One Membership to Serve them all - The IICT Story
By IICT Founder and CEO, Lawrence Ellyard
Many people have asked me over the years how the IICT got started and for the sake of posterity I want to take this opportunity to share with you our humble beginnings; how we got where we are today and where we are headed.
Like many things, necessity is the mother of all invention, and so it was with the IICT. In 1996, as some of you may know, I was running the International Institute for Reiki Training. At this time we had several practitioners ready to practice in the marketplace so I was seeking to provide a banner for our Reiki Therapists as well as access to insurance cover. However, I wanted to provide an alternative to the path traditionally offered by Associations.
Being active in the natural health industry through my teaching and speaking engagements, I came across the same complaints from practitioners from all walks of life. Common concerns were high membership fees as well as the need for continued education, which for the most part seemed like adding on courses that were not always seen as useful by the practitioners concerned. Another complaint was the costs associated with travelling to training courses to accumulate points to maintain Association membership.
I decided I wanted to provide my Reiki practitioners with a membership that had all of the benefits, but none of the limitations, that many Association memberships entailed.
After a considerable effort I was able to secure an agreement with our current broker to provide professional affiliation and insurance for our Reiki graduates. With everything in place, we announced the membership to our Reiki therapists.
As soon as we launched the membership, a funny thing happened. We had Reiki practitioners asking if the insurance could cover them beyond Reiki and would also cover them for other natural therapies.
I took it upon myself to contact our broker and found they would also be happy to cover these other common natural therapies.
Because we had one of the best rates available at the time, soon word-of-mouth spread and we found that complementary therapists, other than Reiki therapists, were approaching us. As more and more therapists joined our Reiki Institute banner, we continued to provide professional membership for therapists who had additional modalities to Reiki.
For other practitioners who held qualifications across several therapies, it often meant joining several associations and taking out different insurances, simply because they could not roll all their therapies under one banner.
All this got me thinking - ‘Someone should do something about this’. Then one day I realized, I was that someone. It was time; the practitioners were many and there was a definitive market need for an all-encompassing body for the industry.
In 2002, I decided it was time to create a new banner to cater for all our members who did other complementary therapies.
I wanted a name that had room for growth and encompassed the industry as a whole. Thus the name was born: The International Institute for Complementary Therapists or IICT, for short. The vision was realized - to become a professional body for the entire natural therapies industry.
In preparation for founding the IICT I carefully compared the codes of practice and ethics of many therapies and associations. From these I developed our own unique code that contained all of the necessary items for professional practice yet provided enough flexibility and diversity for natural health practitioners.
By forming the IICT we found our niche in providing a general banner for therapists who practiced many different therapies, yet did not necessarily require professional affiliation with different associations for each modality practiced.
After much negotiation with our insurance brokers, we were able to extract their recognized list of natural therapy modalities, at the time 120 in total. Over the years, this list has grown to over 800+ therapies and modalities, making the IICT the largest modality list in all the world.
Aside from representing thousands of practitioners throughout Australia, the IICT began increasing momentum in the area of recognizing modalities that were new to these shores. Whether a practitioner had pioneered a new modality or it was imported from another country, we were the first organization to take the initiative to recognizing new modalities.
Some of our first members were from new and emerging modalities, so through word-of-mouth our membership base increased dramatically. Some of the modalities we helped recognize in Australia for the first time, included: The Journey; Reconnective Healing; Heal your Life; The Mace Method; Theta Healing; Calmbirth; Oneness Blessing and Wu Tao, to name a few.
Today we are acknowledged as the only organization that actively assists practitioners to have their modality officially recognized for membership and insurance services.
Australia was moving forward at an encouraging pace, it was now time to make the IICT name truly international. As the variety of modalities practiced in New Zealand was similar to those in Australia, it seemed the next logical step (and they are our closest neighbour after all). In July of 2008 the IICT launched its operations in New Zealand.
It was at this time that we also decided to expand our modality list to include all of the various treatments from the Beauty Therapy industry, as well as Day Spa treatments.
This meant a great deal of research on the treatments as well as taking the opportunity of trialing quite a few of them myself. One must know what one is endorsing, which is one of the perks of the job, I guess.
The next installment was to look at new membership categories. One area I felt was very under serviced was the Psychic arts. Here was an area where it was uncommon to derive formal qualifications, yet there must be a way to verify a suitable standard for spiritual healers, clairvoyants and psychics, to name a few.
After a great deal of going back and forth with our insurance broker we were able to create a policy to cover practitioners in this area and provide a set of criteria to determine adequate standards for anyone working in the psychic arts arena.
Shortly after, we expanded our memberships to Students in training as well as re-sellers of natural therapy products and devices.
The stage was set to take our unique system to a wider market.
In 2010, I was reading Tim Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Work Week. I had read this book a few years prior and it really changed my routine from working all hours to drastically reducing them. The revised edition had just come out so I thought I’d read it again for good measure to see if I could gleam further inspiration.
In fact, the second reading didn’t yield a great deal of new inspiration except for one sentence from the Preface that read: “Selling your services to the UK to earn in a stronger currency”. Something went ‘ping’ in my brain. What if we were to share the IICT in the UK market?
Having no contacts in the country and no established business relations seemed like a tough market to crack. Also following the Global Financial Crisis, the timing didn’t seem all that great, yet despite all this, something in my mind said, ‘give it a go’.
After six months of doors closing in my face and several insurance ‘dead ends’, my idea seemed like it was unachievable.
I was about to give up when by chance I came across a specialist insurance company online. They were a small team in the UK who provided an extensive modality list similar to ours – it seemed like a perfect fit.
I picked up the phone and made an international call to their office.
As luck would have it, the receptionist was off ill so the head of the firm picked up the call. After a one-hour conversation and going back and forth from one another’s websites, a decision had been reached. We had an official provider and were set to launch in the UK.
Months of web design and problem-solving resulted. But after all this work had been completed, the formal launch of IICT UK occurred in November of 2011.
For many years I had always imagined the IICT being an international solution for therapists and healers and in 2013 we finally opened in the USA and Canada. At this time, IICT was operating in 6 countries yet we still had enquiries from therapists seeking professional affiliation in Europe.
As fortune would have it in August 2015, we were approached by a large insurer in the UK who was able to extend cover for all our modalities to most of Europe. Some additional countires now include: Germany; France; Spain; Denmark; Portugal and Sweden, brining our international total to 26 countries.
This brings us to today. The IICT has become a symbol of freedom for many practitioners. This is to say, we have become a refuge for the many and varied therapists who are no longer limited to the confined structures of Associations. We have also become a community to many who without our banner would otherwise be left out in the cold with no professional body to call home.
In many respects the industry, together with the IICT, seems to be undergoing a quiet revolution. Many therapists who have previously operated under the Association banners are jumping ship to the IICT where they can operate under a broader and free banner for the natural health industry.
Almost every week I hear from at least one of our new members, how happy they are to have found us. It brings me great comfort to be of service in this way, knowing I have created something that was seriously in need and that is more and more gaining traction in the marketplace as a viable option for natural health therapists.
The IICT membership is a combination of many therapists from over 1,200+ modalities. We now have well over 8,000 members and as we grow, so our community grows.
We are an online community but more importantly, we are a community offline.
And this is where you implement your talents that help others and touch others’ lives.
I’m pleased to be in some small way, part of that collective journey.
Thanks for reading our story. Being a member of the IICT makes you part of it.
IICT Founder and CEO