Growing Your Therapy Business in 2019: The Complementary Therapy Market & Your Competition

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the importance of focusing on the foundations of our business in order to help develop it by:

  • Understanding what it is we really do so we are able to market our business
  • Understanding the life that we want so that we are able to make decisions about our business that are right for us
  • Understanding our USP and why this is so important in growing our business

This week I’m going to take a little look at the idea of ‘competition’. While I alluded in my last post that I don’t perceive other therapists in my area to be my ‘competition’, I still think that it’s important to understand the complementary therapy market, why people use complementary therapists, and who else is working in our area; to do some research on the ‘competition’, but not necessarily for the reasons you might be thinking

The complementary therapy market

I think it is important to get an idea of the complementary therapy market in the UK. Unfortunately, because complementary therapies are unregulated in the UK, there is very little ‘official’ data available. What little there is comes from a report complied by Lynn Vos and Ross Brennan in 2005 called Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies. Their report looked at what data there was for both the UK and the US, along with a very small scale study of their own, and this is a summary of their findings:

  • In 2000 the CAM market was estimated to be worth £581 million, 1% of the total UK healthcare market with around 48,000 – 60,000 CAM practitioners
  • Exploratory research suggests that most marketing in the sector takes place through customer relationship development, word of mouth, and social networks
  • There has been no research in client loyalty specifically, but there is a strong suggestion that many clients value a personal, enduring relationship with their therapist, and they quote the House of Lords as saying:

The NHS has long waiting lists for outpatient appointments…, and there is a common impression among patients, even in primary care …that the doctor’s time is precious and must not be wasted. In comparison, CAM therapists are numerous and often easy to access; they are very welcoming to patients, positively encouraging long consultations… [and] some CAM therapists work in more pleasant environments, and patients appreciate the better, and often more relaxing, quality of their surroundings.

House of Lords 2000 para 3.9, in Vos & Brennabut,2005, Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Their report also indicated that people came to see a complementary therapist for:

  • Long term chronic health problems – e.g. muscular-skeletal, depression, skin disorders, and allergies
  • Shorter term conditions – e.g. viral infections and injuries
  • Therapy helped in the past
  • Dissatisfied with conventional medicine
  • Desire to try a new approach
  • New health problem
  • To improve general well-being
  • Stress-related condition

Despite the limitations of the research, their findings tally with my own experiences, and I am sure that most seasoned therapists would agree with these reasons, and with the message from the whole report – that the CAM sector is one that is growing, and that client relationships are key to our success.

So what does this mean for us?

Well, it means ‘great news’, you’re working in a sector that’s growing! You’re working in a sector where anyone could be your client – there is no defined ‘type’ of complementary therapy user. You are also working in a sector that, by it’s very definition is difficult to ‘market’ to as people generally seek us out through reputation and word of mouth. That said, I believe herein lies the key to your success as a therapist, because reputation and word of mouth is formed by people’s senses:

What they hear – word of mouth and recommendation, as well as what you write. People will form an opinion of you based on how you communicate with them, the words you use whether said out loud or written on your website.

What they see – there’s no point in denying that people make first impressions based on what they see, so why should it be any different for our potential clients? They like to know what you look like to see if you are the kind of person they think they will like. So, this could include photographs of you, photographs of your work space on so on.

What they feel – many people get a gut feeling based on what they hear and see of you before contacting you to make an appointment – they want to know that they will feel safe and secure, valued and respected if they chose to have a treatment with you. And then obviously what they feel as a result of the treatment feeds back to word of mouth and reputation, and so on…

What this means for us, for you, is that what you write, what you say, the public images you share, how you make clients feel, must come from your heart. So, whatever you do, do not try and second guess what your clients might want to hear, see and feel, just be you and you will attract the clients that need you. This might seem like a giant leap of faith, but you have to trust me on this one – actually, not just me, ask most seasoned therapists and they will say the same. And you are right, I haven’t mentioned price as being a key factor in choosing a therapist, because that is way down the list and something we’ll cover in the next couple of weeks!

So what about your direct ‘competition’?

I still believe that there is no such thing as competition in the complementary therapy market, and I stand by that, you will attract he clients that need you based on what they hear, what they see and how you make them feel both before, during and after their treatment.

