Memory-based Response: A case study
D is a 56 y/o female who is married with 2 grown children living at home. She works full time in an office as a staff assistant. This requires much sitting and leaves her little time for exercise. She states her stress level is a 4 (out of 10) most of the time but can stress can escalate rapidly, especially when dealing with some of her office staff. She is currently healthy and taking no medication, and has no known allergies. She has not seen a physician recently and feels she does not need to.
D deals with her stress by overeating and working on puzzles. She would like help dealing with unexpected stress that arises during the course of her work day.
Aim of treatment:
- Relief from sudden or unexpected stress at work
- Relaxation and calming
To start her on the memory based response I began by setting up a quiet room for her to relax in. This included a comfortable lounge chair, dimmed lights, comforting music, and diffusion aromatherapy. I selected Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil as D likes lavender and it has no stressful or unwanted memories attached to it. She rested in this environment for approximately one hour.
I then gave her a 2 ounce spritzer that included distilled water and 10 drops of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil. I explained to shake well before using then to spritz on face, neck, and chest when stressed. Can also spritz in the air around work space.
Dec 1 2011 D feels very comfortable and relaxed after her aromatherapy treatment. She is ready to try the spritzer at work.
Dec 15 2011 D reports that although she was skeptical that the spritzer could make her feel less stress, she reports that she usually used it at least once per day and definitely used it when she was stressed. She found that it did make her feel differently. She is not sure she was necessarily less stressed, but it did make her stop and take a moment to enjoy the aroma and afterward she felt more able to continue with what she had been doing.
The results were better than both she and I expected. she did find comfort in using the spritzer and although she isn’t sure if it helped her stress, my observation (the therapist) is that in the moment it did relax her enough to continue without stopping to eat something (which was her usual response).
Discussion from therapist:
I think this was a good study for both me and the client. Memory is something that can’t be predicted in advance and a skeptic is even harder to treat. Although I am not sure she retained the memory from our session, she definitely changed her skeptical opinion on the spritzer. I think this was a very good study with loads of learning potential.
Feedback from Jade Shutes:
This is a great case study and I truly appreciate your use of different methods of applications throughout your case studies. Don’t underestimate the power of the memory link as clearly something did link up for her based upon the response that ‘she did find it made her feel differently.’ A very valuable insight from the client.
As Kirk-Smith (n/d) states, a neutral odor can be easily paired with an emotional state, in a single session, so that it will evoke the same emotional state in another circumstance at a later time. I call this an aromatic memory-based response.
One of the ways to increase the aromatic memory based association would be to provide her with a simple breathing exercise to do while resting in the room. This will link up the breathing (and corresponding physiological relaxation) with the aroma. You could also provide a warm aromatic (lavender, in this case) foot bath for five minutes and then dry her feet and let her relax in the space you have create for her.