The Aromatherapy Registrations Council – Is it a legitimate examination board?
As I continue my path within the aromatherapy profession, I cannot help but to ask if ARC (the Aromatherapy Registrations Council) is a legitimate board representing the aromatherapy profession. I can no longer stay silent about this matter or ignore its importance. I can no longer continue to duck questions about ARC or if I believe my own students need to sit an additional exam after completing a course of training (which I don’t). I am tired of feeling like I am being deceptive to students about the ARC exams importance, when I personally feel that ARC has some serious issues that need to be addressed by the entire industry of aromatherapy schools and educators. The lack of communication, the lack of industry wide involvement, the lack of really understanding who and what is behind ARC or what ARC’s goals are, can no longer be ignored.
It has been over fourteen years since the Aromatherapy Registrations Council was created and yet over those years I have only heard from ARC once, yes, that’s once! And yet it was an organization designed by and for the aromatherapy community. Some have said that it is my responsibility to communicate with ARC and I could not disagree more. It is very much ARC’s responsibility to communicate with the entire group of educators and schools for which it supposedly represents.
I believe as educators and schools, who are probably asked fairly often by prospective students and/or graduates about ARC, that it is time to re-evaluate the role of ARC and it’s legitimacy as a ‘board’.
With this note, I hope to stimulate dialogue about ARC, its role in our industry, and to re-evaluate its purpose as well as its obligations to the aromatherapy community. I would question, given what we know about exams (common core, if you have children) that this is not proven to be the most effective way of evaluating either knowledge or skills. Would it not be better to uplift schools and educators along with requiring clinic based hours such as the model used by the American Herbalist Guild? (see http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/membership/ahg-professional-membership)
The aromatherapy industry or community is at a place today that will require collaboration and cooperation, to effectively address the increasing needs and goals of aromatherapy students and graduates. I know as it stands right now, I cringe each time someone asks me about ARC or mentions they would like to sit the ARC exam. In my mind I think, why waste your time or money on a questionable organization that has done little to reach out to educators and schools and even less to really uplift the profession or practice of aromatherapy? Again, it is ARC’s job to communicate with us, not our job to seek out ARC.
A reflection on the past as I remember
The two core events/gatherings that led up to the creation of the ARC board were: 1/the Purdue Initiative and 2/Synergia ’97 (a conference hosted by Charla Deveroux and I) in Boston, MA. These events brought together aromatherapy educators from around the United States (often referred to as the Steering Committee) to open discussions on the need or desire to have a national exam for aromatherapy practitioners. Based upon input and the existing standards of that time, Dorene Petersen spearheaded the efforts by creating a non-profit called the “Aromatherapy Registrations Council”. Over a period of two years some dialogue took place and review questions were submitted for consideration for the exam.
Since 1999, I personally have not heard a word from ARC, a board I, and many others, helped to create. **With the exception of one other time I wrote them about some issues regarding ARC and a misunderstanding in the adjustment of hours. This is concerning to me on so many levels.
Recently I decided to reach out to a friend and colleague who has been involved in various capacities with licensing exams and boards for massage therapy. While I was sharing my thoughts about ARC, she pointed out a few things for me (and hopefully all of us) to consider:
1. For sure, an entity such as an examination board for any profession must not, under any circumstances, be perceived as connected with or endorsing any school, course, etc. (As it currently stands, there is a perception that ARC is in some way connected to the American College of Health Sciences, be it intentionally or unintentionally.)
Let’s take for example the FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards): upon review of the Board of Directors, it is clear that each individual works for the board and as a representative of a larger community of committees, volunteers, and state boards throughout the country.
I do not write the above because I believe others should be able to advertise in ARC publications, quite the opposite, I believe ARC should have no advertising, should it continue to exist.
2. Any examination board must be a collective process, a collaboration of leaders in the field who come together to create an exam (if it is agreed upon that this is what is needed) that reflects common criteria that is generally accepted by all educators and schools and is representative of the needs of the practitioners and/or businesses it represents.
Such a collaborative process would include a job task analysis thereby ensuring the examination reflects current practice. (This has not been done in the aromatherapy community.) (*An example of a job task analysis can be found here: https://www.fsmtb.org/media/1120/2012-jta.pdf)
**Note: ARC was established in 1999, since that time the aromatherapy industry has grown substantially as has the educational material offered. None of this growth has been fully addressed by any of the current organizations (NAHA, AIA, or ARC) as a national collaborative effort. Rather each organization has worked within itself based upon its own missions and potentially its own biases. It seems imperative at this point in the life and development of aromatherapy as a practice and business that a collective process of working together and in collaboration with one another is much needed. There is a growing aromatherapy community that needs clarity and guidance (and support) and hence it seems that it would behoove all of these organizations to come together in dialogue to renew its relations and to work diligently for the whole community they represent, together. Until or unless this happens, I am afraid, that for many of us, we will continue to feel like we are ‘treading water’ (but not getting anywhere!), so to speak.
