Basic Aromatherapy Case Study

Massage to help with depression and anxiety

back massage

ABOUT THE CLIENT –  She is a 34 year old woman, works full time and lives at home with her partner. She states that she has been suffering from depression and anxiety indicating this was due to relationship problems. Having spoken to her GP who expressed that she needs to make healthy life style changes and this is why she has now approached an aromatherapist to help her. Client says she is quite anxious about trying a new treatment and would prefer just the back massage rather than full massage on her feet and hands for the time being. She has no other physical problems and says she is physically fit and swims twice a week.


The client is asked to complete a treatment card. I felt this to be appropriate also to reassure her about the treatment and to give details what will happen during the process.

Medical Questions – I ask about medical conditions that could influence any treatment that would be offered. I further ask about body piercings, implants and a pace maker making sure that that their doctor if this was necessary had agreed the treatment was safe.

Stress Level & further Questions asked – Furthermore, I asked her to roughly give me an estimation of her stress levels on a ratio of 1-4, she indicated her levels were 4 at this time. I discussed if she had any skin problems that she was aware of or any allergies to essential oils or if there are oils she preferred not to use due to her dislike of the smell. I asked if she was or could be pregnant or if she suffered from epilepsy to ensure certain essential oils were avoided if necessary.

Explaining the Treatment and what to expect – I finished the consultation by asking her what she hoped to achieve from the treatment and explained that aromatherapy is a complementary therapy and is not used to replace orthodox medication. I explained that it also is not a cure all ills and works on the clients own body healing itself and that as advised by her GP she still needs to make healthy life style changes and continue to keep her GP informed. I then asked Client to sign the consent form and asked her again at this point if she had given me the correct information on her medical conditions to ensure my duty of care was followed.


Given that Client is suffering from anxiety and depression I decided that she would benefit from using a blend of Patchouli, Bergamot and Lavender. I will be using Sweet Almond Oil as the carrier (10mls).

BEST OILS FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY – Patchouli is a good essential oil for people who suffer from anxiety and depression and is considered to be a good grounding oil. A good selection of Essential massage oils is a must.

UPLIFTING OIL – Bergamot was chosen for its uplifting quality again good for people with anxiety and depression. Finally Lavender for its extensive properties, particularly, the anti-depressant and hypertensive properties to enhance the relaxation process adding a calming and soothing balance to the massage.

I explained to Client that Patchouli is a oil many dislike as it leaves an earthy, woody smell that often lingers however she liked the smell and chose to stick with it and give it a try. I told her that if she changed her mind we could use sandalwood on her next therapy session as it also is a grounding oil so her options were left open. I will use 10mls of Sweet Almond Oil blended with 1 drop of patchouli, one drop of Bergamot and 2 drops of Lavender.

MOVEMENTS FOR BACK MASSAGE – We discussed how the back massage which includes the neck and arms would enhance relaxation and help to eliminate some of the physical symptoms of stress. We clarified that the treatment would begin with the effleurage process to spread the essential oils over the whole back in slow and gentle movements to induce blood flow and also relaxation. Areas which seem “knotty or tense” I would use small circular movements anti clockwise and clockwise without too much pressure to increase blood flow and the flow of fluids in the lymphatic system.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FORGET THE NEXT MASSAGE MOVE – If I do forget any of the massage procedures I will return to the effleurage movement giving myself enough thinking time to remember what movement is next and also so Client feels no lost contact during the massage.


Washing my hands and ensuring that the room was warm enough. I asked her if she preferred the selection of music on or off as it was her time to relax. I had the towels prepared ready to cover the pillow and the lower half of her body. Client chose to leave her trousers on so the towel was tucked into her waistline when she had settled comfortably on the therapy couch. I had the blended oils on a table close to the therapy couch within easy access in case I needed to apply further oil and so that one of my hands could maintain contact with Client’s back at all times.  As a Reiki Master I already had used my own protection method to protect myself from Client’s mood, negativity and stress, also attuning the room before her arrival using a singing bowl in each corner and a reiki symbol to enhance the protection.

HOW TO START THE MASSAGE – Beginning the treatment Client allowed me to undo her bra and the straps were placed by her sides. I placed the oil into my hands to warm it up making it more comfortable before making contact with the skin.

