Karen Thomas from Golden Oak Therapies describes her professional journey within the NHS and her work with holistic therapies. She is now a therapist and trainer, a Reiki Master and teacher, an advanced EFT practitioner and Shamanic healer.
Karen, how did your experience within the NHS shape the person you are today?
I was an Occupational Therapist (OT) in the NHS for over thirty years. As an OT, you are there to help people help themselves. Regardless of their illness, disability or condition, it was about helping them so they could help themselves in all areas of their life; self-care, work, productivity and social integration. I think this is part of who I am and this has always stayed with me. When I work with people now, and for whatever reason they have come to me for, I am always looking at the person as a whole. I help them readjust and get the balance right, but then I will give them the tools in the following sessions to enhance their lives and be the best they can be within the lives that they want.
What are your views on Western Medicine and conventional approaches to healing?
I was very clinically evidence led, having worked at the NHS for thirty years, and there were only specific options offered to people. I think the two disciplines are different but they are gradually getting closer.
Western medicine comes from the perspective of a person having an illness or condition, and subsequently sorting out this condition. The more spiritual Eastern approach deals with how I can keep you well. I am a great believer in people going for sessions when they are well instead of waiting for things to go wrong.
I think science is now catching up with ancient healing. Shamanic healing, for example, has been around for millennia and our ancestors knew how to work with nature, the plants, spirits and the seasons. Science is only now able to evidence this.
What holistic treatments do you offer your patients?
I do Reiki including chakra balancing and cleansing and shamanic healing. I also do EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques. I now focus more on the spiritual energy healing aspects of my work with my clients. I do quite a lot of workshops, and will run a day of woodland wellness out in the woods where I not only teach people how to do things themselves but also offer them that time to stop and connect with the healing power of nature.
I also do online courses such as enhancing resilience, and self-help tapping techniques they can use within their daily lives. I think it is both empowering and powerful when you can teach people a variety of tools and techniques to take away and use for themselves, as opposed to systematically doing things for them.
How much spirituality is involved in what you do, and what impact does this have on healing?
I am a very practical and down to earth person. I think spirituality comes in for me and who I am in my work and everyday life. In my own health and wellbeing, I practice Reiki, chakra balancing and connect with nature on a daily basis.
Some of the people I work with are not really sure what energy is all about and are not spiritually inclined particularly – and this is fine. I leave it to the person and what they are comfortable with. With my work, I am using spiritual work, alongside guides and spirits and energy work, but my clients don’t necessarily have to know about it or believe in it.
Whether my clients believe it or not, I like to bring in elements, techniques, strategies or ways of thinking or being, that will make their lives easier, more contented, calmer and healthier. If people see this as spiritual that’s great, and if they see it simply as a technique for stress management, that too is fine.
Just how effective is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and is it something one can learn to practice by oneself?
The fact that people can be taught to use EFT on themselves is what drew me to it in the first place. Having worked in mental health with psychotherapists, I have seen that this may involve years and years of therapy. With EFT you can teach patients to work on themselves in between sessions and it really is effective in the short term.
With something like post traumatic stress disorder, within a few sessions, although the memory of the trauma remains, the emotional attachment to it doesn’t. It is often the emotional attachment to the memory that causes the problem; the flashbacks, the anxiety and the panic – and so quite quickly and effectively you can reduce the intensity of the emotions to lessen the trauma of the PTSD. This is why the NHS is so interested in pursuing this further as an evidence based approach.
EFT can be used to overcome phobias, stress, low mood to name a few. Although people can be taught EFT, sometimes it is beneficial to go to the therapist just so the issue can be worked on at a deeper level to totally clear the problem.
How were you first drawn to Reiki and how does it resonate with you particularly?
In 2008, I was asked to set up a support organisation for women in complementary therapy with European funding. I was always curious about these kinds of therapies and was becoming more aware of their power. I went for a Reiki session, and this had a profound impact on me. I realized that I wanted to practice it for myself, and then I knew I wanted to continue on to teach it.
Reiki has changed me in essence; I am a less stressed, less critical and calmer version of myself. I also love the impact of it helping other people in a very understated and subtle, yet powerful way.
Working with cancer patients has been so rewarding. Most of them have not heard about Reiki or know very little about it, yet I have had some people, even in their first sessions, gain immediate benefit from their worry or discomfort.
One of the beauties of Reiki is that I am just a channel, and whether you call it Universal energy or Spirits, they have so much more intelligence than we do that they actually know what that person needs at that particular time, or what they can cope with.
After working for in the NHS, it is nice to let go of that responsibility and I am no longer driven by targets or by pressure to “cure” a patient. I have been able to let go of outcomes and to just know that if a person receives something beneficial from a healing session, that is great, and if not, that’s ok too.
This is the beauty of working with Reiki and the other holistic therapies I do.
Reiki seems to seep into all areas of your life. Over time, it lessens stress and anger and increases acceptance, gratitude, appreciation and calmness. I was a typical type A person and am very goal directed. Although I am still this person, Reiki has definitely had a calming effect on me, and if life doesn’t unravel as planned, well that’s simply ok now.
Do you see a future where Western Medicine and holistic practices can be merged in full symbiosis?
St. Georges Hospital in London has recently funded research into Reiki with their clients. I have been employed on a voluntary basis by a local NHS Trust to give Reiki to cancer patients. There are certainly complementary therapies that have been more acceptable in the past such as chiropractic and osteopathic practice, homeopathy and acupuncture. Now modalities such as Reiki and reflexology are starting to gain wider acceptance.
EFT has been recognised in the National Institute for Evidence for further research into using EFT for post traumatic stress disorder.
I don’t think they will ever come together entirely. As science progresses, I think people and Western medicine will be more understanding of the Eastern approach. Reiki, and EFT are almost there, but I feel that Shamanic healing and a few others still have a way to go. Science and the Western approach needs to catch up!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?
For me it is working alongside people to improve their lives, which is something I have always done but now in a more inclusive way of spiritual and energetic health. I love the flexibility and fluidity of how I work, tuning into the person’s needs and trusting what and how I work is meant to be at that time.
I enjoy people coming to me with curiosity and receptivity, not quite sure what these interventions are but being willing and open to experience them. From there it often leads to a change in perception and even going on to train with me so that they then work with others. This is my role to be an ambassador for spiritual wellbeing and in turn be part of someone’s awakening to their expansive way of health.