A Q&A with Jennifer Young
Tell us a bit of background about yourself… (Why and how did you get into the industry? What did you do before?)
From a qualification perspective, I have a BSc (Hons) in Biology, postgraduate qualifications in occupational health and law, I am a nutritional therapist, an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, a qualified aromatherapist, beauty therapist and product formulator. I have also been accepted by the courts as an expert witness for occupational health cases, and am active in medical research.
My work in therapist training and skincare has, to date, been focussed predominantly on making touch treatments available to anyone being treated for, living with or recovering from cancer. It began when my local NHS hospital asked me to work with them and create specialist skincare and cosmetics for their patients going through active treatment. That eventually led to the launch of my skincare line, Beauty Despite Cancer, in 2013, designed to ease the effects of cancer treatment on the body.
As a therapist however, I know how impactful touch therapies can be, especially when you are unwell, and historically spas have had to turn cancer patients away because they didn’t have the therapist training to support vulnerable clients, and because the insurance industry wouldn’t provide cover. That’s where Jennifer Young Training began, creating protocols for a globally accepted standard of specialist oncology touch therapy training, which is now available at spas around the world and in the NHS and private hospitals, hospices and charities.
This year, we have taken our knowledge in skincare and hormonal wellness a step further and have launched www.themenopuaseplus.com, MPlus. It aims to provide practical support for women going through menopause, to change the way we talk about menopause, and also to provide therapists with the training they need to support clients, both physically and emotionally. We have two courses for MPlus, our Hormonal Wellness Mentor and Coach training, and our Hormonal Wellness Spa Treatments, which launched in April.
Are there any challenges you have had to overcome as a therapist? How have you overcome these?
I have always seen it more as there being barriers in the industry, and I have taken it upon myself and my team to change that.
So, when it came to cancer, therapists just weren’t being given the knowledge they needed to tailor treatments to individuals at different stages of the cancer journey – they didn’t know what to expect if someone had a mastectomy or a stoma, and they weren’t taught about how cancer treatments affect the body. Instead they were put in a position of fear because they were taught they would do harm. In addition, the lack of support from the insurance industry made it impossible to treat clients who had cancer, and having to turn people away was upsetting. I knew there was a way to change that.
Now, with MPlus, 90% of women have menopausal symptoms but as many as 40% don’t feel able to talk to their doctor and many who do get a binary response – HRT or no HRT. Lots of people find it easier to talk to their therapists, but therapists are once again not given the training to support their clients, which places a huge emotional burden on them. So we wanted to create training and provide knowledge so therapists can support their clients through this phase – physically and emotionally – whilst also looking after themselves.
What interests you outside of work? (How do you normally spend your spare time?)
My daughters, my husband, my dog, and having a few spa treatments of my own. I love a good facial. I’m a big traveller, these days that seems like another challenge to add to the list.
What is your seminar about and what can viewers expect to come away with?
We will be discussing menopause, the biology, the symptoms and the solutions. I hope I have participants rather than viewers as mine is a live seminar. I enjoy interactive sessions and am happy to be led by the learners. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of menopause and, I hope, will be able to see the positives as well as the often discussed, not so positives.
What is it about your topic that appeals to you and why is it useful for therapists?
I thought that cancer was the last taboo. I was wrong, not only are people more likely to have a conversation about cancer, any conversation about menopause is darker and heavier than any about cancer.
I was shocked when my eyes were opened to this truth and, so, once again, I decided to make change. My new site is called www.TheMenopausePlus,com for a reason. It’s time to balance the conversation for everyone, but particularly for therapists. Therapists can’t help anyone if they remain stuck in a limited, negative narrative.
If we were to be more commercia about the use of the seminar, we could mention that the menopausal spending power equates to £45billion.
What would be your one piece of advice for therapists wanting to grow and develop their therapy practice?
I think it’s really important to keep learning – both formally and informally. So if you work alone, find forums and groups of other therapists to talk to, look for learning opportunities, ask questions and on a formal level look for additional training opportunities that interest you so you can keep topping up your skills.
The knowledge around treatments keeps evolving, so it’s important to stay up to date. That’s particularly true when it comes to treating vulnerable clients like cancer patients because it’s not just learning about touch treatments, it’s also about understanding what medical treatments your clients may have had or be having, knowing how they are evolving, and being able to have a sense, at least on a practical note, of what clients might be facing.
If you have a team of therapists, make sure you’re helping to provide those training opportunities to your team – keep them engaged, help them to feel empowered and safe at work with training that gives them confidence and passion. I also think it’s important to sometimes refresh the basics, especially if you specialise and generally work in one area most of the time.
On another note, I think finding a community of other therapists to communicate with is really important. Therapists have a tough job, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding so having a supportive network of people who understand, and who you can put questions to is really important.
What do you consider to be the most important traits for a therapist to have?
A willingness to keep learning is important both for you and your clients. Almost all therapists I know, especially those who want to learn about oncology touch treatments or supporting vulnerable clients, are extremely empathetic, which I think is an important quality but it’s also all the more important to make sure you have the skills to look after yourself as well when you’re taking all of that on.