Unit 18 Complementary Therapies

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The aim of this unit is to develop learners’ understanding of the role of complementary therapies in health and social care and their effectiveness in maintaining health and wellbeing.

Unit abstract

The aim of this unit is to provide an understanding of the delivery and usage of a range of complementary therapies and in particular to compare this to conventional medicine. Learners will consider the principles behind complementary therapies commonly used in health and social care and will assess the advantages and disadvantages associated with their use. Learners will analyse the evidence for their benefits to health and wellbeing as well as identify contraindications and health and safety issues in relation to their use. They will also evaluate the effectiveness of regulations in place for different therapies and their practitioners.

Learning outcomes

1 Understand the principles behind complementary therapies and their current usage

  • Therapies: pharmaceutically mediated eg herbalism, homeopathy; physically mediated eg osteopathy, chiropractic yoga, Alexander Technique; psychologically mediated eg counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy
  • Treatments: signs and symptoms; processes; frequency; dosage; equipment; materials; agents
  • Advantages and disadvantages: benefits claimed eg enhancing health, wellbeing; contraindications, intrinsic harm
  • Access: physical access, financial, referral systems, cultural factors, private sector, public Sector

2 Understand the role of complementary therapies in relation to orthodox treatments

  • Musculo-skeletal: bones, joints, muscles, mobility, pain
  • Metabolic: digestive and eliminatory processes, dermatological, endocrine functions, immune function, reproductive function
  • Cardio-respiratory: pulmonary functioning, cardiovascular functioning
  • Psychological effects: mental health eg stress, depression; learning difficulties eg Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism
  • Attitudes: preferred therapies, barriers to use, value
  • Contraindications: comparison between orthodox treatment and complementary therapy Treatments.

3 Be able to analyse evidence for the efficacy of complementary therapies in sustaining health and wellbeing

  • Sources of information: therapy practitioners, health professionals, commercial sources, science, systematic research
  • Claims: benefits eg cure, amelioration, prevention of signs and symptoms, enhancement of Wellbeing.

4 Be able to carry out an evaluation of the systems for regulating the use of complementary therapies

  • Regulation systems: legislation, code of practice, code of ethics, self regulation, complementary therapy practitioner representative umbrella organisations
  • Effectiveness: minimising risk, benefits, professionalism, developing public understanding,working with orthodox therapies, emerging trends.


  • Newman, C.B., Carmichael, J.D. & Kleinberg, D.L. 2015;2014;, "Effects of low dose versus high dose human growth hormone on body composition and lipids in adults with GH deficiency: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials", Pituitary, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 297-305. (Newman, et. al., 2014)
  • Nilsson, L., Eriksén, S. & Borg, C. 2016, "The influence of social challenges when implementing information systems in a Swedish health?care organisation", Journal of Nursing Management, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 789-797.

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