Essential Oils for Therapy and Stress Relief

Jennifer Benetato, LCSW, LMT, shares how she incorporates the healing powers of essential oils in her practice.

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I am a firm believer in the importance of creating a warm and inviting setting for the therapy experience to take place.

In my office, I have an essential oil diffuser that I have running throughout the day. My go-to blend is a combination of lavender, Roman chamomile, patchouli, sweet basil, sweet orange, and peppermint – specifically chosen for their calming effect.

I find that the subtle fragrance creates a warm, welcoming environment for my clients and helps to set the tone for the session.

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During my initial session with every new client I take them on a sensory journey to help them become aware of their environment through their senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and kinesthetic). I do this to allow their nervous system a chance to settle into the space and into the room, and to make a clear transition between whatever happened before the session, and the work that we are about to engage in.

I believe that when clients return for future appointments and take in the fragrance of the room, their body-minds are cued to revisit the message that this is a place where they are invited to slow down and relax into what is often challenging process.

Sometimes I make the use of essential oils, and lavender in particular, more of a focal point by suggesting the client use fragrances in their home environment through a diffuser for use before bed for clients who have difficulty falling asleep, or on the go via a roll-on that they can grab whenever they are feeling especially stressed or anxious throughout the day.

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Many people report that this simple tool helps them to make the decision to focus on their breathing and ride the wave of emotion rather than reach for a cigarette or junk food to interrupt the uncomfortable sensation they are experiencing.

It's important to emphasize precautions when using essential oils. I don't recommend clients take oils internally, and always stress the importance of using a pure, ethically sourced product.

It's also important not to overdo it: A little can go a long way, and sometimes less is more.  

Lavender can be very soothing to an overworked nervous system, but there are times when it does more harm than good. Scents have a very powerful ability to trigger memory, and not everyone has a positive association with this fragrance, so it's always a good idea to check in and ask.