But, while there is no competition, you are part of a community. Out there is a community of fellow therapists who can offer you advice, support, encouragement and ideas. And I’m not just talking about your immediate vicinity – I’m talking as far and wide as you want it to reach. So, do your research, get to know some fellow therapists to find support networks, look at what other therapists do in terms of reaching out to potential clients, be inspired by them to create your own marketing materials, or emulate it in your own way if you think that what they have done is amazing – asking their permission first.

The complementary therapy market is still a mystical beast as far as pinning down statistics goes, but we do know that:

  • Our clients value the long consultations and the relaxed, safe environment we provide
  • They chose us based on what they hear, see and feel
  • We are perhaps unique in the ‘business world’ in that we exist not in competition, but in a community, with our fellow therapists, so make the most of it!

Next week: Qualifying: the ‘friends, family and case study’ myth, and managing expectations.

Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies [accessed Apr 18 2018].


Growing Your Therapy Business in 2019: Your USP

So, if you’ve been following these posts you’ve had a really good think about:

  • What it is you actually do – starting to really get to grips with being able to talk and write about your business, learning to act as an Ambassador if you struggle with selling, and developing a starting point for marketing materials.
  • Why you are doing what you do – essentially the point of your business and why you set up your business in the first place, this is so that the life you want runs your business, and not your business running your life.

So, what’s next? Well, my guess is that there are plenty of other therapists in your area, some doing the same as you, some doing something slightly different – how do you distinguish yourself from them, what is your unique selling point? Errrr…..Yup, I struggled with this to, what was different about me, what was my unique selling point? Actually, the answer is one of the best kept secrets in the therapy world – it’s you.

Seriously, it’s you. You ask most most clients why they chose / stick with a therapist and I’d bet money on it that they will talk about how they had heard about you, or how they liked what they saw when they visited your website, and they stayed because they like how YOU made them feel. And, if you ask seasoned therapists the same question they will give you the same answer – it’s not how much you charge, it’s not how long you’ve been practising, it’s not where you are located, it’s not whether you have heated towels or an aromatherapy diffuser, or what you chose to wear – it’s you.

Knowing that you are your own USP is nothing less than a gift, because if you can embrace it, truly embrace it, then you don’t ever have to worry about what other therapists are doing. As long as you are true to yourself you will attract the clients who need you, and who you need. This is not to say that you can’t ever learn lessons from other therapists that enhance your business offering, but you only pick those that resonate with you, not because you feel you have to ‘keep up with Jones”.

There are two great quotes that really illustrate this point:

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

Jay Danzie

And, this one is my favourite:

Girl jumping the air at sunset with the quote "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" Maya Angelou

So really, the bottom line is that now you know what you do and why you are doing it, you just need to believe in yourself and have the confidence to the therapist that you want to be, and slowly, but surely those customers will come.

Next time:- We’ll be looking at the complementary therapy market in the UK, who your clients are, and where you might find them.

Feeling out of control? Forget mindfulness & try some serenity.

The Serenity Prayer is one that seemed, at least in my mind, to appear as either a decorative plate or panel on the kitchen wall of every female relative I had as a child, despite the fact that not one of them was religious. At the time it meant nothing to me, but as I’ve got older I have understood is significance, its relevance in a time where many of us feel constantly overwhelmed by life – whether in the big wide world, or in the microcosm of our home.

I was reminded of this again today when a fellow therapist, posting as his alter-ego as a former youth team football coach, shared some advice he would give to his players when they felt overwhelmed by the idea of the game ahead, or by the scoreline that followed:

Things I can control, my: words, efforts, actions, mistakes, behaviour, play, ideas.

Things I cannot control, other peoples: words, efforts, actions, mistakes, behaviour, play, ideas.

Whether you prefer the Serenity Prayer or the advice, the concept behind both is the same. The reality of life is is that there are just some things that you cannot control, and you need to take a deep breath and accept them. Conversely there are things that you can control and that you have the ability to change – if you have the courage. The hard bit, the wisdom, comes in knowing that there is a big difference between the two.

10 Steps for a (slightly more) Stress Free Christmas!

So, for me at least, the holiday season is here; I can officially listen to Christmas songs, and my elf pyjama’s and slippers have come out of hiding.  While Christmas might conjure up images of an snow covered idyll on television, for many of us the reality is very different, signalling a time of aches and pains, stresses and strains.  So how can you make your Christmas a little more stress-free this year?

