Alternative therapists of any kind coming to work or set up a practice in Spain face two main problems. The first is that the majority of alternative therapies aren’t licensed by the Spanish government. Whilst it isn’t illegal to practise alternative therapies, the lack of regulation can lead to bad practice and all practitioners can be tarred with the same brush. Phil Speirs, who publishes La Chispa magazine, an alternative living guide to Andalusia, strongly recommends that you bring all your qualifications and plenty of references with you and have them translated into Spanish.
The second problem you may find is that your patient or client base may be restricted to expatriates, especially if you work in a coastal area or on one of the Spanish islands. Many Spanish people are conservative in their attitudes towards healthcare and reluctant to try unorthodox treatments; they want a recommendation from someone they trust who has tried it before they will go as far as making an appointment. As one therapist put it: “It’s very much a last resort for a Spanish person to try an alternative therapy. They just don’t use alternative treatments in the same way that many northern Europeans do. So most of my business comes from the expatriate community.”
Nevertheless, in many coastal areas and some of the major cities there are a growing number of alternative therapists practising acupuncture, homeopathy and massage, as well as offering classes in pilates and yoga. There are also holistic centres, alternative medical centres and yoga retreats in the countryside. This means that, although there’s plenty of potential, there’s also plenty of competition for your services, so it’s important that you do your market research well. It’s also an advantage to be trained to offer more than one type of treatment so that you can offer a variety of services.
There are two useful sources of information about alternative health practices in Andalusia: the Andalucia Com SL website (www.andalucia.com) provides a comprehensive guide, and La Chispa magazine (www.lachispa.net), which is available in yoga schools, alternative healthcare clinics, health food shops and other outlets, contains a wide range of relevant articles and contacts, and advertisements for alternative therapists.
Make contact with some of the more established alternative health centres in the area that you’re interested in. Introduce yourself, let them have details of your qualifications and try to participate in any events they may be organising. Some centres have open days and workshops which are useful sources of contacts and information and will give you an idea of the competition and your likely client base. If you’re planning to work on your own, some centres will allow you to use their treatment rooms and equipment for a fee and some have a database of therapists. Ask if they will add your details and put you on their mailing list.
It’s important to have public liability insurance before you start work. Cover can be hard to obtain, however, owing to the lack of regulation of therapists. Try insurance companies that specialise in cover for expatriates; there are advertisements in the English-language press and alternative health publications (e.g. La Chispa). If your Spanish is up to it, it’s worth contacting the Spanish Naturopaths Association ( Federación Española de Profesionales en Naturopatía/FENACO, www.fenaco.net), which was started more than 20 years ago to help naturopaths, including acupuncturists, homeopaths and osteopaths, who choose to work in Spain or abroad. FENACO attempts to regulate naturopathy and aims for its recognition by the Spanish government; there are branches in many areas of Spain, listed on the website. One of the services offered to members is professional insurance. Some clinics and centres will give discounts to therapists who use their facilities and are members of FENACO, as the organisation is highly regarded.
This article is an extract from Making a Living in Spain. Click here to get a copy now.