How social prescribing could be used to tackle the UK’s loneliness crisis

Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine and Integrated Health, addressed how social prescribing could be used to combat loneliness in a speech at the Westminster Insight conference. He highlights that social prescribing is a useful tool when it comes to supporting those who are feeling isolated, as the scheme provides new opportunities for people to socialise.

He highlighted that the number of link workers is increasing in England, with the aim that within the next few years there will be up to three link workers assigned to every group of GP practices. Link workers team up with local services and volunteers to extend their reach so that they are able to support all those who are referred to them or have been flagged as self-isolating.

Dr. Michael Dixon outlined how social prescribing helps people build connections and gives them new opportunities. He concludes his talk by highlighting that to truly tackle loneliness, the approach does need to go deeper than this. He said, ‘Social prescribing is about inequalities and helping those who need help most.  The last Surgeon General of the US, Vivek Murthy, refers to the ‘Paradox of Loneliness’ which describes how those who feel most lonely may, paradoxically, often be those who are most resistant to social approaches and opportunities. 

‘It has been estimated, for instance, that lonely brains detect social threat twice as fast as unlonely ones.  Consequently, the unique strength of the social prescribing link worker is that they can do a ‘deep dive’ into the mind and lives of their clients and formulate a solution only when they thoroughly understand their background, challenges, hopes and beliefs – and this may often involve the link worker accompanying the client to the first few sessions of any new activity.

‘I also think social prescribing also has a vital role as catalyst for creating a community where people are less lonely to begin with. Social link workers often work alongside community builders, whose job is to increase the potential of the local volunteer and voluntary sector. Indeed, some link workers do both jobs. This results in a coming together of the voluntary sector, primary care and the local authority, which can increase local social capital and resilience and thus create a community where there are less lonely people altogether.’

Learn more about social prescribing

Peppermint reduces postoperative nausea and vomiting in cardiac patients

A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice examined the effects of peppermint essential oil on postoperative nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects in patients in the first four hours after cardiac surgery. (Maghami et al, 2020) 

The clinical trial involved 60 cardiac surgery patients, who were divided into control and intervention groups. The intervention group received peppermint essential oil through a nebulizer before the endotracheal tube was removed after surgery and their nausea and vomiting assessed using a checklist.  

The results of the trial showed significant differences between the intervention and control groups in terms of the frequency of nausea, its duration and severity, and in the frequency of vomiting episodes in the first four hours after having the endotracheal tube removed. 

The authors concluded that “Peppermint essential oil inhalation has beneficial effects on reducing nausea and vomiting after open-heart surgery. Using peppermint essential oil inhalation for managing postoperative nausea and vomiting is recommended.” 

Click here to access the study abstract

Did you enjoy this research summary?
The FHT features research summaries in each issue of International Therapist magazine. To find out more about the many benefits of being an FHT member, visit

Maghami M, Reza Afazel M, Azizi-Fini I, Maghami M. (2020) The effect of aromatherapy with peppermint essential oil on nausea and vomiting after cardiac surgery: A randomized clinical trial Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice40

Take part in an online sleep treatment study run by experts at Northumbria University

Sleep experts at Northumbria University are looking for people who are experiencing issues with their sleep to take part in an online treatment study.

The programme has been launched following a review of COVID-19 sleep studies, which indicate that around 40% of people have been experiencing sleep problems as a result of the pandemic.

Phycologists from Northumbria University believe that they can stop sleep disruption if they are able to intervene at an early stage. The online study looks at educating people on how they can change their behavior in order to sleep better, a method which has proven to be effective on people with insomnia.

Dr Greg Elder, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Associate Director of Northumbria Sleep Research, says “We know that more and more people are developing problems with their sleep during the pandemic. This is partly due to changes to our lifestyle, which can include spending more time at home and working in the bedroom. We want to use an online version of an established treatment to intervene early and stop short-term sleep problems from becoming a more serious long-term problem. We also want to target good sleepers and prevent sleep problems from happening in the first place.”

