The Francos, Naturopaths

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After five years in Sydney, Australia, Trinidadians Philip Franco, a qualified naturopath registered with the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) and his wife, Camille, who holds a degree in Psychology from New York University and specific training in Individual Psychotherapy and Relationship Therapy from the Jansen Newman Institute in Sydney, have come home to offer holistic health care to the people of this country at the Holistic Clinic, "Natural Balance" in the Y.W.C.A. building, 25 Alexandra Street , St Clair. Reflexologist, Rudy Persad-Mangroo, completes the trio of practitioners of natural therapy at the Clinic.

The husband and wife team are seeking to heal the mind, body and spirit through consultations and treatment. And Persad-Mangroo offers to treat a wide range of problems through massage of the extremities: hands, feet, "and sometimes even earlobes." Philip's interest in natural healing started in 1991 "as a herbalist. I attended a seminar. There were 28 herbs in the product being sold and it was good for all of the body but was not very specific. I fell in love with it, did their course here and became a distributor, but always wanted to go away and study this thing properly. I already had residence in Australia, had a brother and sister there, and had lived there in my 20's."

About this same time, Philip met Camille Ojar, who had come back home to work for a while, before returning to New York to pursue a Master's in Psychology. "Actually we went to the seminar together" he says.

Deciding to return to Australia to study naturopathy, the all encompassing name for the practice of a variety of natural therapies, such as, herbal medicine, nutrition, iridology, homeopathy, Bach flower therapy, energetic healing, Reiki, therapeutic massage and acupressure, Philip went ahead, and a very brave Camille followed to this far away country, shelving thoughts of a Master's degree . Philip enrolled in a three year course at a Sydney College for herbal medicine and remembers saying to himself after the first class in biochemistry: "If they had told me all the things I had to study, I do not know if I would have signed up."

Camille arrived in Australia and became Mrs Philip Franco within the first year. Having always wanted to focus on counselling, for which there was no training in the general degree programme, she decided to train as a psychotherapist because "in this programme you could choose to focus on the counselling aspect."

In the final year of his course on herbal medicine, Philip picked up a one year full diploma course in a new field, Iridology, a diagnostic tool used to identify the underlying causes of diseases. The markings and changes on the iris of the eye are studied for indications of any health problem. "I was now what you call a medical herbalist."

The Francos do not see themselves as "alternative" but rather as "complementary" to other forms of healing. "In a lot of cases, the clients have reached the end of the line, they have tried the doctors, without success. A lot of them are chronic, have made the rounds and are desperate. We have a harder job starting from a much more serious place than if they had come to us early in the illness." Philip treats clients in holistic terms. "I want to try to find out what is the causative factor. You have high blood pressure. I will have to give you something to lower it. However, if I knew why, I could programe my treatment to deal specifically with the cause. You give me the symptoms, I take a full history, and start going through the client with a fine tooth comb."

Having reviewed all systems, Philip moves to the diet to see if there is anything within the diet aggravating the system. "I analyse, see if there is anything I can warn them about. I do not make up diets for people, I like to inform them about what would be good for them compared to what may not be good for them, so they can then make an informed decision. You make your choices and healing is yours. I am only the instrument of health by trying to show you the right things to do, for instance, the client must add rest, relaxation, exercise, diet and all that brings health, to the herbs and vitamins I prescribe."

Although the pharmacies are packed with shelves of natural medicines, Philip believes that the Dispensary at 25 Alexandra Street stocks the largest array of quality herbal extracts in Trinidad & Tobago. And finds it a shame that they are labelled "alternative" because this was the original medicine in the 30's and 40's when there were herbs in the dispensaries, "it is from the herbs that pharmaceuticals were originally made."

"Doctors and natural therapists" says Philip "should be working together because there is room for both. We do different things that are complementary to each other. In Australia natural therapists are now moving into hospitals and being incorporated into the hospitals' systems."

And while Philip works on the body, Camille does her part for the mind, dealing more in therapy and counselling, which may be needed through relationship problems, anxiety disorders "basically any problem people have with themselves or with others that can be treated through working with the mind, and probably teaching them skills, listening to them and retraining them in certain areas, most importantly developing self awareness so that the person can better understand how they are creating problems or maintaining them."

"Someone would come to me if they want to have more self awareness, personal growth, self esteem or personal development. You do not have to have an issue, but there might be repeated patterns where you cannot find happiness or fulfillment, you may also be depressed or have anxiety problems."

Camille also treats couples with relationship problems: "A lot of the work is in teaching them how to deal with each other in a constructive way, and work on them as individuals in the relationship." As a psychotherapist, she deals with family issues as well, such as, problems with children or step-family situations. "Grief and loss issues are often addressed because people usually have to be in some sort of crisis to come for counselling" says Camille.

The Francos can be reached at telephone no 628-5649.


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