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Complementary Therapy: Comfort for Those in Need Of Palliative Care
  1. Marcos Viliotti, Complementary Therapist
  1. St Christopher’s Hospice, London. Email:

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Traditionally, complementary therapies have been associated with relaxation therapies (Monti and Yang, 2005). However, the help and comfort resulting from complementary treatments go beyond what might be considered simply a ‘feel good’ factor (Pujol and Monti, 2007). Complementary therapies are now being used alongside orthodox treatments to help provide physical and emotional support for patients with terminal disease (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2004). In palliative care, the most frequently used complementary therapies tend to be touch based (e.g. massage, aromatherapy and reflexology) or psychological interventions (e.g. relaxation, meditation and visualisation) (NICE, 2004). Stress renders individuals less able to cope physically and mentally with a myriad of symptoms and situations. Therefore, the relief of stress experienced by patients and carers may assist them in the management of their lives (Kumar et al, 2013).

The role of the complementary therapist in palliative care can be fulfilling and gratifying. It is my experience that patients and carers often comment that the complementary therapies provided at St Christopher’s Hospice, London, help them to feel more relaxed at a very distressing time. The St Christopher’s complementary therapy team provides therapies for inpatients, outpatients and carers. It also provides home visits for those who are unable to come to the hospice. The team consists of six part-time therapists who are qualified and registered with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council. Each practitioner is qualified to offer at least two therapies. At present therapists are paid and volunteer therapists are not used. At St Christopher’s Hospice, the complementary therapy team offers a range of treatments, including:

  • ▶▶ Aromatherapy: the use of essential oils extracted from flowers, herbs, fruits and plants. These oils can be used in several ways, most often in combination with massage or through inhalation

  • ▶▶ Reflexology: a specialised form …

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