The lack of official regulation governing the practice of complementary and alternative medicine within the UK can make it difficult to know whether or not you are choosing the right therapist.
The vast majority of alternative therapies in the UK are governed on a voluntary basis, and practitioners are not required by law to belong to a specific regulatory body. (Current exceptions include Chiropractic and Osteopathy, for which legal requirements do exist).
Despite the voluntary nature of regulation, CAM practices will often have a number of different regulatory bodies that exist, generally to govern the standards of practice within their field. These bodies can vary considerably in size and membership, as well as in the degree of regulation that they impose upon their members.
A practitioner may or may not have membership with one of these bodies, or may be a member of more than one. Whilst the quality of these regulatory bodies does vary, they generally share in common a minimum standard that they impose upon their members.
This is not to say that practitioners without professional membership are not to be trusted. Although relevant qualifications and professional membership can be good indicators of the quality of therapy you are likely to receive, they are certainly not exclusive indicators of ability.
If you are unsure as to the suitability of a particular therapist, it may be advisable to gather some information on the institution where they trained, and on any professional bodies that they claim membership to. Website links for many bodies of professional membership can be found within our therapy information pages. If you are looking for further peace of mind it may also be worth asking to see a practitioners qualification certificates.
Things to consider when choosing a therapist:
Length of Training
Some therapies will require more involved training than others (e.g. acupuncture cannot be learned over a weekend course, yet a practitioner can become proficient at administering Hopi Ear Candling after a relatively short time).
Style and Scope of Training
Different training institutions can focus on different styles of therapy, or different schools of thought. Some research is required here if you are be able to make any meaningful decisions relating to this.
2. Professional Membership
How many members do they have?
If a body has a sizable membership then this will often reflect a positive consensus of opinion within the therapist community.
Why do they exist?
Ideally, a body of professional membership should be established to promote therapy, promote the quality of therapy, and to protect the public from poor practice.
Criteria for entry
How strict are the entry criteria? If a therapist is simply required to register their name and send in a cheque, then membership can not be used as an indicator of high standards.
How long have they been practicing?
Whilst there is often no substitute for experience, some courses can produce effective therapists from the time that they graduate, and some therapies require less time to master than others.
Do they have relevant experience?
Whilst being extremely proficient in treating certain conditions, a therapist may have little or no experience treating the condition that you suffer from. It is often worth asking the question as to whether a therapist has experience in treating your condition, and what kind of success they have achieved.
Peace of mind
Although most forms of complementary therapy are extremely safe when compared to equivalent approaches of Western medicine, it can be reassuring to know that your therapist is covered by insurance. (Some bodies of professional membership will require that their members have this, and some will provide it themselves).
A further indication of quality
Insurance companies will often require that a therapist have membership with one or more of the relevant professional bodies, and/or a minimum level of training. Therefore, the presence of insurance can sometimes indicate a minimum level of standard.