Finding a therapist

For your safety, it is very important to make sure that any complementary therapist you see has the necessary training and qualifications.

Some hospitals and cancer centres offer complementary therapies to their patients either in the hospital or near to the hospital. All hospitals use only qualified complementary therapists.

Finding a therapist privately

Finding a private therapist can involve some work for you. Professional bodies that represent certain types of therapy can put you in touch with a reputable therapist. But remember that therapists volunteer to register. And not all do so.

It will depend on the type of therapy. It is best to have a therapist who is registered with one of the following:

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
  • The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

You can also find professional organisations for specific therapies in the individual therapies section. They can give details of different therapists, such as:

  • music therapists
  • art therapists
  • drama therapists

Some of the general complementary therapy organisations might also be able to help you to find someone suitable.

Tips when looking for a therapist

  • Contact the CNHC, HPC or relevant professional organisation
  • Ask for a list of therapists in your area
  • Ask the organisation what level of qualification and training therapists must have before they can register
  • Check that the organisation has a code of practice and ethics
  • Check that the organisation has a disciplinary and complaints procedure
  • Make sure that the therapist you find keeps to these codes and procedures

Questions to ask a therapist

Once you have found a suitable therapist, it might be helpful to talk to them before making an appointment.

Questions you could ask:

  • How long have you trained for?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • How often do you treat people with cancer?
  • Is there scientific research into using this therapy for people with cancer?
  • What benefits can I expect from using the therapy?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will the therapy interact with any medications I am currently having?
  • How soon can I expect to see some benefit from the therapy?
  • How long will the course of therapy be?
  • How much it will cost?
  • Where can I find out more information about this therapy?

You might also want to find out:

  • whether there is a lift or wheelchair access if you have difficulty moving around
  • whether the therapy is covered by private health insurance (if you have it)
  • whether they have insurance
  • what happens if you have an injury on the premises

Ask yourself and your therapist:

  • is the therapy just for relaxation?
  • will it help to control some cancer symptoms and side effects?

Stopping a therapy or changing therapist

You might decide to stop using a specific therapy or change your therapist for many reasons.

  • You might not feel comfortable or at ease with your therapist
  • You might feel you aren’t getting any benefit from the therapy
  • You want to try something different
  • You can’t afford the therapy sessions

The decision to begin or end a therapy is yours alone. If the therapy doesn’t suit you, then let your therapist know that you would like to stop.

It might help to talk to your therapist about why you want to stop. There may be something they can do to help you.

Problems with your therapist

You might want to make a formal complaint. Or talk to someone if you have a serious problem with the way your therapist has treated you.

How you go about doing this will depend on whether the therapist is working for the NHS or in private practice.

The following people or organisations will be able to advise you about making a formal complaint if your therapist works for the NHS:

  • your GP or the practice manager
  • the manager of the complementary therapy service you are using
  • the patient and advise liaison services (PALS) officer at your hospital
  • the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux

You will need to contact their professional regulatory body if you want to complain about a private therapist. Reputable therapists usually register with:

  • Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
  • Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

You will find it difficult to get help with making a complaint if the therapist doesn’t belong to a professional body. It is important to make sure they are registered before you start seeing them for treatment.

There's information about specific regulatory bodies on each therapy type page. If the type of therapy you're interested in isn't listed, you can contact The British Complementary Medicine Association (BCMA) for advice.

We have detailed information on individual therapies. This includes:

  • finding a therapist
  • specific professional regulatory bodies and their contact details
Take your time to decide on the right therapist to help with your specific needs. You should feel comfortable with them. And fully understand what you might gain from using the therapy.
  • Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (2nd Edition)
    American Cancer Society, 2009
    ISBN: 0944235719

  • Talking with Patients about Complementary Therapies – CD Rom
    MD Anderson Cancer Centre, 2003

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, March 2004.

Last reviewed: 
19 Apr 2022
Next review due: 
19 Apr 2025

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