EFFLEURAGE & CIRCULAR MOVEMENTS – I started at the base of the back by using the effleurage movements to spread the essential oil blend over the back moving up to the neck and covering the shoulders and tops of the arms before finishing back at the base. I continued to do this another four times to ensure the blended oils had reached the areas needed and that the relaxation process had begun. Again starting at the base I used small circular movements using my thumbs either side of the spine working up to the neck. I then made a soft effleurage movement back down to the base of the back.  I continued to do this 4 times and asked Client if the pressure was sufficient at this time.  I then started at the base making larger circular movements either side of the spine covering the three sections of the back, the base, the middle and top and repeated this process four times.

LOWER BACK – I found the lower part of the back to be less tense and spent more time on the middle of the back and shoulder blades in gentle circular motions looking and feeling for any signs of tension.

SHOULDERS – I noticed and felt the shoulder blade had “knotty areas” and began using gentle but firmer clockwise and anti clockwise movements on the “knotty areas” to help them to lessen and increase the blood flow to this area. I again asked Client if the pressure was acceptable. I did this twice as the shoulder blades were becoming red, which is not a bad thing however, I did not want to overwork the area.

NECK – I than used the soft effleurage sweeping movement to move up to the neck area making wringing movements on the fleshy area. As this area seemed tense I again asked Client if the pressure was appropriate and explained to her if it was too intense I would use gentler movements as the oils would still work so a lot of pressure is not necessary. Using two hands I then used the wringing technique to lessen the tension in the tissue of the neck and for added benefit I slowly used small circular movements all along the base of her hairline. I took my time in this area as it appeared to be another area of tension and I wanted to enhance the relaxation felt by Client.

FLUID MOVEMENTS – Moving to the top of the back I proceeded by placing my hands one after the other sliding them softly with one fluid movement down the side of her body opposite to the side of the couch where I was standing to drain the toxins from the muscles encouraging them to flow into the lymphatic system allowing the toxins to be flushed from the body.

USING REIKI – As a Reiki Master I closed the massage session  holding my hands in a prayer like position taking a moment to reflect upon the healing before opening my hands over the back area putting in place the reiki power symbol and imagining a white light of purity and protection creating positive intentions. I then thank the session by saying Namaste, personal choice but as a reiki master I always use this process and use a procedure called “dry brushing” over her whole back that removes any negativity left behind.

FINISHING THE SESSION –  I let the client know the session has now finished and place a towel over her back. I do this as the oils can sometimes make the area that has been massaged feel cold before lightly touching her shoulder and asking her to remain in the position until I arrived back with a glass of water for her. I explained to Client with her feeling so stressed beforehand the massage may leave her feeling a tad light headed and it would be better if she sat up whilst I was back in the room. I returned after with two glasses of water one for Client and one for myself.


As we drank the water I ran through the aftercare process and explained how the oils would still be working even though the massage was complete and that it was important for her to drink plenty of water to aid the elimination of toxins via her urine. I stated that it is better to leave showering or bathing if possible until the following morning however if she felt any skin irritation which is very rare she should wash off the oils immediately. I further advised Client to have a relaxing evening and try not to participate in anything too stressful. We covered the possibility of a healing crisis and what it meant and gave her my contact details if she had any concerns. I also gave her a copy of the aftercare procedure and asked her if she would be happy to fill out a feedback form.  As Client left I used further reiki rituals to cleanse the area of negativity and myself by dry brushing and washing my hands.


Client stated how relaxing the back massage was and how next time she would like to go for a full massage. She said she felt more calm and felt a weight had been lifted from her. Visually I noticed her posture had changed and she was sitting more upright whereas before treatment she appeared slouched. Her attitude was more positive and she was eager to re book an appointment and I advised her we could map on a treatment plan how her anxiety and depression decreases/increases.

She said she liked the choice of oils and I explained that we could experiment more with other oils once I have taken the advanced aromatherapy course and I have more understanding. Client said I could have been a lot firmer in some places during the massage however on reflection I think I was a little cautious with it been her first time. I will remember to ask if more pressure would be preferred instead of asking if the pressure is acceptable, changing my terminology will give me more insight.

The following day Client called to tell me she had slept well for the first time in a few weeks and had woken feeling refreshed.



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