Guest post: Julia Urquhart, MFHT

Massage tools

Massage tools

I’ve been a practising massage therapist for 12 years now and it’s been an interesting journey, learning new skills at courses and workshops, and meeting other therapists who have been a great source of support and knowledge.

About a year ago, a sports therapist I was swapping treatments with used a massage tool on one on my calves, as they were very tight and the usual techniques weren’t helping. Using a flat tool, with bevelled edges, he worked all the surface fascia and it made such a difference. I was rather impressed by this, so started to incorporate a massage tool into some of my massage treatments, too.

In my other blog posts, I talk about fascia, the marvellous connective tissue that runs throughout our body. This type of massage tool works on fascia to help loosen it. It’s is a great complement to massage as sometimes you can’t tell if the muscle is tightening the fascia or the other way round. You can work fascia with your hands but these tools can give very quick results.

Massage tools are great for general stiffness and tightness, working around scar tissue, as it can help break it down and make it more flexible. It’s also helpful in treating tendinopathies, ligament pain and entrapment syndromes.

FHT Member, Julia Urquhart, is the owner of Mobile Massage Cardiff

For further information about massage tools and a sample of what’s available, read ‘Tools of the trade’ (International Therapist, Issue 87)

Guest post: Helen Roach, MFHT

It is possible to enjoy touch therapies and beauty treatments from the point of cancer diagnosis and beyond?

Guest post: Helen Roach, MFHT

Helen RoachI qualified as a beauty and complementary therapist 20 years ago. Back then, anyone that had been diagnosed with cancer was excluded from having any therapy sessions; a definite no-no, a contra-indication of treatment.

Since then there has become an increased level of awareness and acceptance that not only will those with cancer come to no harm or worsen their diagnosis, on the contrary, they will often encounter a heightened state of well-being. For women who are diagnosed, cancer can present a number of questions and challenges of their female identity, of their femininity.

“All I wanted was for people to treat and see me as a normal woman after having surgery through cancer. Helen really put me at ease and it felt wonderful to be pampered again.”
Fiona Murphy, from London.

I completed a post-graduate course in adapted oncology massage, facial, scalp, hand/foot and nail treatments, and Indian Head massage with the Jennifer Young Training School. Since then, I have given treatments to numerous women who have expressed their joy at their inclusion in the world of traditional beauty and complementary treatments. It’s an honour to be part of a movement that opens the door to women who appreciate, sometimes more than most, the well-being potential of touch therapies.

For more information about Helen’s therapy practice, visit

Please note, complementary therapies should always be used alongside conventional medical care and not as an alternative. Always tell your doctor or consultant if you are having any complementary therapies while under their care.

For more information, visit

Guest posts

Guest posts

If you have a passion for a particular therapy, would like to share photos of a recent Local Support Group meeting, or simply have a question for our readers, we are inviting you to submit a blog post to be shared with over 15,500 social media followers. Published blog posts are worth 2 CPD points each.

Simply email your blog post (250-500 words) to

Please note: Content must be relevant to therapies practised and of interest to our members. Advertorials will not be accepted. All content is subject to editing and we cannot guarantee its use.

Published guest posts

Image: iStockphoto

Surviving tough times

Surviving tough times

Paul HitchensPaul Hitchens, Creative Director of Verve Brand Consultancy and contributor to International Therapist, offers some top tips to FHT members on how to build a brand during tough times…

In tough times and at the onset of economic recession, the first impulse for many businesses is to cap spending. Despite the advice of seasoned businessmen to market your way out of a recession, marketing budgets are usually the first to go. It may seem counter intuitive, but a recession can prove to be the best time to build a brand and there are prime examples of household brands that began that way: General Electric (1890), Walt Disney (1923), Burger King (1953) and Microsoft (1975).

The founder of Virgin, Sir Richard Branson, believes that when the going gets tough the tough get going. He told The Times (London); ‘Fortunes are made out of recessions. A lot of entrepreneurs get going in the economic depths because the barriers to entry are lower’. The entrepreneur who got into business at the age of 15 added ‘I’ve seen four recessions, so I’m quite used to weathering these storms’.

A recession can be the perfect business school for an entrepreneur launching a new business brand. The lessons that will be learnt from launching a brand in a recession include:

Resourcefulness – When funds are scarce, you need to think carefully and focus on what is essential.

Judgement – When the stakes are high, it’s paramount that the need for any new product or service is
carefully evaluated.

Commitment – Start-up businesses depend on people who are committed to a shared vision and thrive under pressure.

Timing – A business that starts in a recession will be in pole position when the market improves.

Tenacity – When the going gets tough … the tough get going. A recession can reveal winning qualities.


