Animal Level 3 from the Natural Animal Centre
- 'extremely enjoyable'
- 'an amazing insight'
These are just a few of the comments received from students who have attended the Bach Centre-approved level 3 training programme run by the Natural Animal Centre.
The programme is taught by Heather Simpson, a professional animal behaviourist and BFRAP. Classes take place in Wales and are either established or planned to start soon in Japan, Poland, Holland, Italy, Belgium and the United States.
Once you complete the full programme and the assessments you are eligible to apply to join the Bach Foundation International Register as a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner.
- What is the overall approach to treating animals?
- Who is eligible to join the NAC Bach level 3 course?
- How much does the NAC Bach level 3 cost?
- What is the structure of the course?
- How is the course assessed?
- What sort of supervision is available during and after the assessments?
- Is it legal to treat animals with Bach remedies?
- What is vet referral and why is it necessary?
- What does 'vet referral' involve?
- Can I select remedies for an animal without vet referral?
- Why do we have to see animals in person before selecting remedies?
- Are there situations where we can help an animal without seeing it in person?
- Will I be able to set up a human-facing practice after this course, i.e. help human clients as well as animals?
- Why does the course concentrate so much on the science of animal behaviour?
- Do students and practitioners need to be insured?
One of the cornerstones of Dr Bach’s unique, profound philosophy is that the Bach remedies are a self-help system which can be easily learnt. On the NAC Bach level 3 animal course we are committed to this philosophy of simplicity with respect to remedy choice. At the same time, though, we investigate with future Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioners (BFRAPs) the challenges involved in working professionally with animals.
Animals are not able to speak for themselves. Their welfare is at risk if owners or Bach practitioners are muddled or misguided in assessing their needs. A key role of the BFRAP in a consultation is to understand with compassion the true issues from the animal’s point of view, rather than accepting information filtered through the owner’s opinion.
The legal status of BFRAPs is difficult to assess. Every country has its own laws on the legal care of animals, but they rarely give clear guidance to BFRAPs, as the remedies themselves are not well understood and are often assumed to be drugs or treatments for physical problems. Student BFRAPs become comfortable with the standards set for animal care by the Bach Centre and the Natural Animal Centre, including obtaining vet referral and seeing animals in person before selecting, because they learn that they are designed to protect and help animals and BFRAPs alike.
The Bach Centre approves the NAC Bach courses as a level 3 course. As it is a Bach Centre-approved course the Bach Centre's rules apply, and you need to complete Bach Centre-approved level 1 and 2 courses before you start on the NAC course.
See the NAC web site for the cost of courses that run at the NAC's own premises in Wales.
NAC courses outside the UK have to cover additional travel and premises costs. Contact the NAC direct to ask about the cost of non-UK courses.
The NAC Bach course is classed by the Bach Centre as a level 3 course. Students will already have a good knowledge of Dr Bach's system, and are expected to know the remedies before they start.
The course is split into three stages. In general all three stages focus on identifying animal emotions based on behaviour. You will learn how to apply your knowledge of the Bach system to the needs of animals, and how best to deal with the legal issues, safety concerns and animal welfare issues that are central to the care of animals with Bach remedies.
- Stage 1 includes an introduction to the behaviour of cats, horses and dogs, and an overview of how the remedies can help animals. Groups are kept small, allowing you time to ask questions.
- Stage 2 is a three day course. On the first day you will look in-depth at the psychology and behaviour of dogs, paying special attention to the different behaviour characteristics of different breeds. Day two concentrates on cats, and includes an introduction to how animals learn. Day three shows how you can apply you knowledge of animal behaviour to help you identify behaviour patterns in all animals. Case studies will help you select remedies for other species including horses, reptiles and other companion animals. All three days will give you the opportunity to study examples of animal behaviour.
- Stage 3 is a four day course. The first day gives you an opportunity to revise what you have learned so far by looking at live or video case studies. The course allows you to try out your observation skills by looking at examples of animal (and animal owner) behaviour, concentrating on dogs, cats and horses. Guidelines for treating animals will be explored, including ensuring personal and public safety, how to work with vets and the requirements of the Bach Foundation Code of Practice and practice guidelines.
Day four of stage 3 is exam day, with a multiple choice assessment followed by a written exam. Once you have passed the exams you will be asked to complete further written work from home, and then go on to undertake and write up a case study of your own, including the selection of remedies for an animal.
