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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Holistic health care on front burner

By David Chilton
Special to The Sun

The public's interest in holistic health care comes and goes, with enrolment in college programs and courses a usually accurate gauge of increasing -- or declining -- interest in such subjects as reflexology, aromatherapy and therapeutic touch.
Maggie Mann, Centennial College

At the moment, holistic treatments are again on the front burner with the Holistic Practitioner program at Centennial College in Toronto set to return to full-time status next year. Maggie Mann, co-ordinator of the program, says it began as full-time study in 1997 before switching to part time.

It's just a question of "market demand" changing the program's requirements, Mann explains. It takes about two years to finish the certificate program part time. Full-time students will take an academic year plus four weeks and enrolment will be limited to 30 to 35 students.

No science background is required -- although it would help, of course -- but a high school diploma is a must. Most of the students who take the program are women, and, equally, most of them are career changers over the age of 30 says Mann, who remembers a flight attendant among her students, and numerous middle managers, all of whom were looking for a more rewarding career.

"A holistic practitioner is a complementary care therapist," Mann says. "A typical client of a holistic practitioner is someone who is looking to keep themselves in the best possible shape, (by) taking some responsibility for their own health care and looking for ways to reduce their stress levels and maintain optimum health through natural or holistic methods."

$350 per course

Among those methods are aromatherapy, therapeutic touch and reflexology, all taught in the Centennial program. Students also take courses in pathology, physiology and anatomy, with additional courses in ethics, professional relationships and business, this last subject because most practitioners are self-employed. Tuition is about $350 a course.

Reflexology treats reflex points in the foot that affect various organ systems in the body. "It is important to emphasize that it 'reflexly' affects (organs), not that there is a nerve that goes from the liver to the foot," Mann says. Reflexology is far from a johnny-come-lately treatment. Mann points out there are records of its use in ancient China and Egypt.

Therapeutic touch is much more modern and an "energy treatment" a pair of nurses developed to control pain, Mann explains. There is, she says, "a huge amount of research" on therapeutic touch and its effectiveness. Aromatherapy uses the aromatic parts of plants -- usually obtained by steam distillation -- to treat pain and other problems such as inflammation by causing a reaction within a cell. Mann says the therapy works by what patients smell and how those smells affect their brains, and by the plant's extract interacting with their internal organs once it has entered their bloodstream through the skin.

Jacqueline Park is one of those career changers Mann spoke about. She has a degree in computer science from the University of Western Ontario, spent a year studying multimedia at Sheridan College and has worked as a web designer. She's also a registered nutritionist, graduating from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.

Park says she's always been interested in complementary therapy, and the more she knows about Western medicine, the more she realizes she made the right choice choosing the Centennial program.

Park says she's interested in a lifestyle rather than a job, a common reason why students enrol in the program. It can't be for the money. Mann says a self-employed holistic practitioner might make $25,000 a year.

Quick Facts

- Most of the students in the Holistic Practitioner program at Centennial College are women over 30.

- The majority are career changers.

- The program becomes full time in 2006.

- Full-time study will run for one academic year plus an extra four weeks.

- Most holistic practitioners are self-employed.

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