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Complementary therapists - choose with confidence

Did you know that there is currently no statutory regulation of complementary therapists in the UK? This means that anyone could set up a business tomorrow, after an online, one-day or weekend course, or after just reading a book, and call themselves a therapist. With that in mind, how can you be sure that when you book your appointment you are making the right choice and that you will receive the highest level of complementary healthcare?

Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council

The Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was set up in 2008 with government backing to act in the interests of the general public as a regulator for complementary therapists. Each therapist registers voluntarily and the CNHC ensures that to be accepted onto, and stay on, the register, they must meet the highest levels of training, be fully insured to practise and also agree to strict Codes of Conduct, Ethics and Performance.

The register is an Accredited Register by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, an independent body accountable to the UK Government that oversees and scrutinises the work of nine statutory medical, health and care regulators including the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

There are currently 18 complementary therapies on the register (image 1) and due to the strict guidelines for registration and ongoing professionalism, only those complementary therapists on the CNHC register can call themselves a Complementary Healthcare Practitioner.

Image 1, complementary therapies on CNHC register

Federation of Holistic Therapists

The Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) also holds an Accredited Register by the Professional Standards Authority. Acting in the same way as the CNHC, anyone who is on the register is checked for their level of training, that they hold insurance to practise and must meet high standards of personal and professional behaviour, technical competence and business practice. Only complementary therapists that are registered on the FHT register can call themselves a Complementary Healthcare Therapist.

Professional bodies – the difference

Many therapists are also members of professional bodies for their chosen disciplines. There are many professional bodies set up for complementary therapists in the UK like The Scottish Massage Therapists’ Organisation, The Complementary Therapists’ Association and The Guild of Holistic Therapists. Professional bodies are there to act in the interests of their members by providing training, information and resources, career support, advice and networking opportunities. While it is true that to gain membership to a professional body certain levels of training must be obtained, the purpose of these types of bodies is to benefit the therapist.

In contrast, The CNHC and FHT Accredited Registers are not membership organisations but voluntary regulators with the sole purpose of the protection of the general public.

So how do you choose with confidence?

When choosing a complementary therapist it is important to check they are registered on either the CNHC or FHT Accredited Registers. Only by choosing a therapist on one of these registers can you be sure that they have met the highest levels of training, will adhere to high levels of ethics and professionalism and continue to improve their practice through Continued Professional Development (CPD). The CNHC and FHT are also there to investigate and take action against any complaints about care, advice or unethical business practices.

Most therapists on the registers will make this information available on their websites, social media or marketing materials. They will readily display the quality marks for the public to see (image 2).

Image 2, CNHC quality mark

Both registers are also openly accessible to the general public and you can use these searches to find a registered therapist near you or to check that your therapist is still on the register.

While many reputable therapists have, for whatever reason, decided not to voluntarily register with either the CHNC or FHT, for therapists who have, it demonstrates the highest level of professionalism available for complementary therapies in the UK and gives the public extra confidence when choosing a therapist for their complementary healthcare.

Vicky Barbour May 2021

Further information

CNHC public information leaflet
Download PDF • 5.38MB

References, what we do, 2021, available at, about us, 2021, available at, choose confidence, 2021, available at, about the FHT complementary healthcare register, available at, complementary and alternative medicine, 2018, available at

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