The following 10 steps are tactics that I’ve adopted over the years: they are not a hard and fast guarantee of a stress free Christmas, and are not a definitive list, but I can promise you that they don’t involve any mindfulness or change of diet.  They are just things that you can do with little effort, in any order or quantity you chose to ensure that you have the merriest Christmas possible.

  1. Prevention is better than cure:  If you’re already starting to get stressed, stiff shoulders, headaches, or back twinges then consider getting support for it now, before it get’s any worse and spoils the Christmas season for you.  I’m biased of course, but treatments like Bowen and Reflexology can make a huge difference – but you might respond to to another complementary therapy so just try something rather than push on through the pain.
  2. Stop buying so many presents: Have a think now about cutting back on unnecessary presents – the ones where you end up giving a bottle of wine and receiving a bottle of wine.  Talk to your friends and agree not to buy Christmas presents, or perhaps just to do a Secret Santa in order to keep your costs down? Talk to other family members about whether or not you need to exchange gifts.  You may be surprised about just how many people feel the same as you and thank-you for bringing the subject up.  And it’s not too late to do it – even if you’ve already bought gifts you can return them.
  3. Balance your shopping bags: If you are going out shopping then balance your bags to avoid unnecessary stress on your back and shoulders. Don’t forget to take your own bags with you, and even consider taking a rucksack.
  4. Wrap standing up: Do your wrapping standing up at the kitchen worktop.  This is a much more natural position, and will put less stress on your back and neck.
  5. Re-think the Christmas food shop: Christmas is now a time of excess, but it doesn’t have to be – it is, after-all, only the shops who are encouraging us to buy more and to stock up for Christmas. And let’s be realistic – it is only one day where the shops are shut, so before you go out and fill your trolley like the world is about to end, remember that you are only going 24 hours without access to a food shop.
  6. Reconsider your Christmas dinner: If the idea of cooking Christmas dinner already gets your heart racing with the cost and the effort, then re-think it.  Does everyone actually enjoy the turkey with all the trimmings and having to eat it for days on end?  If not, then why not buy something smaller, something that is quicker to cook like a Guinea Fowl, or a really nice local reared free-range chicken?  Think about cutting down on the amount of food you actually cook for Christmas Dinner, and ask for help with the preparation and / or cooking – it is a sign of strength and not weakness to realise that you can’t do it all on your own.
  7. Move around: Christmas day itself can be sedentary affair so make sure you are getting up and moving around – a walk might not be something you want to do, but getting up and moving around for 5 minutes in every hour can make a difference. Not only can this prevent aches and pains, but it will aid digestion too.
  8. Avoid the lull: Especially when you’ve got kids, Christmas can be over before it’s even begun, with everything unwrapped before breakfast, leaving the rest of the day feeling a little lack-lustre.  Why not spread the day out?  Stockings before breakfast, presents from FC after breakfast, and presents underneath the tree after lunch? You spread out the excitement and anticipation slowly over the course of the day rather than crash and burn in a few minutes and a flurry of wrapping paper.
  9. Say No: If an endless round of Christmas visit’s or parties just add to your list of things you have to worry about, then say no.  Yes, I know it easier said than done, but sometimes you just have to plunge in and test it out – you may find that the world doesn’t stop, that people won’t miss you or be offended, and that you might, just might actually feel a lot better for that bit of unexpected peace and quiet.
  10. Eat and drink well: We’ve already mentioned the excesses of Christmas food and drink, and it can be tricky to manage this over the festive period, but what we put into our bodies really does affect our health and well-being.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, but instead slip in that extra glass of water in between drinks, and serve yourself up an extra portion of fruit, veg, or salad, just to keep your fluid content up, and those toxins down to a minimum.

If you know the affect that Christmas and all that it brings, the good, the bad, and the ugly, can have on you, then now is the time to be proactive.  Don’t let yourself be pressurised and don’t judge yourself against the Christmas sold to you by all the Christmas adverts and the endless ‘home-made’ / ‘home-cooked’ Christmas programmes.  Have the Christmas that you want this year,

For more information about how a Bowen or Reflexology treatment may help you, then please contact me.  I offer treatments from my treatment room in Woolpit, or at Neal’s Yard in Bury St Edmunds (where you receive 15% off in the shop on any purchases made on the day of your treatment).

