Bach Flower Remedies
& Nature Essences

Bach Remedies for Therapists

"Bach Flower Therapy" is a particular and classic way of working with the Bach Flower Remedies. There is also much benefit that any professional health care practitioner can gain by simply using them well to support themselves and their work. Cynthia Alves looks at issues common to therapists, counselors and other health care professionals, where the Bach Flowers and the insights they promote will enhance whatever care is offered.
Approx. 5,000 Words

Through this article we will be looking at

My overall purpose here is to help enable you to use the Bach Flower Remedies well to support and enhance your current professional or informal work (and study). If what you are actually wanting is to offer Bach Flower Therapy, details for finding worthwhile in-depth training (not just a short CPD) are included on my Bach Flower Remedy Resources Page.


There are 38 Bach Flower Remedies. Each is about more than its brief description. And each has degrees. For example, Agrimony negative state can be experienced as inner torture, which we avoid facing and exposing; or, less severe, we are having a hard time confronting negativity and avoid 'rocking the boat' or upsetting others. The positive state is expressed both by those who are developing honesty and openness, with increasing inner joy; as well as by those who are leaders in developing world peace. So, if you feel drawn to a particular remedy, don't be put off if the description doesn't ring perfectly true, or seems too extreme.

Details about how to make up and use Remedies are commonly found on the stock bottle you buy, in books, and on web sites such as Healing Herbs. You may also find my other LIFEPOWER articles about Essences helpful guidance, including about many ways of using Nature Essences.

We learn about them (and ourselves) by exploring them, taking them for ourselves, making our own connections, often with a sense beyond words. They are safe to explore, to learn with. Mostly I agree with the classic view that says 'wait until you are experiencing the so called negative outlook'. Then sometimes comes the intuition, 'take this one now'. At that point, even if the 'negative' is not obvious, it is safe and usually very beneficial to follow the impulse.

On the one hand, its rarely helpful to use them mindlessly, just trying one after another as if they were flavours of ice cream. They are living things, and just as for any relationship, our consciousness and gratitude is empowering. Co-creativity with other life intelligences, and clear, purposeful focus can make a vast difference in the effectiveness and depth we experience with them. On the other hand, it doesn't help to get over serious about them, po-faced about how we Should or Should Not use them. A sense of adventure and expectancy can lift and prepare us well for what they give.

Which Remedy To Use: General Points

Choose for you, not the situation or condition. No matter what the situation, use the Bach Flower Remedy/s that is for you, the person, responding to what you actually feeling (negatively). As you find out more about the different Flower Remedies, you will easily see which will be most helpful for you in the situations I have highlighted – and they may not be the seemingly obvious ones I have suggested. A 'this for that' approach in using the Bach Flowers is limited – both in what they have to offer, and in understanding what they are about – restoring us to the light of our inner being.

Learning about the different Bach Flowers can help you to become aware of outmoded patterns and unloving attitudes that have been hindering your work. Always, use what is for you at the time. For instance, not everyone flops with exhaustion (Olive) following overwork or other excess stresses. Some people respond with discouragement (Gentian), or impatience (impatiens), or bullying (Vine), or trying harder (Vervain) or withdrawing (Water Violet), or excess perseverance (Oak). So even if a Bach Flower may seem obvious intellectually, be open minded and honest.

Respond to 'now'. Choose for what you are experiencing now. A pattern or outlook which the Remedy lists describe may seem familiar – they probably all will, since they are about and common to all life! It is what is going on now that we are ready to readjust and learn from. If we recognise a deep and long standing pattern, work with a dose mixture over time. If its a passing but stuck mood, sip from a glass / bottle of water with the Bach Flowers added.

Its important also to remember that no one comes to us 'by chance'. Each person will 'call out' from us and / or reflect varying weaknesses and strengths. Like any other relationship. Part of our self care is to be aware of and consciously cultivate and live our strengths. If a weakness become stuck, Bach Flowers can help. Whenever we've lost sight of our strengths, Bach Flower will stimulate remembrance. They help to reconnect us with ourselves and our inner light, and to know that its not what we 'don't have' (weakness) that is important in our life, rather what we do have and are developing (strengths).

(N.B. For further information on the importance of cultivating strengths, and recognizing your own, use the 45 minute online quiz "Signature Strengths" from the Authentic Happiness web site, which is based on the work of Positive Psychology.)

