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CAM therapies were used as treats and as alternative, complementary, and conventional treatments

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F L Bishop

Dr F L Bishop, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK;


How do patients use, think about, and conceptualise complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies?


Ethnographic study.


2 clinics in pharmacy stores in the UK.


Purposive sample of 46 people (91% women) who were attending clinics for osteopathy, reflexology, aromatherapy massage, homeopathy, and herbal medicine. 2 participants used 2 services and were interviewed twice.


Semistructured interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim or recorded in notes. Data were analysed thematically.


Participants used CAM therapies as treats or treatment, although they sometimes talked about the same therapy in different ways. (1) Therapies as treats. Aromatherapy massage and reflexology were considered treats when viewed as enjoyable luxuries rather than for health needs: “I personally wouldn’t use aromatherapy as a health treatment; no, I use it for being pampered.” However, holistic outcomes such as relaxation may be considered important for health. One participant described her experience with reflexology: “I didn’t appreciate the treatment basis of it, not until I …

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  • Source of funding: Economic and Social Research Council CASE Studentship in collaboration with Boots PLC.