Everyday sexism: the girl on the train

Last night at about 10.30pm I was travelling home by train and had to ask a group of men, who were clearly a little worse for wear after a day at the races,  if they were getting off at the next stop so that I could get to the door.  It turns out they weren’t, they were getting off at the stop after, “But”, and I felt a light tap on my shoulder, “I’d love to come home with you.”


The group was made up of men from their late 20s to 70 plus, and the comment came from the 70 plus section. Although I felt my brain click into high alert, my initial reaction was ‘don’t panic, chill out, they all look ‘mainly harmless’ with their shiny suits and sweaty faces, engage in some independent woman banter with them, especially because he’s old and probably doesn’t mean it,” but very quickly the outraged side responded,  ‘Err, WTF!!?  What has his age got to do with it, and after everything that’s been happening lately, you think that’s okay for him to say that?’

So, I stood up for my own self-respect and for all other women who’ve been ‘paid a compliment’ by a drunken man saying something along the lines of “you can take me home love.” I also stood up for the other men in that group who, for some reason, didn’t feel that they could reprimand one of their own.  I tried to make my response as ‘bantery’ as possible, turned round slowly and looked down at the man in question with disdain (which is very hard when he’s much taller and wider than you), “Erm, I don’t think so – on your f’in bike mate!”, at which point his mates all laughed and jeered at him.  “And” I continued, “that’s not something you should be saying to me in this day and age.” Nervous laughter, “Err, yeah, well, yeah, fair play”, said one of the younger ones from the back, “That’s slightly changed the atmosphere”, piped up another, “He can’t help it, he’s old” said a final member of the group in a feeble attempt at defence. “I don’t care how old he is – age is irrelevant,” the train doors opened, and off I got.

My husband, when I related the tale back to him, initially thought I’d been a little unfair, pulling out the ‘it’s just banter’ and ‘he was old’ cards, and back in the day, i.e. last year, I would probably have said ‘yeah, you’re right, it’s just banter,’ but today after everything that’s been in the news I feel very differently.  Why should I or any other woman have to put up with some drunken man saying he wants to come home with me, clearly for a sexual encounter? Why should I or any other woman have to put up with feeling intimidated by a group of drunken men?   Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the gent who made the comment would have run an absolute mile if I’d have grabbed his hand and said, “Why of course, please do come home with me”, but that is as irrelevant as his age.  We just shouldn’t have to put up with this everyday sexism anymore, full stop.

I did what I did for my own self respect, and for all those women who feel unable to because of fear, intimidation, lack of support or lack of confidence. But just as importantly I stood up because maybe the next time those men go out for a day at the races or a night on the town they might behave a little bit differently, and who knows, one of them might just stand up before me in the face of everyday sexism.

Asthma and Bowen

Asthma is a common lung condition that affects around 5.4 million people in the UK – 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults. There is, as yet, no cure, but a treatment pattern of inhalers has been developed which allow many people to manage their symptoms successfully, yet, unbelievably, an average of 3 people a day die every day from asthma [1].

Causes of asthma vary, as do the triggers which bring on a worsening of symptoms, and cold air and infections like colds or flu were the triggers for my son’s asthma. This time of year, with colder days setting in, would normally mean he would get every cough and cold going, and invariably this would lead to a chest infection and increased use of his inhaler. But this has all changed since we have been using Bowen, a holistic technique that works on the connective tissue (fascia) of the body. Through a sequence of light and gentle moves on specific areas of the body Bowen treats the person, not the condition, and effectively kick starts the body’s own innate ability to heal itself through making the small adjustments necessary, where they are necessary. Working holistically, looking at the client as a whole as opposed to his or her particular ailment, condition or situation, is particular important given that the asthma triggers for each individual are going to be different and could be myriad – including allergies, exercise, smoke, pollution and cold weather, infections like coughs and cold, stress and anxiety, emotional trauma, etc.

As a result of Bowen treatments both before ‘hayfever season’ and just as the cold weather sets in, my son has only had to use his inhaler on two occasions in the last two years (and he’s also seen a reduction in the use of hay-fever tablets). What’s even more impressive about Bowen for asthma is that I have taught my son, and other clients, a very specific move that they can use on themselves, and others, when they begin to feel their chest tightening. In fact my son used this move only recently when feeling tight chested as a result of a cold he had caught, alleviating his breathlessness almost immediately. I also know of other Bowen therapist who have used this move in emergencies and have saved lives as a result.