Healer, Heal Thyself: Nature and Nurture

The first step for supporting our work is care of ourselves. Simple: when we are ill or low we have less to give; and, depending on the form of therapy we practice, it might even be unwise or dangerous to work in a weakened state. Simple, yet understandably often neglected. Demands and the pressures of the profession, plus home responsibilities can easily jostle for priority over our needs. Also, being care-ers, self neglect easily goes with the territory, as our attention is turned generally outward to helping and serving others.

A helpful approach for using Bach Flower Remedies well is seeing that our personality has attributes and potentials we were born with – our 'nature'. This is distinct from the outlooks and behaviours that form in response to life experience and how we are shaped by our family and society – the 'nurture' qualities of our person.

Care Of One's Core Nature

What, in Bach Flower terms, is my nature?

The Twelve Healers were so called by Dr. Edward Bach because they were his first discoveries. On the Healing Herbs web site, there is page that describes the twelve 'type remedies'. Most people, at glancing through, will recognize "That's me!" with one or two – and, that's my partner, my child, my neighbor.... Sometimes in adulthood our personality is overlaid and fogged by our life's experiences in the world, so our 'type' may not be obvious. If unsure, I suggest three possibilities. The first is recognizing negative life patterns; the second is using the well known correlations with astrological signs (see Help from Astrology). The third is to ask a parent, partner or close friend to read through the descriptions for you.

The 'glass darkly': Bring to mind how you feel, behave, and respond when you are out of sorts and over stressed. Whether tired, pushed, poorly, or upset, there are life-long patterns we can observe in our outlook and behaviour. Our 'nature' is also about what we are learning through our life experience, the potentials we are developing (or not, if we have become stuck). I remember, even from when I was very young, my Mum saying, "You need to learn patience!" Not a surprise then that one of my core 'type' Bach Remedies is Impatiens, one that I am grateful to be able to use again and again. I have indeed been learning patience. I also understand better now that the learning will continue throughout my whole life.

Because the First Twelve have to do with core personality structure does not mean that only those people can experience those negative and positive qualities. Anyone can. With some, its a passing frame of mind or mood, part of life's experiences, and which we may get caught up in. For others the type qualities and attitudes are core to our whole life. Rather than 'negative' or 'positive', I think of the qualities as 'forgotten' or 'remembered'; or as descriptions of 'love blocked' / 'love flowing'.

Once you know your type Remedy/s, keep the stock bottle/s handy, and use without hesitation as needed (not just anytime), and with gratitude. Whenever you feel even a bit stuck in out-of-sorts land, you can 'do the drops'. In the middle of a busy day it takes just a moment. Like sensitive sailing, responding to changing flows. Sometimes it feels right to learn with a Remedy over some time, say a few weeks, so make up a dose bottle.

All in all, your core Flower Remedy/s will help you to live and express your strengths through your work, and help you to generally take the best care of yourself that you can, including in relation to the specific needs and challenges your professional care.

Healer, Heal Thyself: Nurture

We also develop patterns of reaction and outlook as we go through our lives. They include what we learn from our parents, community, society. Ways we learn to behave and to relate in life, and the views we hold about life. Sometimes there was a specific 'formative' event – happy or not – that instilled a response pattern. Sometimes our 'nurture-formed' patterns are healthy and supportive, other times they hinder us in our life and health and work. Also, as we mature, what was appropriate last year may no longer be fit. Bach Flower Remedies can help us to let go of what is outmoded and is no longer nourishing.

Below I have highlighted some Bach Flowers in relation to common pitfalls and needs of health care professionals. However, any Flower Remedies may be appropriate for you in the same circumstance. Again, when choosing, look more to what you are really feeling and your current outlook, than getting caught up in any prescriptive 'this for that situation'. Remember also that we don't need help for momentary negative experiences or views – thoughts and feelings come and go. When an unhealthy state of mind is stuck or has become habitual, then we can turn to the gifts of the Bach Flowers.

Red Chestnut: to overcome fear for others. Sometimes we become too emotionally involved. No matter what situation we see our client experiencing, our own sense of inner trust is important. If we are over concerned or afraid for the person, that is communicated to them, undermines their progress, and confirms their fears. Red Chestnut helps us renew trust in life, and to maintain encouraging perspective and appropriate boundaries.