Stages 1 and 2 are normally run back-to-back; there is a gap between stages 2 and 3 so that you have time to do background reading. The assessment process starts at the end of stage 3.
At the end of stage 3 there is a multiple choice assessment followed by a written assessment testing your ability to apply your remedy knowledge to common animal care scenarios. This is marked by Heather Simpson of the NAC and second-marked by Stefan Ball at the Bach Centre.
After successful completion of the written assessment you will do further written work from home. Finally you will be asked to complete case studies of your own and submit them to the NAC for assessment. Case studies will be in written form, but you will also be required to provide a video showing your interaction with the animal(s) you are helping.
The NAC and the Bach Centre consider veterinary referral to be best practice for BFRAPs. You will be required to show proof of having obtained vet referral when you submit your cases for review. Full information on how to go about getting referral from a veterinary surgeon is included on the course.
The NAC provides feedback on the course work you do as part of the assessment process, and we also help with specific questions that relate to the course work and to the cases you prepare as part of your coursework. All this is covered by the course fee.
You can also contact the Bach Centre if you have any queries on practice standards and specifically on the remedies. The Bach Centre provides this service to BFRAPs, BFRPs and students on level 3 courses for free.
Finally, you can also opt for additional NAC supervision if you feel it will be helpful. This additional supervision is not included in the course fee, and taking it up is not mandatory.
Opting for personal NAC supervision means you will have someone with whom you can discuss your animal cases in confidence. (Permission to discuss the case with the supervisor is always sought from the owner first). Many professions offer similar services: psychologists, social workers etc. all usually work with a supervisor.
Working under supervision does not mean the supervisor takes over the case. On the contrary, supervision allows you to ‘think aloud’ with a co-professional and in so doing, reach conclusions that otherwise may have not be attained.
The supervisor also helps with a range of other professional issues such as more advanced technical animal behaviour points that were not covered on the course and the writing of more complicated reports for vets.
Laws on the health care of animals vary widely from country to country, but in most countries the law allows us to give complementary treatments to our own animals. We can also help wild animals, and usually help any animal in a genuine emergency.
However, in the UK, for example, diagnosis and treatment of other people's animals in a wide range of situations is considered to be 'an act of veterinary surgery' and can only be carried out by a vet. Similar laws apply in many U.S. states, and in other parts of the world. It isn't clear if selecting Mimulus for a neighbour’s frightened cat would fall foul of this kind of legislation, as world-wide we are not aware of any relevant case ever coming to court. But you do need to be aware of the issue, especially if you intend one day to offer help on a professional basis.
On the NAC Bach level 3 course we introduce strategies that allow you to help animals with the remedies in a professional context, in particular veterinary referral, which protects you from allegations that you are seeking to carry out work that under law is the prerogative of a vet.
Veterinary referral is the process of contacting vets before starting to select remedies for an animal. On the face of it, working under vet referral might seem to be contrary to Dr Bach’s philosophy of self-help, given that he was a qualified doctor who chose to turn away from the scientific limitations of the medical profession. But there are good reasons for thinking that vet referral is in the best interests of BFRPs, the best interest of animals, and ultimately in the best interest of Dr Bach’s system.
There is real uncertainty about the legality of caring for other people’s animals with Bach remedies. There is also the risk that animal owners will blame BFRPs if remedies are selected for something that later turns out to be a medical problem. One advantage of vet referral is that it protects BFRPs from potential legal problems like this. Responsibility for the animal’s veterinary care is left where it belongs, in the hands of the vet, which makes it less likely that an authority will decide to test local laws by bringing a case against a BFRP. We believe too that in some countries such as Japan, vet referral is sufficient to make it entirely legal to work with animals.
Vet referral has animal welfare implications as well. Because assessing animals is hampered by their not being able to ‘talk to us’, it’s useful to get as much information as possible before trying to select remedies. Vets often have information to add about an animal, even if it is only to confirm that there is no major underlying medical condition of which we need to be aware. We benefit from the free, advance input they provide, and we gain confidence that our intervention is appropriate. Many diseases can cause aggression, so it’s good to know that the organic causes have been ruled out before we start deciding on remedies.
