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Massage Today
September, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 09

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,

It sounds like your new spa persona is in full bloom. I know exactly what you mean -- it's hard to remember what life was like before the all-consuming reality of the spa took over. I'm glad some of the ideas I mentioned in my last letter are helping you cope with the inevitable burnout experienced by a successful spa therapist; I'd like to share some more ideas with you now. In fact, I'd like to have you experiment with some paradigm-shifting concepts, to show you how to widen your self-definition beyond that of simply "massage therapist." Are you ready?

Upgrading Your Self-Image

Now that you are, by definition, a spa therapist and a massage therapist, you might as well become trained in every modality available to you at the facility. I know that you've shared with me on more than one occasion how important your self-image as a massage therapist is, and how adding a bunch of "wraps and scrubs," as you called them, to your repertoire might downgrade the impact of your therapeutic persona. Well, guess what? I think you're doing yourself a disservice with that attitude. I know, because I had that attitude myself for several years.

No, I don't think a peppermint exfoliation is as powerful as an intense session of neuromuscular therapy, but I do think that it can be much more powerful than you give it credit for. Most of that power comes from within the person giving the treatment (a.k.a., You). For example, I once visited the spa at the Enchantment resort in Sedona, Arizona, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I signed up for the aromatherapy wrap, wondering what it would be like. As it turned out, the treatment consisted of a simple application of aromatherapy-infused lotions, followed by a wrap in a muslin sheet. No big deal, right? But something about the way the therapist did her job turned it into much more than just a wrap. It was an expression of care, compassion, and connection, and I ended up experiencing a profound increase in my energy levels as a result.

In other words, the client will get out of it what the therapist puts into it. What are you willing to put into your work at the spa? Nothing less than your whole self will create the level of therapy I know you're capable of providing. And as I mentioned before, if you have the attitude that the spa is your spa, you'll improve your chances at advancement within the spa, and you'll open up opportunities that you can't even imagine right now. The best way to maximize your potential for success is to focus intently on the moment, on the person beneath your fingers, whether you're giving him/her an herbal wrap or a session of high-octane bodywork.

A Powerful Lesson

You also need to understand that the ingredients used in these spa therapies are quite powerful. I recently received a letter from a woman who told an unsettling tale about a spa treatment that had unexpected results:

"A client recently returned from a well-known Southwestern spa quite ill, and far from relaxed. She had a rash surrounding her torso, her erector-spinae bilaterally looked as if she'd been tanning too long, and she had a lot of heat emanating from her body! Apparently, the spa therapist had chosen some ayurvedic oils that may have been contraindicated for that particular client. This was unfortunate, as the client began to overheat internally, her breath became shortened, and she rushed herself off the treatment table to do a cold wash to try to alter some of the symptoms she was experiencing. At this point, her heart rate had increased to a frightening pace. She returned to the table, and while she was packed in ice, the therapist did some deep friction on her back, which drove the herbs deeper into the fascia and muscles."

This scenario reminded me of another incident in which too much peppermint essential oil was used in a bath, resulting in severe chills by the client. You must respect the ingredients used in spa treatments. The purer they are, the more potentially therapeutic they are, but at the same time the more harmful they can be. Fortunately the woman recovered, but not after a scare.

What I'm trying to show you, Lou, is that a wrap, a scrub or any other spa treatment can bring about powerful results. It's up to you to make sure those results are beneficial.

Beyond Wraps and Scrubs

My advice to you is, go ahead and take the training the spa is offering next week. Yes, that means you'll be called upon to give wraps and scrubs in the future, and yes, that means you won't have the opportunity to give as much massage therapy. Go beyond what might initially look negative to you, and see things from a wider perspective. Alternating your massage work with spa modalities will give your body a break, and the therapeutic properties of the ingredients will soak into your body while you apply them, adding to your longevity as a therapist. And don't forget, each new treatment you add to your repertoire also adds to your worth at this spa, and at any other spa you move to in the future. You may find yourself getting paid more for doing treatments that require less physical effort on your part. Working smart is just as important as working hard.

Enjoy yourself at the training! I'll expect a full report when you have time to write again. My guess is you'll be more enthusiastic about these new treatments than you can possibly imagine.

Talk to you later,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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