Vine: to guide, not demand. Each person we help needs to find their own way into a renewed state of health, whatever form that may take, at their own pace. We can never really know what is 'right' for someone else. Remembering so helps us to maintain our most supportive role of guidance and encouragement, and to be free to allow life's healing, creative forces to flow again through whatever form our service takes. Vine helps us when we have fallen into 'knowing' for someone else, or demanding any ought or should (even if unspoken). Especially because someone unwell is in a relatively weak position, this can easily stimulate a response of dominance from us. Which leads nicely to

Centaury: for 'door-matters', those who can't say 'no', to develop the inner strength of wise service and clear boundaries. The Vine and Centaury states play a dance – the bully attracts the wimp, and visa versa. Even people who aren't normally prone to inner weakness can crumble in the presence of a tyrant, and there are many degrees and forms of tyranny! Likewise the most unpresuming can find themselves pushy in the face of chronic weakness. As a health care professional, a call to service is often deeply felt. Take care that service is balanced and wise. "Energy suckers" are a fact of life – from the tiniest microbe to humanity, plants as well as animals – and they are attracted where there is weakness. Centaury helps us to grow inner strength.

Oak for work balance. Into the rut of helping others so much, while easily neglecting yourself? This is the one for the 'pillar of the community', usually so capable, yet at times needing to allow one's own limitations. Even if you don't think of yourself so, this is the one for when you go on and on when really you should have taken on less appointments and gone for rest and recreation.

Beech, for tolerance, is the one to sip when we have sidled into unconstructive criticism, become too analytical and fussy, whether about one or several of those you care for. Too much up in the head and uptight about how the world (and the person you are serving) ought to be. Restores the grace of looking for and seeing what is actually shining, of compassionate sense of acceptance, and of possibility. Not apathy (Wild Rose) nor pretense (Agrimony), but with understanding we can again feel OK about others' weaknesses.

Elm is a health practitioners' friend indeed. Generally not an easy profession, and many practitioners (and students) are doing more than one job (including child raising). Normally exceptionally capable, not surprisingly, we sometimes take on too much, then feel overwhelmed with all the responsibility. Elm helps us to get back in touch with what really is ours (or not) to be doing.

A Happy Place: Bach Flower Remedies to enhance your work place.

Release of negativity and toxins is inherent in many therapies. A place takes up and easily holds the qualities of energy that are expressed there. Sometimes simply opening a window for fresh air to flow will clear the area. Other times the fabric and spirit of the place takes on the qualities more deeply and more help is needed for the place to be at best.

When we 'treat' a room or area, a sense of permission, just as for people usually applies. Health and healing has, at some level, always to do with consciousness, awareness. Whatever your views and beliefs, I suggest you treat your working place as if it were a living entity, with a distinct spirit of its own. When we follow a preconceived idea of what is best for a place, taking for granted we know what is called for, and impose our limited ideas on the place, we may be a) in error about what is really called for; b) missing an opportunity to co-create a space that is healing in itself.

Having first clarified purpose and checked your motivation, I recommend pausing with an open-minded and open-hearted asking the nature intelligence of the place if and what Bach Flowers would help here. Ask knowing you will be answered, and trust your first impulses. One way to 'hear' can be, while focusing on the needs of the room, to move your hand over the set of bottles, and the appropriate one(s) will probably make itself felt. Check if its a short term need (some drops in a bowl of water, or drops in your hand and offer it to the room), or if it would be appropriate to make up a room spray for regular use.

While Crab Apple may well be most obviously appropriate for cleansing your work space, there may be other cleansing needs, e.g. a build up of guilt and self-blame (Pine), or despair (Sweet Chestnut). If there has been striving too hard, perhaps Vervain or Rock Water.

Especially if the room is a shared space, or public plce, take extra care. While remembering that Bach Flower Remedies are safe, benign, and will not impose themselves on anyone or anything – its our own misguided impositions and assumptions that we need to be wary of!

Helping others directly

This is not Bach Flower Therapy. These suggestions are about helping you to support and enhance the form of therapy / health care you already practice well. Even if you do not actually use the Flower Remedies, to simply be more aware of common imbalances and blocks can be a strong move forward in your work. To be able to recommend them in an informed way can be an excellent support of your work.

Many times I have found that if I want to see changes in the other person, I first change my own view of them. Whether because of classic projection (on my part), or the person I am working with actually mirroring my inner error, a first consideration for helping another is my own outlook. So I may take the Bach Flower according to the form of negativity I am witnessing in them. Especially when I have been repeatedly noticing the same negative outlook in several people. This is not an act of manipulation ('you'll get better by me doing it for you'), nor to satisfy my own desires about how someone 'should' be. Rather, sometimes people reflect something I have not noticed directly in myself.

Until the unloving state has become conscious and is addressed, there may be a tendency to hold or confirm that person in their same or related negative attitude. As uncanny and nonsensical as it may seem, I have experienced repeatedly that to change my mind actually does help the 'other' change. Minds are connected, and what one releases helps others to let go of the same. So that is the first way I can help others I am treating: to monitor and perhaps adjust my own perception. Make sure my own 'windows' are clear.