There is no deadline in which to apply for the study but participants are required to be aged 18 or over, have access to the internet and to be able to read written English.

Apply to take part in the study.

Resistance training can reduce neck and shoulder pain in office workers

Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders affect many office workers and there is strong evidence to suggest that workplace-based resistance training can prevent several upper extremity MSK disorders (Saeterbakken et al, 2020).

A recent study published in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation examined the dose response relationship between resistance training frequency and pain relief among 30 office workers with moderate neck and shoulder pain.

The study participants attended a 16-week intervention, which started with an eight-week control period followed by an eight-week training period. After the control period, the participants were randomized into either a once-daily 10-minute or twice-daily 10-minute workplace-based, high-intensity neck and shoulder resistance training programme, five days a week. 

Four exercises were carried out within the 10-minute sessions, using elastic bands: one-arm row; upright row; one-arm reverse flies; and one-arm lateral raise. Each exercise was conducted with two sets. Measurements were taken for pain, health-related quality of life, and isometric strength of the neck and shoulder region. 

The results of the study showed that “daily bouts of specific high-intensity resistance training of the shoulder and neck region at the workplace reduced neck and shoulder pain and improved quality of life of office workers. However, 10-minute bouts were equally effective as 2 × 10-minute bouts per day. The authors recommend office workers to perform daily neck and shoulder resistance training to possibly prevent and/or decrease pain in the neck and shoulder area.”

Click here to access the full study

Did you enjoy this research summary?
The FHT features research summaries in each issue of International Therapist magazine. To find out more about the many benefits of being an FHT member, visit

Accessible to all – CPD and resources for members

There are lots of resources available to increase your own awareness of equality and diversity, including a webinar on Unconscious Bias organised by FHT, and reflective practice on our Accessible to All article (International Therapist, Issue 134).

Unconscious bias webinar – Monday, 25 January 2020 (2pm-4pm)

We are delighted to be offering this exciting CPD opportunity, exclusively to FHT members, to help broaden your understanding of inclusivity by exploring the concept of ‘unconscious bias’ via a two-hour webinar. Within this session you will:

  • Identify your own biases and accept that bias exists in all of us.
  • Recognise and understand how unconscious bias might play out in practice, clinic and with other clients.
  • Have a clear plan to challenge your own bias behaviours, and developing more inclusive behaviours.

Members who attended the webinar in November said:

‘Really enjoyed the session today with Vix. She did an excellent job delivering the session – I came away with lots to think about.  It was also great linking up with everyone else and hearing some really interesting stories.’ Lynda Hedgecock.

‘Thank you for some really great content.  I have found the last couple of hours really informative.’

‘Thank you for today it was really helpful and great to speak to other therapists’

Learn more and book our Unconscious Bias webinar taking place on Monday 25 January (2pm-4pm), for just £35 (£45 for non-FHT members).

Accessible to All feature – resources and reflective practice

In our Accessible to All feature, published in International Therapist Autumn 2020 (issue 134), we share the below links to online training, resources, tests, podcasts, books and communities that might come in useful.

Organisations and websites

Your local council – you can find helpful statistics on diversity in your area through your local council website.

Harvard implicit bias – Any of us could have an unconscious bias as a result of the environment we were brought up in. Harvard have created a series of short free tests to check your unconscious biases. Educational links are provided at the end of the test which provide further information.

Future Men – A charity looking to break the social constructs around male behaviours and expectations. This website includes information on community groups and contact details.

Black Lives Matter – Resources to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scope UK – A charity focused on achieving equality for disabled people
with useful resources and information.

Articles to help you diversify your business


Free stock images of people from BAME and LGBTQ+ backgrounds.


Duolingo – A free gamified language learning app that helps you to learn languages such as Polish, Hindi, Japanese and Swahili.

