How We Use Complementary Therapies

What are complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies are treatments used to support regular or orthodox treatments such as medication. These treatments may be used to reduce stress and anxiety or may be used to help with problems such as pain, nausea and constipation.

At Butterwick Hospice complementary therapists work as part of the clinical team alongside nurses and doctors, to ensure the treatments used will be safe for people and not interfere with regular medications.

We do not, at any time, offer treatment as an alternative to prescribed care, or advise people to accept it as such.

Why use complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies have an important role in the hospice, giving pleasure, comfort and relief. Therapies are appropriate for:

  • Promoting relaxation
  • Reducing anxiety, depression, stress and tension
  • Reducing pain
  • Alleviating symptoms such as muscle fatigue and tension
  • Constipation
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Reducing psychological distress and giving emotional support
  • Improving wellbeing and quality of life
  • Stimulating circulation
  • Stimulating memory
  • Improving skin condition
  • Reducing fears/phobias related to treatments

Who provides the treatment?

A range of complementary therapists offer treatment and the practitioner each person sees will depend on the type of therapy used and which day they attend for appointments.

All of the practitioners working within the hospice hold a qualification to at least diploma level in their relevant therapy. As well as this all practitioners undergo a specialised training programme to enable them to offer specialist care to people with life-threatening illnesses.

Sometimes practitioners have students assigned to them. These students already have a diploma in their chosen therapy and are studying for a degree in complementary therapies, or are undergoing specialist palliative care training.

In the in-patient unit and children’s hospice some of the treatments are administered by nurses or other members of the care team who have had special training to enable them to administer treatments just within the hospice.

This is important to allow us to reduce the time people staying at the Hospice will wait for treatment. For example, if someone cannot sleep, they may be able to receive a relaxing foot or hand aromatherapy massage to relax them immediately rather than having to wait for the aromatherapist to come the next day.

Complementary therapies for children

Most essential oils are very strong so very small amounts are used but some aromatherapy oils are not safe to use with small children.

Within the children’s hospice, the majority of the care team have been trained to use complementary therapies as part of their role, that are suitable for children. This works very well because treatment can be administered at a time of day most suitable for the child’s routine rather than have to work around an appointment system.

The children who access the children’s hospice build up close relationships with the staff and tend to feel more comfortable receiving treatment this way.

An important part of the service we offer within the children’s hospice is the training and support we give to families and carers, enabling them to give their child an aromatherapy massage at home. This benefits the whole family, providing quality time and rewarding experience for the child and the caregiver.

Which therapies are available?

The treatments we offer are:

Aromatherapy (By appointment only)

This is the most popular treatment we use and involves the use of essential oils – or natural plant essences – to enhance the well being of body and mind. Aromatherapy may be used in massage, or as a skin lotion, inhalation or added to baths.

All of the oils we use are specially selected following careful assessment, to ensure they are suitable for each person. Oils are purchased from a specialist supplier to ensure purity and quality.

Aromatherapy is suitable for most people but it is important that care and advice is taken as some oils may interfere with some medications.


Different types of massage may be used depending on the reason for treatment and the person’s condition. Massage may be used to exercise stiff muscles and joints or be used as a gentle soothing touch to relieve pain, stress and anxiety.


This includes simple muscle relaxation techniques, visualisation and imagery. Group sessions are held regularly in Day Services and individual sessions are held on request. The emphasis is on the use of techniques which can be used at home to help with stress relief and relaxation.


This is one of the traditional eastern therapies used to relieve many common symptoms such as pain, constipation and fatigue. Pressure points in the feet are precisely massaged using talc or a special cream. Sometimes the hands or scalp may be massaged instead.

Reflexology is particularly helpful where body massage is inappropriate, or where dressing and undressing is difficult.


This utilises very deep relaxation and whilst in this ‘trance’ state the mind is much more open to suggestion. This is completely safe and allows the therapist to suggest positive states such as feeling calm and relaxed.

Other suggestions such as a reduction in symptoms, for example, pain and nausea, or for changes in habit like better sleep patterns may be used.

Some people come for hypnotherapy to reduce phobias and anxiety such as needle phobias or for help in giving up smoking, or weight loss. These things may not seem very logical activities for a hospice therapist, but all our services are family centred and aim to also make life better for the carers of those with life-threatening illnesses.

Koryo Hand Therapy

KHT works in a similar way to acupuncture, but utilises pressure pellets rather than needles, making it more acceptable for some people,and less invasive to apply.

KHT involves small sticking plasters with metal studs inside being applied to various pressure points on the hands and can be used to relieve lots of symptoms such as hot flushes, pain and nausea.


Reiki comes from the Japanese words rei (universal) and ki (energy). The aim of Reiki is to improve the balance of energy in body and mind and involves the practitioner moving their hands over special energy points on the body. Many people report a feeling of deep relaxation during and following the treatment.


Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin and underlying tissues at special points around the body.

Modern research supports the beneficial effects of acupuncture for many common symptoms of pain, stress, hot flushes, migraine and nausea.

Who can receive treatment?

Everyone accessing Butterwick Hospice Care may be offered complementary therapies. All treatment is free of charge to patients and their carers. Treatment will be administered as part of the following services:


In-patients, Day Services & Children’s Hospice

Bishop Auckland

Day Services & Palliative Home Care

Outreach Services

Sedgefield Community Hospital, Stanhope Community Hospital, Richardson Hospital Barnard Castle and people’s own homes within the Palliative Home Care Service.

Specialist Multiple Sclerosis Services

Drop in services and home visits for patients referred by Darlington and Stanhope Multiple Sclerosis Society Branches.

How do I access treatment?

If you are receiving treatment from one of the Butterwick Hospice services speak to a member of the nursing team who will be able to arrange an appointment for you. Treatments are only administered following careful assessment by a qualified practitioner who will consult your doctor as necessary to ensure your safety and wellbeing.

Special clinics for carers are held on a regular basis. Please remember that appointments are limited and we endeavour to see all referrals as quickly as possible based on need.

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