Next, there are issues common in most health care professions. Even if other than the suggested Flower Remedy is what is needed, I think its worthwhile to be aware of the situations.

Clematis for grounding. Some sessions leave us (client and or practitioner) not quite 'with it', especially the relaxing therapies, Reiki, healing and so on. Not only can Clematis help to ground the person following treatment, it may also help what has been given to root more easily. Reminding our client to breathe a bit more deeply again also helps. A drink of water after helps. "Would you like a bit of Bach Flower Clematis in your water to help you be fully present again?" Or perhaps regularly spray it around the room (on its own or in the Five Flower 'rescue' mix).

If a person is regularly 'not present' before, during or following your session with them, look to the other Remedies in the group "For Insufficient Interest in Present Circumstances". Their improved presence will help not only their health generally, also to benefit more deeply from what you are giving them.

Wild Oat for direction. Have you ever worked with someone, perhaps for a while, yet there is still no clear sense of purpose, of what is going on, or where they are headed, or what they need? Perhaps a 'fluffy' or 'misty' sense of meandering and 'getting' no where. Wild Oat helps us personally when we loose track of direction in our work, generally or with a specific person (and if we can't see which Bach Flower is relevant for ourself). It can stimulate the person's clarity and sense of purpose in their own journey.

Further, if there is any sense of not 'moving forward', especially when a prolonged situation or condition is involved, also look to see if any of the other Seven Helpers, or Chestnut Bud may be relevant.

Mimulus for nervousness. If it seems that the person's nervousness is interfering with gaining the most from their session/s with you, offer some Mimulus ("to help you calm a little, feel easier in yourself").

Crab Apple for cleansing. Many therapies, including counseling, involve a release of toxins – physical, emotional, mental. Having a spray of Crab Apple handy to clear the air after a session takes just a moment, and make a great difference for yourself, the room, the next person.

The above are just a few possibilities. As you come to know the 38 better, you will find others that can assist you in your particular work and circumstances, and individual client relationships.

Administering Flower Remedies to others

Sometimes it may be appropriate to put a couple drops in a glass of water for your client to drink. Perhaps make up a dose bottle for them to take away. However, once we give any substance (even subtle and safe ones) to someone to take internally, we easily cross boundaries into 'medical' issues and regulations. So it may be simplest and best to
a) Put a couple drops in their palm to rub over their wrists, and / or hold where on their body feels comfortable.

b) Spray the Remedy/s over the person, and /or around the room to give an ambience.

b) Suggest they get their own stock bottle of 'x', making sure they know what its about / for, where to get it and instructions for use (e.g. Healing Herbs web site).

c) Use the Remedy/s with whatever you use topically, e.g. in massage oil or lotion. Flower Remedies are received well at reflexes or meridian end points when that is our conscious intention.

The question of permission

In the therapy and healing world, permission is rightly a hot issue. With the Bach Flower Remedies, as for anything else, the question is, "What is appropriate now?" If you use Bach Flower Remedies to support your work, make this clear on your promotional material and whenever introducing your service. Take care not to imply that you are qualified as a Bach Flower Therapist or Flower Essence Practitioner.

Bach Flower Remedies are the only substance I would consider giving, after careful reserves, to anyone without their knowledge or permission. One of the areas of reserve being my own motivation. If I am wanting to fix someone to how I think they ought to be, for their own good of course, then that's not a fit reason.

There is a deep sense of communication that can take place and be truly supportive and loving. This impulse comes from a deep quiet sense within. It comes also with the certain knowledge that the Bach Flowers are benign, and with my willingness for shared responsibility for any outcome. And to be unattached to any particular outcome or expectation.

So, while generally the person's awareness and responsibility is paramount with Bach Flower Therapy, sometimes a carefully given gift can provide a ray of light, to help someone on their way.

Generally though, if its in the context of your meeting / therapy, and does not distract from what you are offering, or the flow and timing of your session together, its best to simply to ask the person. For example, "I think one of the Bach Flower Remedies, 'x', may help you with 'x', would you like to use it?" If making time to explain Bach Remedies is going distract from the therapy the person has come to you for, then a referral, or perhaps a leaflet or web site address about the Remedies would be more appropriate. However, if you find the supportive use of Bach Remedies is usually as straightforward as 'lighting a candle, or playing music would help this session', then have them handy and ready. Indeed, light and music are not so different from the happy vibrations of the Bach Flowers. Let them know what you're providing and check its OK.