British Sign Language (BSL) – This free app provides level 1 sign language tutorial. BSL has also been providing their level 1 course at a discounted rate over the pandemic.


Nancy – Stories and conversations about the LGBTQ+ experience today.

About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of the book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ looks at the recent history that has led to the politics of today.

Diversifying the Wellness Industry by Yoga Girl – Rachel Brathen discusses how making a change begins with recognising just how far we are from equality and diversity within the wellness industry and taking active steps towards change every day.


Biased: The New Science of Race and Inequality by Dr Jennifer Eberhardt -In this book, Jennifer explains how these unconscious biases affect every sector of society, leading to enormous disparities from the classroom to the courtroom to the boardroom.

Complementary therapies for older people in care by Sharon Tay – This book offers unique information and practical advice on the issues that can be overlooked in complementary therapy training.

Unlocking generational codes by Anna Liotta – Generational expert, Anna Liotta, explains how to overcome the ‘generation gap’ to effectively communicate and develop meaningful relationships with members of all the generations in the workplace and in everyday life.

Looking to gain further CPD points?

To gain five CPD points, visit and download a reflective practice on this feature.

Read the full Accessible to All feature as published in International Therapist, Autumn 2020 (Issue 134).

Denise Berwick, MFHT, looks at using localisation to increase diversity and how to support clients from a low socioeconomic background…

Denise Berwick, MFHT, contributed the words below to our ‘Accessible to all’ feature, published in International Therapist Autumn 2020 (issue 134).

‘I worked as a youth worker and project manager before training as a reflexologist and was given a broad range of equality and diversity training. This training, paired with having worked in a diverse community, helped shape me and increased my understanding of inclusivity. It grounded me in good practice, such as being aware of the language I am using and the language that is being used around me, indirect discrimination, unconscious bias, emphasising the benefits of diversity and offering appropriate support. 

‘When I became a reflexologist in 1997, my aim was to make reflexology inclusive to the community that I lived in. As a reflexologist in rural Gloucestershire, I believe that localisation is a sustainable way for therapists to build business. Working locally strengthens our ability to withstand ups and downs, to contribute to the local economy and to respond to the needs of our communities. 

‘My current client base includes people living with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, men, older people, full-time carers and people struggling with their mental health. I currently only treat one person from the BAME community which reflects the area I live and work in. I find it helpful to use the demographics of my local community as a measure of how diverse my client-base is (this information is available through your local council). 

Supporting clients financially 

‘Years ago, I made connections with local GP surgeries by contacting local health visitors and speaking to them about reflexology and the way I wanted to work. From these conversations it became clear to me that those who might benefit the most from reflexology treatments may struggle to pay for the service. I decided that the best way to ensure I could continue to support these clients was to come to an arrangement, below are just a few of the ways I support my clients financially: 

  • Working collaboratively to decide what they can pay at the time. This also means that when they are in a financial position to be able to pay more, they are often honest enough to do so. 
  • Offering a gift economy where a client can exchange goods or services in return for a treatment. 
  • I provide an agreed number of free treatments to clients who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening health condition. 

‘Overall, I find that there is a financial flow and I have a steady income to meet my needs. How much I charge where there is financial hardship is done case by case, nobody so far has abused this and it helps that I have a steady stream of clients who don’t have difficulty paying. 

‘My vision for the future is to see a richly diverse multicultural industry where practices are regularly reviewed and reacted to where necessary.’

Denise Berwick, MFHT, is a reflexologist, stress management practitioner and natural mindfulness guide based in Gloucestershire. 

Accessible to all

In International Therapist Autumn 2020 (Issue 133), we shared some statistics from our FHT 2020 Equality and Diversity survey as well as some case studies from FHT members, and some tips to help you to make your practice more inclusive.

We highlighted three key areas to look at, the diversity of therapists, the diversity of clients and the adequacy of training to cater for a diverse client baseTo find out more, we asked our members to fill out the 2020 FHT Equality and Diversity Survey and tell us their views.

Thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to our survey.

Diversity of therapists 

We asked survey respondents, ‘do you consider yourself part of a minority group?’ 

  • 22% yes
  • 78% no

Though the overwhelming response was ‘no’, it led us to consider what the term ‘diversity’ may mean different things to us all and should be considered in relation to the area where a service is being provided.

Challenges when promoting diversity 

We asked survey respondents, ‘have you faced any challenges when trying to promote diversity?’ 

  • 17% yes 
  • 60% no 
  • 23% not sure 

‘Apart from including my friends and family in my own photos for the website, it has been quite challenging to find good quality photos that I can use for my digital and physical marketing materials.’ Survey respondent, MFHT. 


We asked survey respondents, ‘During training did you learn to offer treatments that support a wide range of clients?’ 

  • 63% yes 
  • 30% no 
  • 7% not sure 

The only diversification in practice that was covered during my training was age related, and generally related to pressure application. Survey respondent, anonymous. 

Most basic training seems to be how to deal with a typical cookie cutter” client. Apart from addressing health issues in the initial consultation, there was very little discussion around, for example, adjusting your massage table for a wheelchair user, or communicating with a person who is deaf. I believe diversity training needs to be added to all Level 3 courses. Survey respondent, MFHT. 

Though it is positive that 63% of respondents felt their training was adequate for equality and diversity, it is important to consider that this may only relate to certain courses and that respondents might be unaware of the gaps that exist.  


We asked survey respondents ‘do you think there are inclusivity gaps within the therapy industry as a whole’

  • 39% not sure 
  • 36% yes  
  • 25% no 

We live in a society with systemic racism so there is no reason to think it wouldn’t exist in our industry as much as any other. Its probably more evident in the beauty sector, as beauty ideals and fashion tend to be focused on white people. But without anti-bias and race awareness training, most white people are unaware of their own privilege and don’t actively challenge racism. Survey respondent, MFHT. 

The fact that the highest response to this question was ‘not sure’, made us consider whether there has been enough research on equality and diversity within the industry. There are indications that research in this area is being undertaken, with organisations such as the British Beauty Council having recently published their diversity and inclusion report.

It is also worth mentioning that inclusivity gaps may be visible if we broaden our awareness of what an inclusive industry could look like and work to address those using the tips outlined in our Accessible to all feature. 

Look out for more blog items this week, including case studies from some of our FHT members…

3 simple tips to help make your therapy practice a little greener…

Our 2019 FHT Member Survey showed that more than half of FHT members (52%) already use sustainable and environmentally friendly products. For others wanting to take some steps to join this positive movement, we hope you find the following tips useful (the following excerpt was originally published in International Therapist, Issue 128, Spring 2019).  

Energy matters 

When it comes to conserving energy, there are a few areas worth considering, such as how this energy is sourced, how you use it and how much you use.  

Green energy  
Green energy is produced from renewable sources that are naturally replenished, such as solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, tidal power and biofuels. These are also considered green because they produce a smaller carbon footprint compared to non-renewable sources (for example oil, coal, gas and uranium). According to government research, renewable sources produced 29.3% of the UK’s electricity in 2017, which was a record high (DBEIS, 2018). Green energy tariffs are also becoming more competitive, which is potentially due to the public’s growing support for renewable energy (85%) and concern about climate change (74%) (DBEIS, 2018). If you are looking to switch to a green supplier, check the current tariffs available and keep an eye out for some of the smaller providers, as these may be offering deals that compete favourably against the more mainstream suppliers. 

Lightbulb moment 
For any electric lighting in your salon or clinic, using energy-efficient lightbulbs is a key way to save both energy and money. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are considered the best option, as they use 75 to 80% less electricity than traditional lightbulbs and last up to 10 times longer. If you are using spotlights or dimmable lights, then LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are a better choice. 

