Educating the industry

Beata Aleksandrowicz , co-founder of London-based massage training school Pure Massage, on why first-rate therapist training is key for your staff, and your business 

Most spa operators today believe in training, but many of them still view the massage therapist role as simply a job. Training is reduced to protocols or how to sell better.

It’s almost tragic that some in our industry don’t see it more holistically, as going further than a vocation even, becoming a philosophy and a lifestyle. There are several key things that need to change in the way we train our therapists, for very good reasons. 

From all I’ve observed in two decades of work in the industry and through development for Pure Massage, vital elements are missing from therapist training, largely due to commercial pressures on spas.

Training is all too readily perceived as an off the shelf item, but it’s not the quality of the changing rooms or the products sold that define a spa, it’s the quality of the therapists who deliver treatments. For too long the focus has been wrong and the training and development needs of therapists haven’t been adequately addressed. 

A holistic approach 
These days, clients are better informed and want results-driven products and treatments. To deliver this, therapists needs training to become active advisors rather than passive providers of treatments. They need to learn how to communicate with clients in a powerful way and to understand their clients’ needs, holistically. 

It’s not simply a case of learning certain treatment techniques, as they not only need to address the client’s physical concerns, but also the emotional and lifestyle pressures the clients are experiencing. Treatments can then be tailored in response to this understanding and delivered accordingly. If you put this into practice, you will see a happier client, repeat business for the spa and a more satisfied and content therapist.

Who doesn’t have a favourite therapist? If you do, ask yourself why. A good therapist makes a connection with you and understands your needs. You have confidence in them, rely on their competence and establish a relationship with them that is founded on communication and trust. However, everyone picks up bad habits over time, so refresher training in both technique and understanding is required even for the best therapists, to help them refocus. 

The bigger picture
We all know only too well how costly the loss of a therapist through injury can be. Training needs to deliver techniques that will help keep therapist injury-free and ensure they have a long and stress-free career. Most trainers teach techniques that address the physical needs of clients, but many don’t address the stress and strains imposed on the therapist.

Over time this has consequences, leading to absence through injury and ultimately a higher turnover of staff within the business. My recent training for Dormy House spa in the Cotswolds has according to the spa manager seen all therapists deliver the same massage “regardless of their height, strength, age and experience,” doing so injury free.

Beata column

The society we now serve is more stressed and has less time but also has higher expectations of our industry. To meet those needs and expectations and fulfil both the emotional and physical needs of our clients, we must raise our training standards. We need to recognise and unlock the immense potential to transform lives that our industry has, through the power of touch.

Yes, [a greater focus on training] may take more time. And yes, it may require a philosophical shift on the part of spa managers and owners. However, it’s not a paradigm shift, merely a change of emphasis and appreciation. Ultimately you will benefit from this training, with more well rounded staff, happier clients and a rosier balance sheet. 

So, for those to whom therapists’ work is just a job, I would ask them to think again. The therapist’s role is fundamental to the spa, it underpins much of what spa really means to our clients. In my experience, therapists also love to take on training that not only improves their work, but also their lives.

Massage is a way of life if undertaken seriously. Pampering is one thing, but touch therapy is healing and life enhancing. Who wouldn’t want to deliver that at the best level, consistently? Think holistically, think investment, think training

Beata Aleksandrowicz is co-founder of Pure Massage, which trains therapists on how to deliver the best possible massage, and is responsible for research, development and training for the business. A trained therapist herself, she has developed the Pure Massage Spa Training Method to ensure therapists learn injury-free techniques, and help their clients achieve wellness