From manager to faith healer

Until a year ago Debby Coles was a manager with the Oaklands Training Consortium (attached to Oaklands College in Hertfordshire) where she managed training contracts for unemployed adults and young people. Most of her time was spent writing tenders, balancing budgets and checking up on work-experience placements.

Now she spends her days unblocking invisible energy fields.

Debby has taken the unusual step of retraining as a healer. For those who have never seen a healer at work it looks a little like Tai Chi - a kind of slow-motion movement of the hands around the body with very little actual touching.

The theory is that healers work by releasing blocked energy and rebalancing the body's energy meridians ("chakras") by moving their hands around a person's invisible energy field. The effect is to cure or relieve pain and illness.

OK, pull the other one? In case you imagine that Debby is some kind of new age junkie let me reassure you that she has her feet firmly on the ground. The career change was prompted by the offer of voluntary redundancy which set her thinking. "I had met several healers socially and experienced it myself, so I knew it wasn't a con because it worked for me," she says.

So how does one become a healer? Does it happen with a "Road to Damascus" revelation. Are people born with special powers? "No", says Debby. "You don't need any special gift. Anyone can become a healer - you just have to learn how to do it."

That means training. Debby took a series of courses, practised on friends in order to hone her skills and then became a probationary healer for one year. To obtain a certificate to practise from the Healing Foundation, this is essential. The foundation also requires evidence of having successfully healed six people who have spontaneously got better as a result.

The kind of ailments that respond to the healing touch are backaches, migraines, colitis, toothache, arthritis and stress, says Debby.

She is not short of clients. With spiralling stress in the FE sector many people are finding that healing is what they need. Her advice to the newly-redundant who are anxious about the future is: "Stop, take a breather, look at your interests and hobbies and consider quality of life."

Anne Nicholls is a former FE lecturer who is now working, very happily, in public relations and journalism.

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