My own personal experience has been born out by anecdotal evidence from other suffer’s, and by the Bowen Technique National Asthma Study conducted from 2002-2004. In the study 24 adults diagnosed with asthma received Bowen treatments and were monitored over the course of 12 months, keeping regular diaries about the amount of attacks, the severity and use of medication etc. The results were pretty amazing with all participants experiencing a positive change in their symptoms, 7 “dramatically”, 14 “substantially” and 3 “slightly.”

In summary:

  • In the first 6 months 84 attacks were recorded, with only 26 in the second 6 months, with 75% experiencing a reduction in severity of attacks.
  • 75% reported a reduction in the need to use their medication*
  • 15 out of the 24 participants used peak flow meters and all reported an improvement in readings
  • 22 of the participants also recorded a reduction in secondary health concerns, which included back, neck and shoulder problems, and anxiety, stress and depression.

Dr Claire Pickin, a Warwickshire GP, said about the results of the study [2]:

“I am pleased though not surprised to see the patients in this trial benefiting from the Bowen Technique…The fact that such a simple, gentle, non-invasive technique can reduce the distressing symptoms of asthma deserves attention. The results of the trial are impressive.”

So, my advice to you is if cold weather and infections like coughs and colds are one of your asthma triggers, seek some support for your asthma now so that your body has time to respond to the treatment. Most of my clients often find they experience a positive change in their condition or situation in as little as three treatments, and where there are issues with the respiratory tract I will always teach a specific move that they can use safely at home.

You can find more about Bowen on my website:, and from the College of Bowen Studies , where you can also find a registered CBS practitioner in your area.

*It is extremely important to note that a Bowen therapist will never advise any changes to medications, and will always advise that clients should consult their own doctor to discuss any changes that they might wish to make.

References and further reading



What is more important, your health and well-being or a haircut?

Why is it that we think nothing of having our hair cut on a regular basis or buying new clothes throughout the year, but think twice when it comes to paying for a complementary therapy to help support our physical and emotional well-being?


How many times have you thought about accessing a complementary therapy, but either haven’t, or have abandoned your treatments after a couple of months and decided to ‘put up’ with your condition / situation instead?  I’m going to guess that for a lot of people the answer is possibly “yes”.  I’d also like to guess that the two main reasons behind this decision are cost and commitment, and if that is the case, you’re not alone.  For many the idea of having to pay £35, £40, £50 per complementary therapy session can be really off-putting, especially when you feel that you are going to have to commit week after week, month after month, year after year.

Let me pose another couple of questions.  How often do you get your hair cut, and how much do you pay? What about clothes – how often do you buy yourself an item of clothing that costs £35 or more?  I’m going to hazard a guess that, without even blinking an eye, most of us go for a haircut every 6-8 weeks, and depending how much you love your clothes shopping it could be anything from once a week to every 3-4 months.  “But Ah!”, you say, “Sarah, these are essentials – these are things that I have to do in order to make me feel good about myself, to ensure I’m smart for work, to keep me warm, complementary therapies are completely different, they are a luxury!”  Um…..are you sure?

We think nothing of making ourselves look and feel good through a regular haircut or buying clothes that we like, yet when it comes to how we feel physically and emotionally we seem happy to “make do” because we don’t want to pay for professional help.  Why?  Is not how you feel physically and emotionally as important, if not more important, than how you look on the outside?

The truth is that looking after your health and well-being isn’t a luxury item, it’s an essential – a necessity.  And you don’t have to commit week after week, month after month, year after year.  In my own experience I have many Bowen clients that experience a rapid and profound relief to a variety of emotional and physical conditions and situations within 3 session, and often this is all they will need.  I know Kinetic Shift and EFT practitioners who have experienced the same.

Therapies like Reflexology, Massage, Reiki, and Gong Baths are equally as valuable to improving your health and well-being.  It may be that they require slightly more regular treatments over a longer period of time to feel the benefit, but then you go every 4-6 weeks for some maintenance, or however often you feel you need to go.  Like many of my Reflexology clients, it may be that once your ‘original’ physical / emotional needs have been addressed you come back for regular treatments because you value that safe space, that time to relax, that opportunity for your body and mind to stop and just be, helping you to cope and deal with the stresses and strains of modern life.

My point is don’t let cost and/or commitment be a barrier to your health and well-being, stop looking at it as a luxury, but instead look at it as something that is a necessity – just just like the clothes on your back and a decent haircut.