does not cross into diagnostic or curative territory. We’re supporting holistic wellness, not treating disease. 
  • If your client is at all concerned about their health status, refer them to a licensed medical professional. Do not attempt to “fill in” for their doctor on other issues while our medical system is strained. 
  • Book a follow-up session before you end the call. This gives them something to look forward to, gives you a chance to learn from your work, and builds trust.
  • Make clear and safe arrangements for delivery of product and payment (see below).
  • Your client should fill in a complete intake form. This is a great reason to have yours available online or via email!

Nuances/Self-Care:

  • Hold space. Many people are frightened, lonely, and living in unusual circumstances. Keep good boundaries while being friendly and empathetic.
  • Find out how your client is feeling about social isolation. Some people welcome it as a time of reflection; others are struggling. This impacts your blending. 
  • Many people have children or elders with them in tight quarters. Ask about health issues, ages, etc., to make sure your blends are compatible with any household concerns or can be kept away from others. 
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling, too. Stay grounded, and don’t take on their fears.  Don’t deplete yourself!

Goals and Expectations:

  • Agree on clear expectations and simple goals. 
  • Focus on the basics: stress, comfort, personal immunity, quality sleep. These have a direct impact on good health. Not only is a holistic approach what aromatherapy does best, it also keeps you within your scope of practice. 
  • We do not have any evidence at this time that any essential oils can mitigate or eradicate COVID-19. A general antiviral approach is inadequate and risky. Don’t extrapolate research, don’t guess, don’t approximate, don’t suggest. 
  • Unless your product has been approved by the FDA, you cannot legally sell hand sanitizers. DIY internet recipes are usually NOT anywhere close to being a true hand sanitizer. 

Formulation Considerations:

  • In lieu of organoleptic evaluation (having clients smell oils), keep it simple: ask how they feel about a specific fragrance category or plant part(s), or have them name favorite products/scents.
  • Stay with their favorites. The familiar can be very comforting and “normal” in a time like this.
  • For some, this is a time of introversion, cocooning, and deep self-care, so going inward feels right. You can support that with meditative, protective, inward focused essential oils and methods of delivery. 
  • Others may need help remembering there’s still a world out there. In these cases, I’m working with more expansive, extroverted oils – conifers, bright citruses, mints, cineolic oils. 
  • Choose a method of application that will be easy to use, pleasurable, and require little thought or effort. We want to make their lives easier, not give them one more thing to think about right now. 

Production:

  • Follow appropriate workspace sanitation guidelines. Formula Botanica offers a basic outline in section 8 of this blog post
  • Wear disposable gloves while creating and packaging all products. Wear a mask if you have one. Do not touch your face.
  • Wear a fresh set of gloves when carrying the parcel to its final destination. 

Delivery:

  • Offer curbside delivery or a clear location where they can pick up their blends. 
  • If your community has a shelter in place order, be absolutely sure you are following guidelines. 
  • If you choose to mail/ship anything, remember that most delivery services are behind schedule. 
  • Include a clear, concise instruction sheet. 
  • Strongly discourage clients from sharing their blends with family members! Right now, best practice is for each person to assume they could be contagious. 

I’m inspired by the support I see in the aromatherapy community, and new developments are occurring weekly. Stay flexible, stay informed, and practice exquisite self-care. You are your number one client, and how you care for yourself sets an example for your clients. Stay well, and stay safe!

About Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P.

Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P. is an educator and writer who helps aromatherapy entrepreneurs create better products, services, and results. Her work has been featured in Prevention, AromaCulture, and Health. She offers personal mentoring, freelance writing, and formulation review services for professionals and entrepreneurs who want more income and satisfaction from their work with essential oils.

  • Michelle, – This is a great post packed with information and direction I really needed right now. Thank you!

  • Michelle – I love this post and the practical tips that you provided. Now is the time to be creative, connect with our community, and provide support. Conducting Aromatherapy consultations virtually is a fabulous way to share the power of plants, build longterm relationships, and continue our business momentum. Thank you for the excellent information!