What are the winning qualities for surviving a recession? How do you emerge with your brand in good health? What are the strategies used by some of the hardiest brands in times of recession:

1. Think differently
Doing things differently can create rewarding and memorable experiences. Branding makes it clear to the consumer why a product is better than any other on offer. Celebrate the difference that makes you stand apart from your market competitors. Clarity and focus – be clear about what makes you special and what it means to your customers.

2. Back a champion
The founder or owner must be ready at all times to promote the brand in any situation and set an excellent example to employees and key stakeholders. A confident and strong brand champion inspires team morale and improves investor relations.

3. Appoint ambassadors
Each member of staff in an organisation is a Brand Ambassador, and it’s important they understand the part they play in building its success. The experience they provide to clients is the realisation of the brand. Invest in people – a positive spirit of fellowship and common purpose among employees is essential in communicating brand confidence. Positive employees make positive customers.

4. Make the world a better place
Every organisation, product or service must have a ‘reason for being’ – so identify what your brand does and the benefit it provides, making sure it’s clear and easy to understand. Is your brand relevant to current market conditions? Are you offering value, convenience or well-being? In a recession, consumers and businesses will take great care in how they invest their money.

5. Look to the future
Every organisation must innovate to survive, and can’t afford to stagnate by expecting their customers to keep buying the same products. Sometimes we simply can’t imagine what we want until we see it. Create demand – giving people what they didn’t know they needed but cannot imagine ever having lived without. New products, services and brands can stimulate demand and get people spending.

6. Be clear about what you believe in
A brand’s values are what it stands for and what it believes in; they’re the guidelines that form the organisation’s moral compass. If you hire expensive celebrities or famous talent to champion your brand, you must be careful to monitor their behaviour so that it doesn’t compromise your brand’s values.

7. It’s not what you say, but what you do that counts
Consumers can see past glitzy marketing campaigns and seductive advertising. As the old adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and actions will always speak louder than words.

8. Offer great value
Great value for money doesn’t just mean offering the cheapest price. A brand can offer value above and beyond the price label, by granting the customer the satisfaction of owning a leading brand. Every organisation can focus on its quality and service levels to offer a higher level of care and durability. A recession affects consumer confidence. A proven track record will pay dividends. New enterprises will need to work hard for credibility. Do what you say and be consistent – loyalty is born of trust.

9. Get to the front of the queue
In a crowded marketplace, it’s difficult to stand out if you’re the seventh best-selling brand. The opportunity is to identify the attributes that differentiate your product and promote your brand as the leader in that category. Positioning places the brand in the front of the queue for the consumer’s attention. A recession can clear out a lot of the market competition and leave the strongest and leanest brands in pole position for success.

10. Community service
By recognising the groups which interact with a brand, you build up a picture of an interdependent community, which includes employees, suppliers, investors, banks, government and customers. This community is never passive, it’s an interactive entity with an interest in the brand. The interest these groups have in the brand extends beyond the ‘buyer-seller’ relationship. The success of Social Media has created a platform for valuable consumer interaction. Brands that listen to their audiences and engage with them develop deeper emotional bonds of loyalty.

Paul Hitchens is the creative director of Verve Brand Consultancy and the co-author of ‘Successful brand management in a week’, the new guide to branding, published by Hodder Education.

Join Paul for a one-day brand workshop in London or Manchester this December:


BOOK HERE 11th December 2014 London
BOOK HERE 12th December 2014 Manchester

A special one-day workshop presented by the author, Paul Hitchens. This fast paced workshop will follow the book with interactive exercises and real world examples. Each delegate will receive a complimentary copy of ‘Successful Brand Management – In A Week’.

© Verve Interactive Ltd 2014

Health and wellness tips for professionals in the complementary therapy and beauty industry by Zoe Warner, FHT Student of the Year

Constantly taking care of other people can be physically demanding. You may often feel too tired to look after yourself, neglecting your own health needs. Self-care is essential for the well-being and health of beauty professionals. Listed below are some quick and useful tips on how to look after yourself, as a professional therapist.

Read more

Image: Dollar Photo Club

Is there room in our treatment plan for clinical assessment? To answer this question, perhaps we can ask ourselves what the purpose of clinical assessment is. 

When a patient comes to see you for a treatment, you must first determine where to treat, what to treat and the techniques you are going to use to help with their presenting issues. In this context, the purpose of clinical assessment is to aid in finding the cause of the client’s dysfunction. In short, we want to find the cause/source and treat that cause – not just the symptoms that the patient presents with.

Regardless of whether you perform seated massage, sports therapy or advanced massage therapy, assessment is vital to confirming your hypothesis and to providing a rationale for the choice of modalities and treatment techniques that you will employ. When a client presents with an issue or an injury, it is necessary to look not only at the area of referred pain, but also at related structures that may indirectly contribute to their symptoms or underlying cause of injury. The cause could be skeletal, muscular or neurological, or a combination of the three. There are so many conditions that we cannot prevent. However, within the massage therapist’s scope of practice, we can maintain, rehabilitate and augment physical function in a person who is rendered dysfunctional by a condition.

