Aromatherapy for Coping with Voices by Adrienne Giacon

At our recent Healthy Choices for Hearing Voices, I gave a presentation on using Aromatherapy for Hearing Voices. I am a qualified Aromatherapist, have had my own practice and used to teach Aromatherapy at the New Zealand College of Massage.  I decided to involve the members of my support groups in the development process of my lecture.

Aromatherapy is the use of natural essential oils extracted from plants to encourage the bodies natural healing. They contain natural chemical components that are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream when massaged into the body. Their aroma can also be absorbed through the olfactory nerves in the nose and trigger chemical messages to the brain.

The purpose of this is not to present a 'cure' for hearing voices, but to provide voice hearers with a very pleasant coping strategy when dealing with the difficult emotions and challenges that hearing voices produces.

I asked the members of my groups what were the main problems and emotions that we faced when hearing voices. This was a worthwhile exercise in itself. (The oils can help with emotional  problems - smell is a very emotional sense.) It encouraged us all to look beneath the surface issues presented, i.e. "They talk all the time", "They say negative things", etc. Instead we had to think about how that made us feel? What were the emotions they caused?

Here are the main challenges we came up with:

  1. Fear - Of madness, of possession, of losing everything, of rejection.   
  2. Grief - Of the life lost, friends and family lost.  Holding onto pain and trauma from past - Moment when it went wrong. If only I hadn’t done [whatever it was]. We visit it so often in the mind that it gains a life of its own.               
  3. Scatteredness - From being in different worlds at once.                            
  4. Ungrounded - Off with the fairies. Seduced into another reality.                 
  5. Confusion, Disorganisation of Thoughts - Too much going on. Can’t focus.  
  6. Swinging Intense Emotional States - Trying to cope with emotions the voices are triggering. Wrestling with the question “Why is it happening to me?” Logic and other realities battle.  Insomnia - Stressed, voices are often worse at night, too scared to relax.                                             
  7. Lethargy - Lose motivation.  What’s the point?  Nothing helps.                            
  8. Depression and Anxiety - God has abandoned me, cursed me, no future.     
  9. Sensitivity to Energies - Feel others emotions, hear voices of people we know, feel rejection, stigma.               
  10. Anger and Disappointment - Anger at lack of control over own headspace, anger at others reactions, anger at God, anger at   self.                                         

Once we had identified the challenges, I asked everyone to think about what the opposite emotion was - the emotion or feeling that was the positive to the negative ones we identified. What we would rather feel. This enabled us to set goals, choose the essential oils to help us and to think of other activities or actions that would help us to achieve that aim as well.

The resulting list of goals and the suggested aromatherapy blends follow:

Please note these blends are to be added to 20ml Vegetable Oil such as Almond or Apricot Kernel and are Adult strengths. These are numbered to correspond with the challenges identified in the earlier list.

  1. Confidence and Strength - Sandalwood 5 drops, Frankincense 3 drops, Ginger 2 drops.
  2. Emotional Healing, Releasing Past - Frankincense 4 drops, Rose (if diluted 3 drops if pure 1drop), Patchouli 3 drops.
  3. Concentration and Focusing - Lemon 4 drops, Basil 2 drops, Eucalyptus 2 drops, Vetiver 2 drops.
  4. GroundingVetiver 2 drops, Patchouli 3 drops, Orange 4 drops.
  5. Organising and Clearing the Mind - Cypress 3 drops, Lemon 5 drops, Eucalyptus 2 drops.
  6. Calming, Relaxing, Balancing Emotions, Sleeping - Geranium 2 drops, Lavender 6 drops, Chamomile 1 drop, Ylang-ylang 2 drops. 
  7. Motivating and Energising - Lemon 2 drops, Patchouli 2 drops, Sandalwood 4 drops, Ginger 2 drops.
  8. Mood Elevation, Joy - Orange 5 drops, Clary Sage 4 drops, Rose pure 1 drop or diluted 3 drops.
  9. Clearing and Cleansing Energies and Negativity - Eucalyptus 2 drops, Juniper 4 drops, Thyme 3 drops, Rose (1 drop if pure, 3 drops if diluted).
  10. Peace and Forgiveness - Rose 3 drops, Neroli 3 drops, Chamomile 3 drops.

Please note: Clary Sage should not be used if consuming alcohol and should be avoided during pregnancy.

This was a very worthwhile exercise as it allowed people to think about how they wanted to be, instead of how they were at the time.

I made up the blends and took them along to the groups the next week. I passed them around to everyone and told them to try a little bit. Rub on their arm, or leg or hand and inhale the aroma. I was unsure how the men would react to rubbing aromatherapy oils onto themselves. However aromatherapy oils have a beautiful natural smell, unlike perfumes from a shop.  I can say that without exception everyone loved it.

It was something different, it was pleasant and a delight to use, it engaged other senses such as smell and the physical sensation of the oils on their skin. Many are in care and it was a luxury for them to be able to use the oils. It visibly lifted the energy in the room and raised their spirits.

Sometimes I think we may get to hung up on working out how we can mentally cope with the voices. When other physical activities and methods can be just as beneficial and add another tool to our belt.                                             

N.b. Aromatherapy is not intended to replace any treatment currently being used, but to be added as another coping strategy. 

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