Complementary therapy for teenagers and young adults

by Ceris Fender-Reid, Head of Complementary Therapies.

We are delighted to have launched the complementary therapy service on the teenage and young adult day care floor at the University College London Hospital Cancer Centre; aromatherapist Paula has been in high demand!

With over five years’ experience working with young people at UCLH, she brings her warm, calm manner to this new service. Paula gives gentle massage, and makes aromatherapy inhaler sticks to ease anxiety, stress and symptoms like nausea.

Since June, she has helped over 60 young people and 13 carers or companions; some patients ask to see her each time they come in. Almost as many boys and young men access the service as girls and young women, and both teenagers and young adults have taken up sessions, so it really is something for everyone.


Senior staff nurse Mariann says “we see how much complementary therapy helps [patients] while they’re going through treatment. They’re less worried, more relaxed and it makes their day better. It’s absolutely amazing and the parents would say the same.”

Paula says “I’m always busy. One boy was distressed… I made him comfortable and gave him a foot massage. He fell straight to sleep! Another asks for a back massage every visit. He reminds the nurses to tell him when I’m in, so he doesn’t miss me.

Regarding parents and carers Paula adds, “The stress on parents is enormous. It helps them to see their young person comfortable and relaxed. Sometimes the young person encourages their parent to have a treatment. One young girl said, ‘My mum definitely needs this!’”


Since the service started, along with the massage sessions, Paula has provided more than 70 aroma sticks for the young people and their parents. These last for at least three months and can help relaxation or nausea.

Advanced nurse practitioner Helen says “Complementary therapy is so beneficial to our patients. The unit is very busy, so it gives them some peace and quiet. It helps take their mind off the anxiety or nausea.” Her colleague Lauren adds “It helps break up the day. It’s wonderful for the parents to give them a bit of relaxation for themselves. And it makes the unit smell great!”