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Aromatherapy with Bridget!

Aromatherapist Bridget shares her knowledge of how she uses aromatherapy to enhance the lives of people with life limiting disabilities.

Tell me about yourself

Hi, my name is Bridget. I’m nearly 60 years old and have been a qualified aromatherapist for 28 years! I was born and raised in rural north Yorkshire, and I studied social work at the University of Bradford qualifying in 1986. Although I didn’t stay in the profession long, I have continued to work with people and improve their lives has always been and remains my passion. I decided to train in aromatherapy because I had a keen interest in complementary health care and qualified in 1996. After having my daughter, I set up my own aromatherapy business in 2006 and 18 years later I’m still going strong! Although I’ve now decided to go back into education and become a qualified counsellor.

What was the first job you had?

My very first job was as a Saturday girl in my local chemist! My first ‘adult’ job was as a social worker in Castleford during the miner’s strike.

What made you decide to train to be an aromatherapist?

I decided to train as an aromatherapist while receiving a particularly bad massage! I had a lightbulb moment and thought ‘I could do better than this’ and two and half years of part time college later and I received my diploma along with being awarded student of the year 1996! I started working self-employed alongside other part time jobs despite my mother famously saying to me ‘you’ll never make a living doing that round ‘ere’.

I developed my interest in alternative therapies throughout my late teens and early 20’s while at university. When I left home at 18, I became vegetarian, this put me outside conventional wisdom at the time, but it opened my eyes to alternative lifestyles and ways of living. In particular, I saw that conventional medicine was only treating one part of a person or one symptom and I began to understand how a more holistic approach, where the person is treated as a whole, could be much more beneficial in the long term at getting to the root of a problem. I still maintain this principle in my work and often describe myself as a ‘holistic aromatherapist’.

After building my business back up after the pandemic I found that many of my clients were no longer just coming to me for massages to relieve their physical stress, they were wanting to relieve their mental stress too. It has always been important to me that people feel that when they are having a massage it is their time to use however, they want and increasingly that has involved listening to my client’s problems in confidence. I have always made sure that my work room is a safe space and a client’s trust is paramount to me. More and more when people come for a massage, they are also looking to offload stress of kids, work, and family.

Can you describe a typical day?

I usually woken up to my cat dabbing my face wanting food (her name is Pippi, and she is 8 months old!), I then face the long commute down my stairs into my (for tax purposes) sitting room (HMRC if you're reading this, I DO NOT have a treatment room). I check my diary and send gentle text reminders to people about their appointment times. I then turn on my five salt lamps and prepare my room ready to start usually between 8:30am-9am. During the day I do a variety of treatments of varying lengths. I spend most of my days at home but I will usually be out for a few hours in the afternoon visiting my clients at different Wilf Ward properties. The treatments I give here are specifically designed for people with life limiting disabilities and usually involve a gentle hand or foot massage tailored to each person's individual needs. I also see a number of clients in the evening who come after their working hours until around 8:30pm-9pm. To wind down in the evening I spend time with my cat, FaceTime my daughter (who is now all grown up and at university) and I enjoy reading on my kindle or playing scrabble online.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

No two days are the same! I get to work with such a wide range of people from so many different backgrounds, from Head Teachers to Builders and every profession in between! I also really value being in charge of my own time, although my diary is usually very full the joy of being self-employed is having the flexibility to take time off for myself, to spend time with friends or family or to volunteer.

What are the benefits of aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy combines the healing powers of essential oils with massage, so each blend is tailored to the individual and can help to address a whole host of symptoms and needs. This combines with massage can sooth sore muscles, promotes better sleep and improve stress.

Can aromatherapy be used on children?

Absolutely! I took my daughter to baby massage classes! The best oils to use are lavender and chamomile but they need to be very weak. They are often found in a lot of baby and children products to help with bathing babies and promote them to have restful sleep.

I know you worked as the Wilf Ward Trust as a supporter during lockdown providing massages for individuals who would not normally be able to access such therapies. That sounds really interesting. Can you tell me a little about that role?

I had been visiting Wilf Ward Trusts long before the pandemic offering these massages to their customers, in fact they were some of my first clients. It has always been really important to me that I make massage as accessible as possible, especially for those who would not usually be able to access it in its traditional format. I have always in particular focused on the benefits it can have for disabled people, and I wish more aromatherapists offered this kind of massage.

During lockdown I was unable to continue my self-employment, so I took a job as a support worker doing hands on care for the customers. During my time in this role, I did lots of research around sensory aids, which included making a story telling tent and props to go with a number of sensory books.

What is your proudest career moment?

My proudest career moment is that I’ve 'made a living doing this round ‘ere' and loved every minute of it!

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone new to aromatherapy?

I have encouraged Wilf Ward properties to invest in diffusers so that customers get the benefit of the aroma to create a calm and relaxing environment. Oils can be added to baths or any unscented creams such as boy lotions and can be used in the form a pillow spray to help aid good restful sleep.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to use aromatherapy with individuals with special needs?

Blending essential oils can only be done by a qualified aromatherapist but there are lots of good pre blended essential oils such as those with lavender, bergamot and diuranium that can be really helpful for disabled people.

Do you have a favourite aromatherapy scent?

Frankincense – it's an earthy smell and a gentle expectorant. Additionally, it’s a really good oil to help with grief, we don’t really know why but this has been attributed in part to its calming properties.

Just for Fun!

Which three historical figures would you invite for supper and why?

Nelson Mandela, Harper Lee, and Emile Pankhurst

To listen and hear their stories firsthand!

You have a time machine. Where are you going?

13th July 1985 - The Live Aid Concert and see Freddie Mercury

What three items would you take to a desert island?

My kindle, my Tim Minchin CD, and my glasses!

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would want to have the power of teleportation (to eliminate the need for getting a train to Edinburgh to visit my daughter)!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

You got this!

...and your motto Bridget?

‘Life Is Beautiful’


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