Brands with integrity 

If you are in the process of reviewing which skincare range to stock, sales in certified organic, natural and vegan products are reaching an all-time high. Conscious consumers are seeking a holistic approach to their beauty and personal care routines, using products that align with their ethical and environmental values. If you’re concerned that natural or organic products may not perform as well as the big beauty brands, SAC highlighted this in its 2018 market report: ‘In the past, there have been misconceptions about the sophistication of organic vs. conventional beauty, but the idea of having to choose between efficacy and ethics has changed dramatically. The range of high-performance organic formulas now on offer deliver results-driven beauty without asking consumers to sacrifice their values.’ 

Houseplants for health 

Houseplants not only help to improve air quality by trapping and removing pollutants, an article published on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website highlights that these leafy allies offer a range of psychological and physical health benefits too (RHS, 2019). 

Studies have shown that in terms of mental wellbeing, indoor plants can help to improve mood, reduce stress levels and increase productivity at work, while on a physical level, they can help to reduce blood pressure, fatigue and headaches and improve breathing problems (created by indoor air quality). Five easy-to-grow houseplants that are recommended by the RHS to improve air quality are:  
1 Madagascar dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)  
2 Indian rubber tree, rubber plant (Ficus elastica)  
3 English ivy, common ivy (Hedera helix)  
4 Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis)  
5 Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata). 

For more tips… 

See our Green Salon article, published in the Spring 2019 issue of International Therapist magazine. Please note this article was published prior to COVID-19 and we fully appreciate that government guidelines from various countries currently require therapists to use, for example, disposable/single use items such as Type II face masks. Hopefully in time we will all be able to resume greener practices to help protect our planet but for now, it is important that we all follow government guidelines to help protect our clients’ safety.  

Do you have green tips that you’d like to share with other members?  

Send these to Leanne Sheill at so that we can share these in International Therapist magazine. 

Congratulations to our 2020 FHT Green Therapy Business of Year winners… Anne Bramley, MFHT, and Helen Saunders, MFHT

Anne and Helen are the co-founders of Wellbeing at Whistlewood, an ‘off grid’ initiative set in 10 acres of community-owned woodland in South Derbyshire. They help to facilitate a team of 29 professionals who offer a wide range of activities and experiences for their guests to enjoy – from holistic therapies and retreats, to wellbeing classes, creative workshops and forest bathing. A key objective of Whistlewood is to help improve health and wellbeing by connecting people with nature and so most of the activities are conducted outdoors, across all four seasons. But there is also a very strong focus on sustainability and giving back to nature, which is why their amenities use solar power, a purified water supply and composting toilets, among others. To learn more about Wellbeing at Whistlewood, look out for an article in the Winter issue of International Therapist, published in January 2021. 

And many congratulations to our finalists for this award, Tina Kent, Mani Kohli and Lucy Stevens. 

Please revisit our blog this afternoon at 3pm, when we’ll be sharing some tips on how to make your therapy practice more green.

Congratulations to our 2020 FHT Tutor of the Year… Jennifer Young, MFHT

When coronavirus reached UK shores, Jennifer drew on her expertise as a former inspector for HSE, international consultant, specialist skincare product developer and accredited training provider to create an online course to support professional therapists through the pandemic. As well as helping them to understand the nature of the virus, her user-friendly course walked therapists through how to create a risk matrix and prioritise appropriate actions when resuming practice. In Jennifer’s own words, her aim was ‘to help therapists return to work with a spring in their step rather than fear in their hearts’. Since it was launched, Jennifer’s fully certified course, Control of Cross Infection in a Post-Covid World – Professional Standards of Hygiene, has been accessed by more than 5,400 therapists, completely free of charge, as she felt free access was the right thing to do in these ‘turbulent and trying times’.  

And many congratulations to our finalists for this award, Caroline Bradley, Marie Duggan and Dawn Morse. 

Please revisit our blog tomorrow morning at 10am, when we’ll be announcing our very first 2020 FHT Green Therapy Business of the Year!