Some practitioners find the idea of working alongside a vet an intimidating prospect. But there are enormous positive gains to be had from conforming to vet referral – it is not meant to limit us. In fact, over the years that the Natural Animal Centre level 3 course has been taught, experience has shown that a good relationship with a few veterinary practices in the local area can ensure an on-going throughput of cases and a thriving animal practice.
By 'referral' we mean informing and obtaining consent from the vet before taking on a case. When the owner first approaches you, ask for the name and number of the veterinary surgeon who treats that animal. Phone in and explain to the receptionist or nurse who you, and ask that a note be made on the animal’s file to say that the owner has asked you to select Bach remedies for it.
It may be that you will be put through to speak to the vet in person, which could lead (as has happened in the past) to an invitation to go to the surgery and talk about the remedies with the staff and the vets. In many cases, though, the receptionist or nurse will make a note and you are free to arrange the consultation.
Dr Bach wanted the remedies to be freely available to all without limitation and BFRAPs are keen to help in times of immediate need. At the same time we try to work to high standards that take account of the particular issues involved in working with animals. To achieve a balance we draw a distinction between immediate need and the more considered professional input that requires veterinary referral.
Here are two cases of immediate need that we consider on the course. You will see they have potentially different responses:
Q. I am walking down the street and a cat is run over by a car in front of me. May I give the cat some of the 'rescue' formula without vet referral?
Answer: In this case it is appropriate to offer the 'rescue' combination. In most jurisdictions the law allows the emergency treatment of animals without a vet being involved. Bach Centre guidelines on the treatment of animals also make allowance for emergency use.
Q. A close friend calls me late on a Sunday evening – her dog has just bitten her partner. The surgery is closed at this time of night. May I give the dog remedies without vet referral?
Answer: Here we can differentiate between the in-the-moment situation and the likely need for subsequent, more detailed professional input in the form of a consultation.
Immediate need: By asking the owner pertinent questions, we can explore in general terms the likely triggers for the biting. In our response we don't advise on the specific case but instead we help the owner understand the general applications of some likely remedies and leave it to her to make the choice for her animal.
Suppose we identify that this was likely to be a case of fear-aggression. We might say, ‘There are a number of remedies that can be helpful in fear such as Aspen and Mimulus. Here are the indications for each . . .’
Subsequent professional input: After the immediate need is met we might consider if we feel some further investigation is needed. In cases like aggression to family members, a more in-depth analysis of what has motivated the dog to (presumably, suddenly) behave in this way is usually necessary. We might therefore encourage the owner to meet for a consultation as soon as possible. At the point we take on the animal as a ‘case’, the need for vet referral emerges. Aggression can be caused by many diseases and we need to have confidence that we are working only within the area of our expertise: dealing with the emotions of the dog.
Without seeing the animal in person, we only get the owner’s version of the animal’s problems. Consider what happens when an owner emails a BFRP for advice: ‘My cat is forever scratching me. She is always trying to take over and dominate things – she hates it if I win’. Based on this information, the BFFP is likely to respond with an explanation of Vine, or perhaps Beech - and some other remedies might come in as well.
Now consider the alternative scenario, where the BFRP obtains vet referral and has the owner bring the cat in for a consultation so that she can see them together. During the consultation, she learns that ‘forever scratching’ actually is a distortion on the owner’s part: the cat only tries to scratch whilst she is being groomed. The scratching is a last-ditch response because the cat is fearful of being held down whilst being groomed. Most of the time, the cat is very quiet and timid and rarely interacts with the owner - during the consultation, the cat is not seen to approach the owner and hides in her basket for the entire duration. Based on this information, the remedies indicated are quite different, and more appropriate.
Veterinary referral is rarely given if an animal is not going to be seen in person, and we can't offer specific advice if we can't see the animal behaviour for ourselves. However, there are a number of ways we can assist an owner by telephone or by email so that the owner is not left helpless. These really come under the heading of informal advice, and we suggest strategies for offering informal advice on the course.
One way is to point to similar cases that have been dealt with in the books on the recommended reading list. For example, Emotional Healing for Horses and Ponies by Ball, Simpson and Howard is full of detailed behavioural analyses with accompanying suggestions for remedies. So we might say, ‘On page so-and-so, there is a horse that may have had similar problems to yours . . . have a look and see if you recognise any similarities. The remedy used in that horse’s case was one that addresses loneliness, and other typical remedies for loneliness are...'
