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Why Do Some Therapists Make it in Business and Others Do Not?

by Carole Preen(more info)

listed in clinical practice, originally published in issue 295 - June 2024


This is a question me and Joyce were discussing recently as we have both been tutors in aromatherapy and massage over the last few decades.


Joyce West

Joyce West today


Joyce also set up the professional association I now run with Julie Quinn (Complementary Health Professionals or CHP for short), which was launched way back in 1994 with her husband Lawrence, who sadly passed recently, plus two other therapists who have both since retired from complementary therapies.


King Charles, then Prince Charles, Carole Preen and Joyce West

King Charles, then Prince Charles speaking with
Carole Preen and Joyce West, circa 2000.


Many of our graduates are members of the association and it gives us much pleasure in seeing their ongoing successes, knowing we had a small part to play. However, out of the hundreds we have trained between us, not all go on to such success and we came up with some ideas as to why this might be in the hope it might help others reading this who are wondering why their business has not taken off.


Joyce West and Carole Preen Working at Neal's Yard

Joyce West and Carole Preen working at Neal’s Yard, circa 2000


Of course, some people do our diploma courses for personal reasons with no intent to practise professionally, and that’s fine. Others may get other opportunities come their way that take them in another direction, but what we are concentrating on in this article is those who have tried and failed, even though they give a wonderful treatment and did well in their studies.



Carole Preen, Nina Ashby, Lawrence West, Joyce West, Lesley Grimwood 2002

Left to Right: Carole Preen, Nina Ashby, Lawrence West, Joyce West, Lesley Grimwood after receiving the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Aromatherapy, 2002.


Before anything else is considered, we must stress that quality in your training is essential. Everyone wanting to become a complementary therapist must do their research and do the very best course they can afford. It might be that you have to travel to your classes at weekends (as I did), so do not just look for something in your area. You also need to check that the course is properly accredited. This is a minefield, even for us who are reviewing qualifications every day because there are so many different bodies out there. It all comes down to whether your course would qualify you for CNHC registration in the UK.


Logos CHP Natural Therapeutics CNHC

Logos for Complementary Health Professionals – CHP, Natural Therapeutics and Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council – CNHC


This relates to the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council who hold the core curriculum for 18 of the most popular therapies. The CNHC is our voluntary self-regulatory body set up to protect the public. It is an accredited register with the Professions Standards Authority (the same authority that oversees nursing regulation etc.) and is answerable to Parliament. If the therapy you are looking to train in is not regulated by the CNHC, next look to see if the body that does accredit it is a verifying organisation for the CNHC. This gives you the confidence that the course will have been scrutinised for quality assurance. Don’t do an online only course if you are learning a bodywork therapy (such as massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, reiki, shiatsu, kinesiology etc. Not only are these not acceptable by any decent professional association nor the CNHC, they also do not give you the skills you need to provide an expert service that will keep clients coming back. That is the difference between learning a basic routine from a video to learning how to adapt a wide range of techniques for specific client needs under the expert tutelage of your assessor. So, the first thing on your road to success is doing the right training. At CHP, we accredit a wide range of schools that are advertised on our website at:

It’s worth taking time to breakdown and analyse every aspect of your work as a therapist. This would include marketing, your environment and presentation through to taking the case study and the treatment itself.  Next, let’s look at your marketing skills. Your diploma course should take you through this subject, but you must put yourself out there. It is hard and you may feel like you have imposter syndrome, but you must promote yourself or no one will know of your existence, no matter how good you are. Stepping outside your comfort zone and being self-employed is scary at first but when you make that big leap and commit to it, it pushes you to make it work because you must have clients coming regularly to earn a living. This may mean that you do further courses in marketing or computer skills, and you do need to embrace social media and use it to your advantage. These are CPD courses that you can do online. They count as Continuing Professional Development because it is an enhancement of your practice, and it also helps you grow as an individual. Business skills are equally as important with a comprehensive business plan that shows how you are going to achieve your financial goals.

Don’t sell yourself short. Therapists often worry about charging for their services as healthcare in the UK is free. You need to think about the money you have spent on your training, which can be thousands, the time you have studied and now your expertise is what the client is paying for. If you charge too low a fee for your services, you are just advertising that you don’t think you offer that good a service and that is what others will think too. Quality is worth paying for.

What is needed to make clients keep coming back or referring others to you? This is you and your approach during each session. We cannot express this loudly enough, but communication skills are EVERYTHING. From the moment you first meet your client to the moment they leave; you need to be on top of what you are saying and how you are saying it. You need to speak with confidence and authority and build up trust and most importantly, rapport. You do need to analyse and reflect on each treatment to ensure that treatments outcomes have been met and not just book a client in again to fill your diary. A client will appreciate your honesty if you feel that your therapy is not working for them and offer a referral.  Again, it is about speaking positively with authority that gains you respect and even if that client does not come back again for the current issue, they will return for another issue and/or refer their friends and family to you. This is where training in NLP comes in very handy. Neuro-Linguistic Programming is an amazing tool to use to get your message across positively and to get the results you desire. It is not a manipulation tool but a tool to use in everyday life that helps with clear and confident expression and communication. We can already see some of you look questioningly at the term! Please read on.