We should keep in mind that, whereas doctors diagnose and we, as therapists, assess. We evaluate musculoskeletal structures to determine what has occurred and which areas are involved. This important step will allow us to create a targeted treatment strategy that embodies our plan of action. Assessment starts when you first see the client and should not end after they tell you that “my back hurts” or “I have numbness in my fingers”.  

The assessment process includes various steps such as: history taking; observations; muscle tests; neurological test; palpation; and functional tests. You may not use all of these steps but this template will allow the therapist to progress through the assessment in a logical manner and arrive at an educated conclusion. This template can be used to assess any part of the body. Depending on the presenting issue of the client, the assessment could take less than 5 minutes, or it could be longer.   

I believe that if you can determine where the client’s discomfort is stemming from, you can then determine the position to start their treatment in, the specific modalities to use and the areas best treated to help resolve their issues. Successful physical assessment leads to effective and thorough treatment planning and resolution of your client’s pain and/or dysfunction, and results in happy, healthy clients and a thriving practice.

FHT Member and Accredited provider, Paul Lewis, offers various advanced workshops on massage, clinical assessment and seated massage: 

8 November

9 November
10 November

Isle of Wight
16 February 
17 February
18 February  


21 February  
22 February  

For more information about Paul, visit 

Image: Paul Lewis

Do you value yourself?

‘A person’s worth in this world is estimated according to the value they put on themselves’ Jean de la Bruyere (1645-1696)

How many of us really question the value of our individual physical and personal growth? In today’s world which is increasingly faster and busier than ever before, there is a market value on everything, including our time. We are all out there trying to carve our way through life hoping to gain financial reward, security, happiness and fulfilment.

Some will throw themselves willingly into the fast track of life and careers, while there are others desperately trying to get off the track because the pressure is too much.

At what point does our way of life and our paths become too costly to our physical, personal and spiritual growth? Well of course this varies dramatically from one person to another. Many years ago I trained in craniosacral therapy and found the course and therapy itself truly amazing. What was profoundly changing for me was the fact that as part of the training I had to keep a diary detailing where within my week I made time for my own spiritual and physical well-being. This made enlightening reading for me. Although I had been a complementary therapist for over a decade and understood the whole ‘mind, body, spirit’ cycle vital to our health and vitality, I still fell into the same trap as a lot of people and became so caught up I did not make time for my own health and well-being. I started a weekly pilates class, arranged a fortnightly therapy treatment and gave myself daily Reiki treatments.

In reality this really was not much time out of my week and after a few weeks the changes within me were significant. I felt calmer, more in control, I had more vitality and most importantly I noticed an enormous difference while giving treatments to clients. As I was connecting deeply with my inner self I found that I was achieving a sense of stillness sooner and more deeply, allowing me to give much more effective treatments to others.

Take time to truly look at your week, take the time to think about what you would like to do. Instead of coming up with reasons why you can’t do exercise, have an holistic treatment, meditate or relax, make a list of what you want to do, where you can do it and how.
Value yourself.

‘Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours!’ Richard Bach (b. 1936)

Marie Duggan, MFHT

Image: Dollar Photo Club

If you have a passion for a particular therapy, would like to share photos of a recent Local Support Group meeting, or simply have a question for our readers, we are inviting you to submit a blog post to be shared with over 11,500 social media followers. Published blog posts are worth 2 CPD points each.

Simply email your blog post (250-500 words) to:

Please note: Content must be relevant to therapies practised and of interest to our members. Advertorials will not be accepted. All content is subject to editing and we cannot guarantee its use.

Published guest posts

Image: iStockphoto

For many years now hot stone massage has featured on the menus of many spas and salons all over the world, and massage therapists who provide them will undoubtedly agree that stones are lovely to work with and loved by every client who receives a hot stone treatment.

The benefits of working with stones are numerous both from a business point of view because offering hot stone massage will bring you more clients, and in terms of therapeutic outcomes. Everyone who has received a hot stone massage will know how relaxing the treatment is and how the addition of heat enhances this effect. But what about using stones within the context of a remedial massage? 

Barcombe Bodyworks have been using stones within their clinical massage treatments for the past six years and have developed a range of advanced techniques using stones hydro-therapeutically. The techniques use both hot and cold water, assisting the re-hydration of soft tissue. Because some of the techniques involve no oil they can be used in conjunction with myofascial release to great effect.

Barcombe Bodyworks have developed a two-day course that has been accredited by the FHT to share these valuable techniques with other therapists. The courses run in Sussex and the next one takes place on 26/27 July 2014. For more information, click here »

Image: Barcombe Bodyworks

As therapists we want to heal and help. Practicing with an inclusive policy is vital to make sure we welcome all people to our practice; but what does that involve day to day?

