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Sheen, JG 2006, 'The professionalisation of aromatherapy: a case study of the professionalisation of complementary and alternative medicine in the Australian health care system', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright JG Sheen 2006


The aim of this study was to examine aromatherapy practice in relation to its claim of being or becoming a profession. This process of professionalisation is explored within the current context where the status of complementary and alternative medicines within the Australian health care system, like aromatherapy practice, is currently influenced by medical dominance and broader social and political scrutiny. This investigation of aromatherapy practice may provide a model for the general professionalisation, or development, of complementary and alternative medicine in Australian health care today.

Critical theory was employed as the primary methodology of this study. As critical theory has no defined method for data collection, grounded theory data collection and analysis methods were used to obtain current and relevant data from two of the most prominent users of aromatherapy practice in health care, aromatherapists and nurses.

The study found that while aromatherapy is often referred to as a profession, it fails to meet the criteria for being considered a profession in the ‘true’ sense. The data also revealed felt dissatisfactions experienced by aromatherapists’ to be due to the lack of recognition of the practice and a perceived double bind regarding the need to establish an appropriate knowledge base via scientific research and maintaining the ‘essence’ of aromatherapy practice. Considering the professionalisation process and the requirements of the system (health care and Government) a number of potential pathways for the development of aromatherapy practice were explored. The findings and discussion have relevance to other complementary and alternative modalities endeavouring to professionalise and or increase their status within the Australian health care system. In addition the study considers the related public felt dissatisfaction and revealed false consciousness relating to a broader social change and the integration of holistic and biomedical practices in health care.