WHEN George Hollis was involved in a car crash during a family shopping trip to York six years ago, it left him with severe whiplash injuries and speech problems, forcing him to give up his job as a college lecturer.

Then a learning development manager at Darlington College of Technology, he thought it was the end of his career, but in fact it proved to be the beginning of a new one.

Now, the 50-year-old father of two, has established a business, Opus 5, from his Croft Spa home, near Darlington, providing the benefits of alternative healing and relaxation to people across the region.

He said: "Three months after my accident I returned to work, but I had changed fundamentally.

"I had six months of physiotherapy and speech therapy, but in the end, I just had to gather my thoughts.

"I went to a Buddhist community in York, where they taught me to relax and slow down, and to find direction in my life.

"I am positive that my new line of work, as a personal consultant in holistic health practices, is why I am here and where I am going."

Mr Hollis approached the Morrison Enterprise Trust, at Morton Park, in Darlington, for help after deciding to leave his job in July 2000.

He said: "It was while I was recovering from my injuries that I decided to get advice and training to start my own business.

"I had already qualified as a Reiki therapist, but wanted to increase my holistic healing skills to develop a business.

"Challenges to our health are often gifts in disguise, if only we can relax enough to read the signs.

"It's only at such revealing times that we can really understand the need for a balanced state of health in order to help us fulfil our unique purpose in life."

Opus 5 offers not only a range of treatments, but also consultancy work, to help people respond to the challenges in their lives.

Mr Hollis said: "I offer a personal consultancy service and holistic therapies to clients from all walks of life.

"My business is all about helping people to respond to health and other challenges in their lives, helping them to find personal keys to where they are going. Before I do any treatment, I sit down with them to discuss the best way I can help them.

"I don't work on a basis of one therapy after another until I find something that works."

So far, he has not advertised, preferring to work on a word-of-mouth basis.

He said: "That is the best form of advertising you can get. If people are pleased with what I have done for them, they recommend me to others, and the message spreads."

One of Mr Hollis's aims for the future growth of his venture, is to get involved with large business, providing the merits of alternative therapies to their staff.

He said: "I would like to encourage large businesses to look at the merits of alternative therapies as a way of motivating their staff and helping them to feel more involved in the workplace."

Already he is working with organisations within the NHS to help them develop techniques for working with people finding it hard to cope with life, or suffering from depression.

He said: "Starting my own business has been a real eye-opener. Since I established Opus 5, I've worked with people from all walks of life, from chief executives to shopfloor workers."

Treatments offered include:

* Reiki: an ancient therapy designed to clear energy blockages and restore balance to an individual.

* Bach Remedies: Harley Street physician and homeopath Dr Edward Bach developed a range of 38 remedies, using wild plants and bushes, at the end of the 19th Century.

* Relaxation 5: Breathing techniques to help patients completely relax. Clients include company directors, managers, call centre customer advisors, teachers and nurses.

* Hypnotherapy: Hypnosis involves working with the client's unconscious mind to help them get rid of unwanted habits or behaviour.

* Spiritual healing: The chanelling of healing energy, re-energising the patient to bring about a state of relaxation, enabling their own resources to deal with a particular health problem.