It’s worth looking at how it was first developed. In the 1970s, a mathematics student named Richard Bandler, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to and selecting portions of taped therapy sessions of the late Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls as part of an assignment. He quickly recognised a pattern in language that explained why the therapist was so successful. His next step was to observe therapy sessions, especially of successful therapists. He identified how important the communication and observational skills were to that success. And so was born NLP or the study of excellence. This process can be used for any profession, but it is particularly important in complementary therapy and often explains why some therapists are more successful than others. Both Joyce and Lawrence qualified as NLP practitioners in the early 1990s at the start of their complementary therapy journey. They incorporated basic elements into all their training courses, and it was from them that Carole appreciated its importance in so many aspects of both work and life in general.

It’s no good in business if after doing everything to the highest standard, you then forget to book your client in for the next appointment at the end of their current session. Clients do not know what is best for them and may not know to ask. We hear therapists telling us that they are afraid to ask or not sure of how to approach it. This is a lack of self-confidence and is very unlikely to inspire the client to come back. You need self-belief in what you have to offer. You may have heard of doing affirmations or exercises to manifest what you want in life; well, these are all techniques used to train your subconscious and positively transform your thoughts into reality and this is what NLP aims to do too but in a specific way that will change how you communicate with others and always to your advantage. It is a way of gaining cognitive control of your actions and so will allow you to understand how your subconscious and your emotions impact your actions and behaviours. We can change negative habits that are holding us back from our full potential.


500x332px Communication Skills Key to Success

Communication Skills Key to Success


One of the stories Carole once read surround language and communication explains this concept. Two boys were playing in a tree when strong winds suddenly started. The two fathers each shouted out to their sons. One shouted “don’t fall” and the other shouted “hold on”. In language, we tend to only hear and connect with the last words spoken and our brains do not like negatives. If we tell you to not think of a red bus, what happens?  So, who do you think fell out of the tree and who didn’t. This is often referred to as a positive reframe.

What you need to do is explain, at the end of the therapy session what you discovered and how many treatments you feel will be needed to alleviate the issue being treated. Keep the information in the positive. For example, “I feel that your right shoulder and neck were particularly tight, especially in the Levator scapulae muscle and this will take me at least another two sessions to alleviate and I recommend I see you weekly”. Or you could explain why regular treatments are of benefit, quoting credible research and then tell them when you have your next free appointment for them. Think about what you are saying and how you are saying it. Put your statements in the positive and the last thing they hear should be “appointment or follow-up”. If you struggle with self-belief and communication in general and want to work on this, you can try some a simple exercise. You can sit quietly and focus on your current actions or lack of confidence and what you would like to happen within your therapy sessions. Visualise the outcome where you are offering further appointments, and your client is eager to rebook. Repeat this visualisation every day until it becomes reality.

You can enrol on an NLP course if this has piqued your interest or if not that then at least a communication skills course. Here you can learn useful techniques that are also incorporating in NLP training, such as building rapport, reading body language and mirroring. If you want to find out more, go to a coach who performs NLP techniques to see it in action or visit an NLP practitioner. Natural Therapeutics has an online CPD course in Communication Skills for therapists that does have coursework that is assessed by your tutor ( Many online courses are just about reading and taking a multiple-choice questionnaire the end, which is unhelpful, so the Natural Therapeutics approach is much better as CPD for therapists. Ideally, enrol on an NLP course that you can attend as it is worth practising skills together in-class and these are all equally useful for personal growth as it is for professional growth. Whatever you decide to do, do something as sitting on your laurels waiting for clients to magically appear will be fruitless! As they say, feel the fear and do it anyway and get yourself seen and heard – but in the right way.


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About Carole Preen

Carole Preen FCHP FANM HonMIFA is a Fellow of the Association of Natural Medicine and the former Aromatherapy & Allied Practitioners' Association and has been a practitioner since 1994 and an educator since 1997. She is also an honorary lifetime member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists awarded for her contribution to the profession. As well as specializing in Aromatherapy and Anatomy, Carole also introduced Neuroskeletal Re-alignment Therapy to the UK. Carole is an specialist educator, and internal and external moderator working in both the private and FE sector and has level 4 qualifications in quality assurance. She is Director of Complementary Health Professionals and may be contacted on Tel: 0333 577 3340;
For further information about Neuroskeletal Re-alignment Therapy (NSRT) please view the website at with links to published articles and a Facebook page. The diploma course is accredited by Complementary Health Professionals through Natural Therapeutics. Training details and information on booking a treatment with me is available via Mob: 07455 195 515

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