This kind of approach highlights the educational role that all BFRAPs take on, and is a way of giving general advice where it isn't possible for whatever reason to take a case on professionally, i.e. conduct a face-to-face consultation after vet referral.
Will I be able to set up a human-facing practice after this course, i.e. help human clients as well as animals?
Successful completion of the course qualifies you to apply to join the Bach Foundation International Register as a specialist Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP).
Under Bach Centre guidelines, BFRAPs are allowed to offer a human-facing service, but are not included on the human-facing referral lists published by the Centre. To go onto these lists in addition to the animal-facing lists, BFRAPs need to send evidence of specialist training in human-facing counselling / consultation skills. Contact the Bach Centre for more information.
In terms of skills taught on the NAC course, everything in it is geared to working with animals. Some skills, however, such as how to set up a practice, are broadly transferable to work with humans. In addition Bach Centre level 3 handouts covering human-facing consultation and listening skills will be made available to you.
'No science, no knowledge is necessary,' said Dr Bach... so it may seem strange that a large percentage of time on the animal course is taken up teaching students about the latest knowledge science has to offer on animal behaviour. Why isn't there less science, and more on remedies?
The NAC Bach course is a level 3 course, so students have completed Bach Centre-approved levels 1 and 2 prior to registering. Because students join the animal course with an existing knowledge of the remedies, that allows us to devote time to teaching how various groups of animals think, learn and behave under natural conditions and how they express themselves when they are stressed or unhappy. This is analogous to what happens on the human-facing level 3 course at the Bach Centre, where the majority of time is spent on consulting and listening skills. What you are learning on the NAC course is, basically, how to listen to animals.
Students learn that animal species express stress in different ways. Because we humans are programmed to respond to cries (of our babies, of a stranger mugged on a street), we find it difficult to appreciate the point of view of those species that do not react like us. For example, whilst a dog may yelp or whine under extreme pressure (such as when terrified), a horse or a rabbit may do the exact opposite: become utterly still and silent.
In the past, the horse or rabbit may have been dismissed by an owner as not suffering from any stress at all. But research over the last 20 years has shown that a silent, still horse could be just as stressed as a yelping dog. Without checking the heart rate of the horse and the stress hormones in its blood, we would not know that it was under such stress. Scientists have done this work for us, allowing us to identify states like terror more accurately.
A practitioner working without this knowledge might erroneously assume apathy in such a situation and choose Wild Rose – when Rock Rose should be the remedy of choice. Whilst choosing Wild Rose would do no harm, the emotional crisis for the horse would not be resolved and its welfare would remain poor. Furthermore, lack of a positive result could cause the owner to lose faith in the remedies.
In the end it's all about selecting remedies that will help. Our animal behaviour science is just a way of learning how to understand animals better. Think of it as a language course, helping you to understand what your clients are trying to say.
On the course, the benefits of public liability and professional indemnity cover are explained. Students are also made aware that many vets will not provide a referral unless they have evidence of current insurance cover.
In countries such as the UK and the Netherlands, premiums are low and therefore typically most if not all BFRAPs in these countries opt for insurance cover. In countries such as the USA, where premiums are high and often unaffordable, liability waivers may be helpful (depending on local state laws).
Sometimes it can be hard to find insurance in litigious countries (again, the US is the prime example), and even companies who say they cover Bach flower therapists sometimes exclude in the small print substances that are remixed (e.g. treatment bottles) and/or given by mouth. To resolve this particular problem you might decide to charge for consultations only, and either leave clients to supply and mix the remedies themselves or, if you do have treatment bottles available for clients, let them make a mix from your stock bottles free of charge. This means that you will not be considered to be 'manufacturing a product', as might happen if you sell a remixed treatment bottle. Instead of charging for refill bottles just charge a small fee for confirming the selection, and again, leave clients to mix remedies themselves and on their own responsibility.
Working with animals without insurance can be risky – in many societies, tolerance towards unwanted behaviours in animals is at an all-time low and therefore the potential liability for BFRAPs has also increased. Animals can also damage property with similar intolerant responses from property owners. Lastly, many animals have a high financial value (horses, stud cats and dogs) and accordingly owners of these animals tend to be more litigious. However, in line with the Bach Foundation Code of Practice, insurance to work as a practitioner is not mandatory but it is the practitioner’s responsibility if they decide not to purchase it.