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Massage Today
June, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 06

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's Note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

You're really a part of the spa team now.

Do you know how I can tell? By the way you've started to voice your first uncertainties. In the beginning, you were filled with enthusiasm, and that's what took you to the next place you were supposed to be in your life. The word "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek word entheos: en = in + theos = god. Enthusiasm led you toward your divine destiny, but now that you've arrived, destiny doesn't look that divine, does it? That's how you know you belong -- because it's real.

Welcome to spa reality. You're absolutely right when you mention that the reality includes much more petty aspects than you anticipated. In your early idealism, you imagined spas to be places where everyone is fully dedicated to the same mission of healing and wholeness you are. But now you see that many of the people you're working with ended up there simply out of need for a job, and that they've gotten where they are out of sheer chance or greed. I understand how this could leave you feeling alone.

Dealing with the Drama

Before you judge too harshly, let's take a look at what's really happening. You complained that some of the support people on staff are unnecessarily dramatic, for example, and that they turn the running of the spa into a life-or-death ordeal. Isn't it amazing how many powerful emotions can be generated over seemingly trivial circumstances? You've worked as an independent massage therapist for the past couple years, and now that you're a part of a team at your spa, it's hitting home fast that you have to deal with multiple personalities on a daily basis - and sometimes within the same person!

My advice is to try to avoid getting caught up in the drama.

Pledging Allegiance

Now you're at the point of beginning to align yourself with someone or some group in the spa. While it's great to find your footing and start to belong, there is also a down side that often happens, and it has a lot to do with gossip. That's right, as soon as you start belonging to one faction, people in other factions begin talking behind your back.

Take a hard look at everyone around you, and take a hard look inside yourself. Then align yourself with the people you want to end up aligned with. It's a choice. Don't fall into a clique just because it's the easiest thing to do, and don't begin relating with people at the lowest common denominator, which usually includes lots of gossip about others.

The thing to do is to stay centered while dealing with the outer world of the spa, just like you try to do when dealing with the inner world of your massage therapy sessions. That way you can help make the spa a healing place, spreading the positive energies of your massage room outward. The spa's clients are coming for a total experience, one that can be tainted or even ruined by something negative in an area of the spa that may have nothing to do with you. It's up to you to create a "whole" environment, as best you can, by staying true to your vision, intentions and actions.

The Line Between Commitment and Detachment

Another trap many beginning therapists fall into when faced with the unpleasant politics of the spa is to say, "Well, I'll just come in and do my job, and then leave. This drama is not for me." Interestingly, this is your drama now, because you've chosen it. Now you have to walk the fine line between commitment and detachment. Swing too far toward commitment, and you end up depressed at the lack of commitment in others. Swing too far toward detachment, and you risk straying from your true course, which is, as you've told me over and over again, a wholehearted desire to help people. You can't heal the world if you hate the part of it you spend the majority of your time in every day.

Fitting In

What's really happening is that you're going through a phase, and it will soon be over. It's the phase of finding things out. It's the phase of settling in, and the phase of forming alliances. Look around you. Who impresses you? In whose eyes can you see the glimmer of your own future?

Take advantage of this phase by finding the people who inspire you there, and then spending some time with them. Just walk right up to them and say, "You're someone I'd like to get to know."

But what about the ones you don't want to get to know? I think that cultivating your relationship with them is just as important. The spa is a microcosm. You've put yourself in a place where you need to relate to people in many different ways. Cultivate the best kind of relationship you can with each individual, based on simple human respect and compassion for where that person is in his or her life.

Here are some pointers for getting along with everyone and contributing the most to the overall success of the spa:

  • Help out in non-therapist roles. I know, you're a therapist first and foremost, and you're not getting paid to pick up dirty towels, but if you want to feel a part of what's happening, helping out in a few simple ways will benefit the overall operation. You'll surprise yourself with how good you feel the moment you move toward selfless action.
  • Stay out of other people's business. Others may try to enlist your sympathies against a third party; in these cases, it's best to claim impartiality.
  • Think of ways the spa could be improved, then give these ideas to your supervisor, claiming no reward. When I first started in the spa industry, I helped the supervisors and directors as much as I could, putting myself in their shoes. Their job can be difficult at times, as they try to balance the need for profit and the owners' concerns with the needs of the spa staff.

Well, that's it. I'm just trying to give you some suggestions that will make this transition stage a little more bearable. When I have more time, I'll write you back concerning the seniority issue you brought in one of your previous letters.

Until then, take care,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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