October 2013 issue

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Healthy alternatives

As alternative therapies and healthcare, such as naturopathy, aromatherapy and acupuncture, become more prevalent in everyday life, they also become an increasingly popular study field, writes Matthew Knott.

As a vocational field with immediate career prospects, the study of alternative healthcare and therapy is increasingly attractive for overseas students; with study areas including holistic health, shiatsu, acupuncture, naturopathy and reflexology, there are a range of courses levels and options.

Wellpark College of Natural Therapies, in New Zealand is an established provider in this field. “The college is dedicated to integrated medicine,” says Clancy Simmonds, a model in which doctors, health professionals and natural therapists work together. Offering courses from diplomas to bachelor degrees, Wellpark combines research with traditional disciplines. “We recognise that the Western medical model is based on evidence-based medicine. While natural medicine has grown through generations of wisdom from many cultures, it must prove its efficacy. We pride ourselves in striving to do just that. We are a small institution with a real ‘family feel’ atmosphere and exceptional tutors highly regarded in their field,” she enthuses.

In Canada, the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences (Acos) offers diplomas in Acupuncture and Reflexology, a four-year TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) Practitioner course and a five-year Doctor of Chinese Medicine. Regula Langenegger says, “Students graduate with a diploma and more than enough training and clinical hours to challenge licensing exams in Canada. All programmes have practical work experience components where students treat patients in a clinical setting.”

Langenegger says the advantages of study at Acos are three-fold. First is the pristine natural environment of Kootenay, BC. “If a student is going to study a medicine based on a reflection of nature, they will benefit from being immersed in nature while absorbing these concepts.” Size is another plus, with only around 50 students creating a tight community. The third element is language: “All students study Mandarin in their first year of the school, with a focus on Chinese language for the healing arts.”

Windsong School of Healing, Canada, offers the Certified Holistic Health & Shiatsu Practicioner diploma which, Lori-Ann Macleod says, consists of energy medicine, iridology and oriental bodywork. “All of these therapies are non-invasive and incorporate both the mind and body with breath and lifestyle.” The integrated nature of these practices is making them a popular study field, she adds. “Shiatsu, in particular, combines both western and eastern healing philosophies to harmonise the body with the mind and spirit through touch.”

Macleod continues, “We have a great deal of interest from international and Canadian students for our courses due to the fact they are based in actual work practice and meet the rising demand for education that readies the student for the workplace immediately after graduation.”

The Australian Institute for Holistic Medicine (AIHM) offers advanced diploma courses including Ayurveda [a traditional Hindu system of medicine], Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine which, Dr Sarath Jayawardana says, are nationally recognised and industry endorsed. “The courses include both theoretical components and practical experience via our own clinic located on campus where students get opportunities to treat real clients.” He adds, “Our courses can be completed in two years by our fast-track study mode, therefore students can save some money in living expenses and get in to the workforce early.”

Working with real patients is a feature at Sussex Downs Vocational College, UK, which offers a Level 3 diploma in Complementary Therapies, covering remedial body massage, reflexology, Indian head massage and aromatherapy, says Catherine Tucker. “Learners on the diploma work closely with community groups to provide support in healthcare issues such as at St Wilfred’s Hospice. They also complete case studies on paying clients within the college treatment rooms.” Its sister college in Lewes provides a foundation degree. “This includes a clinical work placement, as well as researching the theoretical foundations of complementary healthcare.” She adds, “International students receive support from a dedicated international personal tutor and will benefit from language support and Ielts classes.”

In terms of markets, a strong presence of European and English-speaking students is noted. At Wellpark, Japan and Brazil are key markets, says Simmonds. Sussex Downs College also receives interest from Japan, Sweden, Greece and Cyprus, advises Tucker, and overseas agents are very much part of recruitment, as well as fairs, word-of-mouth and e-marketing. Word-of-mouth is successful for Wellpark College, with agents also used, says Simmonds, while the internet and agents are key tools for AIHM, relates Jayawardana. matthew@hothousemedia.com

Alternative careers

With the practical nature of alternative therapy courses and growing demand for such treatments, international students in this field are blessed with numerous career paths. Clancy Simmonds at Wellpark College, New Zealand, takes the example of their BA Naturopathy course, with students going on to be practitioners, corporate naturopaths, teachers, herbal product representatives and herb cultivators among other vocations. At Sussex Downs College in the UK, graduates are eligible to join a Department of Health register for qualified therapists, says Catherine Tucker. Graduates at the Australian Institute of Holistic Medicine become practitioners in numerous fields, says Dr Sarath Jayawardana, while credit articulation arrangements with Charles Sturt University provide a continuing study route. Some students from the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, Canada, pursue further research and study, says Regula Langenegger, but adds, “Most students take an entrepreneurial approach and set up their own clinic in their home country.”

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