3. On ARC’s website it states: A registration council could work towards NCCA accreditation (http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/), which would further enhance recognition from outside the industry. In speaking with my colleague today she shared her opinion that as it currently stands, the ARC exam would not meet criteria for national certification due to connection with a business entity (even if not directly but even perceptually) and that it needs to be a collaborative effort amongst industry leaders. The NCCA would also require a job/task analysis.
The NCCA states: “A survey is not required for a job analysis to be accepted by the Commission. Focus groups or other methodologies could be suitable in certain instances. The certification program should understand that while it may save costs by not distributing and analyzing a survey, the job/task analysis must nonetheless be rigorous enough to support the validity of the examination results. The accreditation application would need to provide a clear and complete description of the process used and how that process led to the development of the assessment instrument specifications.” http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/p/cm/ld/fid=100
We also discussed that aromatherapy is often considered an exempt modality from this process (a national exam) anyways because it is not a licensed profession in and of itself such as massage therapy or nursing or acupuncture. Aromatherapy, on the other hand, is often an ‘add on’ modality for many existing licensed professions.
One of the questions raised during our discussions was: do we really want too much regulation with regards to aromatherapy practice? Is this what we really desire? Often, with regulation comes expense and certainly with licensure this is a great expense and potentially a loss to diverse ways of practice. (E.g. An example of this would be reflexology in WA state. For many years individuals could practice reflexology without a license. Under this path, reflexologist in WA state were able to go up to the knee or onto other areas of the body as long as they were not practicing massage without question. Now, as a licensed profession in WA state, reflexology are unable to go beyond just above the ankle basically limiting their practice in ways they potentially did not want.)
But we want to be uplifted, we want to be respected as a modality, as a practice, how can we do that?
Both NAHA and AIA have educational standards (almost identical, which is probably a good thing), however there comes less clarity when we begin to discuss what exactly the student at the end of the course is supposed to be able to do or within the current market, what they will be able to do. It all seems rather nebulous and this may be because we lack, at present, a current and collective evaluation of what aromatherapists are doing specifically within the United States.
I say collective, because the time for ‘we are better then them’ or ‘they are better’ or whatever, is a time that has come and gone and needs to be put to rest. The idea that one association is better or worse than another does nothing to address the concerns of the aromatherapy community. The nebulous talks about clinical aromatherapy and how much more ‘valuable’ that model is then others that have come before it, do not answer concerns or confusions about what the aromatherapy practitioner does or does not do, or is or is not.
In regards to licensure, just a bit of food for thought: The vast majority of individuals who intend/desire ‘to practice’ aromatherapy will already, most likely, be licensed in another profession (e.g. massage therapy, esthetics, nursing, acupuncture, etc.). Is another license really needed? Is it desired? Will licensure make the practice of aromatherapy potentially cost prohibitive given it is already costly (e.g. cost of essential oils, base oils, and other supplies that must be purchased to practice) along with potentially other licensing fees for other professions (e.g. nurses, etc.). And again, do we really want to see aromatherapy potentially over-regulated, limiting its expression?
Back to certification, uplifting the profession (practice): It would seem, at this crossroad, it would behoove all whom educate individuals in the field, to come together (specifically within the United States or North America) to address the issues that have arisen over the past 10-15 years and to reevaluate the role of ARC and the purpose of the national exam.
Given the rise of schools and educators here in the United States (and around the world) along with the fact that students are already required to sit final exams and submit case studies to the school in which they attend, is ARC really needed any longer? And if we, as a community, decide to that ARC is or is not of value, then how do we continue to uplift and support a profession desperately seeking to be considered legitimate practitioners within the complementary healthcare community?
I , for one, do not support ARC as it currently stands nor do I believe a national exam is the answer to our woes. It certainly does not represent the industry collectively nor does it reflect ‘higher qualification’ for those who currently choose to sit it. And as I shared above, based upon communication with individuals within other industries, ARC, as it currently stands, would not be considered a legitimate examination board anyways. It lacks industry wide input and relationships, thus making it some kind of stand alone organization that no one seems to have input or involvement with, with the exception of one school and a handful of individuals.
I write this out of my concern for students and graduates and because I am tired of pretending that ARC means anything as it currently stands.
It has been ARC’s responsibility over the last 14 years to stay in communication with the educators and schools it supposedly represents or wants support from and yet it has failed miserably in this area with absolutely NO communication to schools and educators.
I hope this stimulates much needed dialogue and that we can all come together and discuss this matter further for the benefit of all within the world of aromatherapy.
Do we really need ARC? Is ARC a legitimate board? How can NAHA and AIA uplift the profession without need for an additional exam? Does an additional exam (after students have already sat an exam at their respective schools) really denote a ‘better’ trained aromatherapist? So many questions we need to answer to continue to grow and expand the field of aromatherapy. How can any of us continue to support ARC when it clearly has not kept in touch with those who it professes to represent? Do we really need a second exam to confirm what our graduates should know upon completion of 200 hours (or more) of training? Should we begin to place more emphasis on clinical practice rather than examination, at least for ‘clinical’ or professional aromatherapists?