We learn to listen more and more deeply to our intuition, our inner direction which comes from that part of ourselves which is connected with the 'other'. Be guided. The Bach Flower Remedies, and the teachings of Dr. Edward Bach can help us in this life-long development. Remembering we are using something that is benign and does not work against anyone's will, how much or little we discuss use of Flower Remedies is individual in every situation with every person. As long as we are not pressing them onto the person for our own satisfactions, we are offering a gift. We can trust that the person will or not accept it according to their inner will.

Information is power. Sometimes just the awareness of what the Flower Remedies are about is effective and empowering.

Light of Consciousness

Whatever our practice, and whichever Flower Remedies we call on to help ourselves and others, its the outlook, that state of mind that counts. The expansion of awareness, the light of consciousness that we are able to bring to our work, or rather that our service arises from, is what lifts what we do to the highest, no matter how mundane or highly skilled the service may seem.

Whatever form our professional health care work takes, the highest help we can give is to use our mind and heart to see beyond the person's body and life situation to the essence of light and love that is their being. And yours, and mine. It is from this font of life force, the eternal soul or core being, that the health of balance, harmony, inner peace and joy in life flows.

Bach Flower Therapy is based on the understanding that illness is a result of disassociation or separation of our self, or in-the-world consciousness / individual personality, from our root being. Soul lives and learns through the individual expression and journey of a life. Therefore, when we are not living our own life, and so are not following our Soul's direction, we have cut ourselves off from unity within ourselves and unity with the whole of creation.

We experience this disharmony first through 'negative' mental outlook and emotions which are stressful and painful, not only to ourselves, also to others. If these signs are ignored they often develop into physical symptoms. If we treat the physical symptom only, without regard to the underlying psycho-spiritual malady, we may be turning off the 'warning lights'. The symptom may clear, only to return – perhaps in another form, often more severe, until we address the core ill of separation.

You may not agree with this view of life and health. It is not necessary to have any knowledge of the philosophy underpinning the Bach Flower Remedies for them to work. However, in my and countless others' experience, as we do ponder the wisdom the Remedies embody and stimulate, they do work more clearly and easily. With our consciousness aligned with the flow of the life of the Flower Remedies, the life we share with the plant realm and all other creatures, we are developing the powerful faculty of co-creation.

Even if the concept of 'soul' is alien to your life view, I think it is worth deeply pondering this: How profoundly are we able to help anyone when we see them and treat them as merely physical objects (with a mind), and focus our creative attention not on the person but on the malady or weakness? I didn't enjoy a lot of Dr. Edward Bach's little booklet "Heal Thyself" (see Resources page) LINK when I first read it over twenty years ago. Yet the ideas stuck, and turned out to be in line with all other wisdom teachings I have been studying ever since. The ideas have been as important in my journey as the Remedies that are rooted in them.

This light of consciousness is not so much something that we do or practice or even talk about with our clients. It is the state of mind and heart that we can cultivate, with the help of the Bach Flowers; and it is the ground of what we offer – whether our work is making someone a cup of tea and breakfast, and helping them to wash and dress; giving a therapy treatment, or healing session; or guiding a person through the steps of any form of counseling and psychotherapy.

Helping to bring the person back to their self, helping them to 'hear' and follow their inner guidance and wisdom and love. Assisting them to realize and follow their own life's purpose, and building their strengths. We 'do' this firstly by cultivating the same in ourselves, for ourselves. Knowing in yourself and assuring others there is always cause for hope. Helping to renew flow of love in moment to moment living. Even if not spoken, exposing those we serve to an atmosphere of wisdom and love through our own knowing, and the 'feeling' of the place we work. The Bach Flower Remedies help us to bring to our work ancient perennial wisdom that reminds us,

  • Fear not.
  • Love and treat other people as yourself.
  • You are not alone.
  • You are the light of the world.
  • To be well we need to love. To know love, give and allow love.
  • We are part of one whole connected life, united in love.
  • What you think about and give to others is always for you, yours too.
  • There is far far more to creation than what we perceive with our physical senses, and the astounding physical body is the very least of what we are.
  • The mind is creative: while acknowledging pain and suffering, focus on what you want to create – for yourself, for our children, for the whole of Earth.
  • Be here now.

These are facets of universal wisdom that the Bach Flower Remedies help us to know for ourselves, and to live, each in our own way. As and when we aspire for our work to be founded on loving wisdom, then our most simple acts of caring become truly healing arts.

Cynthia Alves, copyright 2008


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