Managing Professional Identities: Knowledge, Performativity and the "New" Professional

By Mike Dent; Stephen Whitehead | Go to book overview

7

Amateurism, quackery andprofessional conduct

The constitution of ‘proper’ aromatherapy practice

Valérie Fournier

Introduction

This chapter explores the meaning and deployment of the idea of professionalism in an alternative health care group in the UK: aromatherapy. The motivation for writing this chapter, and the material upon which it is based, stems from my own participation in a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) course in aromatherapy, 1 and my puzzlement with the way in which the idea of ‘professionalism’ was articulated and emphasized throughout the course. The language of professionalism is commonly used in alternative therapies (Deverell and Sharma 2000; Sharma 1992), and is accorded central importance in the NVQ competence framework for aromatherapy, where it gets attached to various forms of conduct from ‘appearance’ to ‘rapport with client’, ‘attitude’ or ‘manners’. But what was peculiar about the use of ‘professionalism’ in the course, especially considering the ‘alternative’ position of aromatherapy, was its articulation in terms of management and deference to orthodox medicine. This taming of aromatherapy in terms that would make it acceptable to the ‘medical profession’ and turn it into a viable ‘commercial practice’ was a constant source of frustration for myself and most of my fifteen female fellow students on the NVQ3 course in ‘Massage, Anatomy and Aromatherapy’. Few of us intended to ‘practice’ aromatherapy other than on ourselves and a small circle of friends or family members; we attended the NVQ course simply because it appeared to be the only one available which went beyond ‘a short introduction’ (the NVQ, course runs over two years, on a part-time basis, and involves one four-hour session per week). It was provided by the local further education college (as opposed to the more expensive private schools). As such, we had little interest in being taught how to manage a practice; yet four of the eight units of competence making up the NVQ3 qualification were about what in the class was referred to as ‘management’. In order to complete these units, we had to perform of number of ‘management assignments’, such as ‘designing, distributing and evaluating a market research questionnaire’, ‘designing a proforma for staff appraisal, ‘designing and costing the setting up of a reception room for a practice’, and take various class tests on health and safety or ‘selling skills’. Although in the sociology of the professions, management and professions

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