Well, we can offer good accessibility for parking cars, wheelchair access, single-floor access for people who may be unsteady. We can write policies and be aware of legislation that affects people we may treat and ensure safe practice in an appropriate environment. We can offer community visits to people who cannot get to our clinics. We can provide many modes of communication via the phone, social media, websites, and emails for people, so they can choose a preferable way to contact us and communicate.

In fact, communication is at the very heart of what we do. We communicate daily through touch, tone of voice, body language and gesture. However, for some people with communication difficulties this may be difficult to interpret or understand. This is where we can engage in a total communication approach.

Becoming aware and trained in different communication methods can be helpful in ensuring you offer all your clients every opportunity to feel understood and therefore begin to work through any issues that may be affecting their health.

Signing is increasingly being championed within our communities to ensure that people who find speech or hearing difficult can be valued and made welcome. More shops, companies charities and individuals are being trained to sign. Whether it be Makaton, British Sign Language or another blend of basic key signing this can make a huge difference to communicating.

If a client has learning difficulties, you can use sign to say hello in a way that makes them feel comfortable. You can establish if and where any pain might be. You can build rapport more quickly and encourage someone to trust you and enable them to receive a treatment where previously they may have refused. 

Signing helps both communicators slow down and focus. People of all ages who are on the autistic spectrum can feel that you have entered their world on their terms and help them open up to you and trust you. Once you have established that trust, new possibilities about helping them slow down, focus and connection with the world around them can occur.

Even people who do not know signing, can follow conversations better especially if they have some sort of cognitive impairment which requires more visual prompts. Try signing along as well as verbalising your message to someone who lives with dementia if it is appropriate. You might be surprised at how much better they follow what you are saying as many signs are based on natural gesture.

Signing is designed to be used alongside the spoken word, this allows the other person every opportunity to use all their communication skills to understand and speak with you. We lip read more than we realise, and people with hearing impairments even more so. So it creates a clearer, more holistic form of communication.

Signing can reduce the frustration associated with being misunderstood. In turn this can reduce behaviour we find challenging, and therefore pre-empt aggressive episodes and even reduce the need for medication used to calm people down.

It also helps with improving good eye contact, and this in turn can forge good communication habits, and help people connect better. However, for some people who may have learning difficulties or be on the autistic spectrum, eye contact may be seen as a threat. However, signing can still be used without eye contact and can be used sidelong with people. The point is to be clear and consistent with your signing.

“Baby signing” has helped parents and babies build a close bond with each other during their 1st months and establish their babies’ needs more quickly resulting in a more content little one, and parent. Many schools now teach signing as part of their curriculum, especially in foundation, pre-school and primary schools. This encourages a more inclusive school community and enables all children to communicate with each other better. In fact, signing is fun, and signing and singing is a playful way to express yourself. There are some myths around signing preventing children from developing their language healthily, however, research shows that it actually encourages speech and language development, mental capacity and creates a larger expressive and receptive spoken language vocabulary (Acredolo et al., 1999; Goodwyn et al., 2000; Moore et al., 2001).

On a personal note, I saw the immense value of children so young being taught signing. Back in December 2013, my nephew was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was immediately removed. After the trauma of surgery, he temporarily lost his speech and used signing to express his needs, wants and feelings. This helped everyone around him ease his pain, provide him with the medical attention he needed, or simply give him space when he needed to rest. His frustration though was that he was the best signer out of all of us, and we could not always get it right, but that was a huge incentive to go and learn some more signs to muddle through. You tube was a great resource at that time, but there are plenty of free apps you can now download to help you if you need to check a sign.

Thankfully, my nephew is a very bright spark who is now well on the way to recovery and he no longer needs to sign. However, my practice has been enhanced radically since learning basic signing. I have been able to establish if a client is in pain; I have been able to open up my speciality and welcome people with varied special needs into my clinic; I have enjoyed singing and signing with a client who has dementia during a treatment, and helped chase his gloominess away.

Ultimately, good therapy is about using as many tools in our kit to be creative, inventive and welcoming, so we can create a space to connect, express, nurture and heal. Using signing has opened doors for me on many levels; the doors of my clinic to more people within my community, doors of opportunity, and doors to people’s hearts.

Nicolle runs courses on massage for dementia patients and has one running in Brighton on 18th July.

Visit for more information and to book.

About Nicolle

Nicolle Mitchell has run a general practice offering holistic massage since 1998 and is a support worker in The Adult Speech and Language Therapy Department for The Peninsula Community Health Trust, who provide therapy and rehabilitation on behalf of the NHS in Cornwall.

Nicolle is passionate about her specialist field, dementia, delivering her award winning course: ‘How to Massage People with Dementia’ countrywide. She visits a nursing home weekly, offering people with dementia integrated massage, aromatherapy, validation therapy and reminiscence. 

Image: Dollar Photo Club