When circumstances conspired to see Jill Glover take over as sole director of the Alma Vale Centre, she surprised herself at how much she enjoyed taking on this challenge. As the clinic reaches its 15th anniversary, we talk to her to find out how it all began – and have a peek at where it is going in the future.
This week the Alma Vale Centre celebrates its 15th anniversary. But don’t expect to see trumpets and fanfare. It is very much business as usual, which sums up what the Alma Vale Centre is all about. Calmly and confidently getting on with what it does so well: providing first-class complementary health therapies to people with all kinds of ailments, of all ages and from all walks of life.
Where it all began
It all began 15 years ago with a massage! Jill went to see holistic massage therapist Andy Fagg for a treatment. He was late for their appointment, as he was meeting with other practitioners who were looking for premises to buy to set up a clinic together. When Jill heard this, while lying on the massage table, she thought: ‘That is it, I want to be involved!’
Things then moved fairly quickly from there, as they found the premises at 30 Alma Vale Road in Clifton almost straightaway. A former recording studio, its downstairs rooms were fully soundproofed, which would be useful for the clinic. These two basement floor rooms both offered a calm and tranquil space for practising various therapies, with the larger room also allowing opportunity for groupwork such as meditation and yoga classes, for the future. Jill took the upstairs room: with natural light streaming through the large windows, it has a lovely relaxing, bright feel, suffused with light that almost makes you feel like you are at the seaside. So all were happy with what the building could offer for their clinic and the purchase was made.
The Alma Vale Centre was born, run by four directors: Jill (acupuncturist, Chinese herbs) Andy (massage), John Witt (psychtherapist) and Marion Russell (also a psychotherapist). All four were highly experienced in their area, so were able to use this joint expertise to set up a reputable, self-sustaining practice from the outset. As director of the Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork (BCMB), Andy Fagg ran his college from here as well.
They began by renovating each of the three rooms to make them into fully-functioning treatment rooms. Because each of the directors already had a busy practice, the AVC straightaway became a thriving complementary health clinic.
The practice carried on like this for nearly 12 years, when a number of changes all happened at once. In 2014, Marion retired. Then because BCMB was expanding and needed more space than the Alma Vale Centre could provide, Andy found a new home for his college and his practice on Guthrie Road. With just 18 months of adjusting to this change, in March 2016 John decided to retire. It was with this final change that Jill had a big decision to face: should she buy him out or take her practice elsewhere?
Daunting challenge ahead
The thought of running the centre by herself was quite daunting. ‘Running my own clinic was never part of my career plans’, said Jill. ‘I always appreciated the four of us splitting the work and making decisions together.’ She also knew from seeing others run their own clinics how much time and effort was involved. But she decided to take the plunge.
She wanted to stay in a clinic where she had opportunity to build a team of different types of therapists, all experienced and highly committed to providing excellence in their area of complementary healthcare. And she found herself in for a surprise: ‘I discovered that I really like running it on my own!’, said Jill. ‘Decisions get made really quickly now – click clack clock and we decide if we can do it or not!’
She set about revamping the treatment rooms to create a very different, warm, inviting and flexible workplace in each space.
And she is continuing to build a team of trusted, first-rate, highly-qualified practitioners offering a range of different therapies from acupuncture and meditation to psychotherapy and reiki. Then there is a whole range of types of massage on offer including deep tissue, fertility, holistic and hot stone. ‘What we offer here is for everybody,’ said Jill. ‘Between all of us we can treat many complaints from back pain to insomnia.’
As well as achieving high standards of care, the therapists who work at the centre all have a warm, caring compassionate approach. And this is important to the clinic, to ensure that all who come here for treatment can feel in a safe, relaxing and comfortable environment, and as a result are best able to get the most benefits from the treatment they are receiving. ‘I really like having diverse people to work with, and ones I can refer my clients on to,’ said Jill.
Jill has also used the opportunity of being sole owner to steer the centre towards specialising in women’s health and fertility. ‘This is a key interest for me – I am passionate about women having better health,’ she explained. ‘So many women of varying ages come to me with the most appalling menstrual pain, discomfort, and menopausal issues, as well as difficulties conceiving, and many think they just have to put up with it – but it doesn’t have to be like that.’ Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine along with other therapies can help immeasurably to improve fertility, lessen menopausal symptoms, and balance the menstrual cycle, she continued.
Importance of complementary healthcare
Complementary healthcare provides such an important role in the healing process, which is why increasing numbers of people are turning to it as an additional or alternative approach to improving their own health.
Some of the feedback from AVC patients gives testimony to the benefits that complementary healthcare can bring:
‘[Helen Fielding] treated me with both acupuncture and herbs through my infertility problems and during IVF, which resulted in the birth of my son. Her warmth and compassion made such a difficult time much easier to deal with.’ (Acupuncture and Chinese herbs)
Acupuncture is one of the main therapies on offer at the Alma Vale Centre. But what about those who might be put off by the thought of having a needle stuck in them? Firstly, they are very tiny, but you may feel a sensation when the needle goes in, explained Jill. ‘Some people find this a pleasurable feeling, others less so, but nearly all will say they like having acupuncture treatment, and see improvements in their health as a result’. Acupuncture can bring many benefits. Anyone interested in finding out more, should contact Jill and she will talk to them on the phone to find out what specific condition they are looking for help with so she can then describe to them how acupuncture could help. ‘The advice on how acupuncture can help needs to be specific to their particular needs,’ said Jill.
Looking back – and onwards to the future
So looking back on the last 15 years, what has been the most challenging times for the practice? ‘After Andy and BCMB moved out, they took a big part of the business with them, which was daunting,’ said Jill. She needed to think about how to revitalise the clinic, and bring in a new group of therapists, to give the centre a new and exciting focus. It was from here that the clinic’s focus on women’s health and fertility issues developed.
The clinic is always keen to hear from new therapists who would like to be part of their team – those who offer complementary healthcare that would work well alongside the other treatments the clinic has on offer. Existing therapists would then have a wider range of therapies that they could refer their clients on to, if that was what was needed.
So what about the clinic’s plans for the future? Bringing in new therapists is one plan – in particular a physiotherapist and osteopath. Jill is also looking to take on another acupuncture associate so that she can pass on her knowledge and expertise to those just starting out in the profession. ‘It took a long time to gather my expertise, as there was very little professional support when I started,’ said Jill. Now there are courses you can go on, including specific ones on women’s health, which just weren’t available before. But she is acutely aware that a lot of acupuncturists starting out don’t last for long because they feel too isolated, and discouraged. She wants to provide a helping hand, and has already started to offer a mentoring service for new acupuncturists. Her aim is to ensure that those starting out in the profession today can, with the type of help she is offering, get up and running as a successful acupuncturist in a much shorter timespan than it took her.
After 15 years of successfully providing complementary healthcare, all at the centre are looking forward to the times ahead. As well as looking forward to welcoming new patients, and continuing to provide first-class therapies for existing clients, there is the opportunity to offer a new range of treatments to complement the clinic’s existing approach. So here’s to the next 15 years!
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the centre is entering all on its newsletter mailing list into a competition to have chance to win a prize of a £50 voucher towards a treatment of your choice. To be entered into this competition visit www.almavalecentre.co.uk/prize-draw
On our website www.almavalecentre.co.uk you can also find more details of the therapies the practice offers, and the practitioners who work here. If you would like to find out more about any of the therapies on offer, or to book an appointment, then please call 0117 3771186.
If you are a therapist, particularly in the fields of physiotherapy, osteopathy, yoga, and are interested in practising at the Alma Vale Centre, then please contact the office manager Sarah Worley on 0117 377 1186.