Spa Therapist Career Guide

What is a Spa Therapist?

A Spa Therapist provides professional-level massage and beauty treatment services to his or her clients. Clients usually visit spas to relax, de-stress, and experience beauty and wellbeing treatments. For the majority of clients, a visit to a spa is considered an expensive and infrequent treat. The role of the Spa Therapist is to ensure clients leave feeling refreshed and pampered and that overall, they have had a wonderful experience while receiving the treatments they have requested.

What are the Responsibilities of a Spa Therapist?

Discuss client requirements – Spa Therapists discuss with clients what they hope to achieve during their spa visit and may suggest appropriate or additional treatments. The therapist will inquire about the general health of the client and check for any issues such as allergies or high blood pressure. They are also responsible for discovering and meeting client preferences before and during a treatment.

For example, they may ask whether a client would prefer lights or music on or off, whether the client would prefer to talk or simply relax in silence for the majority of the time, what types of products they prefer, and so on. Spa Therapists may also be responsible for maintaining files for regular clients, noting what treatments they have received, and their personal preferences.

Create a relaxing environment – One of the key responsibilities of a Spa Therapist is to create a relaxing environment in which to deliver treatments. This involves keeping treatment rooms tidy and inviting, setting the right atmosphere using lights, music, and aromas, and paying attention to their own behavior, for example by keeping their voice low and soothing.

Maintain hygiene – Spa Therapists are responsible for ensuring that hygiene and health and safety standards are met at all times. For example, all equipment must be cleaned and sterilized between clients, towels must be changed, and beds and chairs need to be wiped down.

Deliver body and aesthetic treatments – Spa Therapists are responsible for delivering body treatments such as body wraps, massage, waxing, and body scrubs. They frequently also provide treatments such as manicures, pedicures, and facials.

Whichever treatment is being provided, the Spa Therapist will explain to the client what the treatment involves and ask them to change their clothes as needed. They will prepare all the products and equipment they will need and then deliver the treatment, checking in with the client to ensure that the temperature, amount of pressure, and so on are right for them. After the client leaves, the therapist will then clean the equipment and reset the treatment room so that it is ready for the next client.

Protect privacy – Many spa treatments are delivered with the client only partially dressed. The Spa Therapist is responsible for helping to tactfully advise clients to wear the right level of clothing and for protecting their privacy during the treatment. They may close doors or curtains and place or move towels or other drapes so that only the areas of the body being treated are exposed.

Equipment and supplies – Spa Therapists are responsible for the day-to-day operation, cleaning, and maintenance of their equipment, and for ensuring they have adequate supplies of products such as towels, oils, and creams on hand to deliver their treatments.

What Do You Learn in a Spa Therapist Training Program?

  • Anatomy – the basic principles of human anatomy including the skeleton, muscles, and ligaments.
  • Physiology – how the different systems, organs, and chemistry of the body work together.
  • Kinesiology – the study of motion and body mechanics.
  • Massage therapy techniques – how to provide hands-on massage therapy and different massage techniques to use for specific situations.
  • Skincare – the principles of skin care and how to provide skin treatments.
  • Stress reduction – the factors that cause stress and how to treat and reduce it.
  • Relaxation – the principles of relaxation and how to induce it.
  • Ethics – appropriate principles of behavior when providing therapeutic services to clients.
  • Business – developing an understanding of the commercial framework for spa and beauty therapy.

Are There Any Online Spa Therapist Training Programs?

A limited number of online training programs in Spa and Massage Therapy are available. These programs can prepare students to take the state licensure examination for Massage Therapists in as little as four months. However, these types of programs cannot deliver the “clock hours,” and practical experience also required for licensure by the majority of states. Therefore, add-on programs that deliver these elements in a face to face format are usually also required.

What Qualifications are Required to Become a Spa Therapist?

There are a variety of routes into Spa Therapy, and a high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for admission to the various programs available. Common routes include studying for a two-year Associate Degree in Massage Therapy at Community College, or a certificate in Spa Therapy or Massage Therapy at cosmetology school.

Many states require Massage Therapists to be licensed. Requirements vary from state to state but typically candidates for a license must show they have completed an approved program incorporating a specified number of hours of training experience – the average number of “clock hours” required is 600 – and they must pass an examination.

What Makes a Good Spa Therapist?

Customer Service Skills

Spa Therapists work directly with customers, and the service they deliver defines the quality of the client’s experience. Therefore, Spa Therapists must possess excellent customer service skills including listening, tact, problem-solving, patience, and the ability to maintain a polite, pleasant, and helpful attitude at all times.

Professionalism

Many of the treatments delivered are hands-on and intimate. It is essential for the Spa Therapist to remain calm and professional so their clients will feel comfortable even when undressed and receiving a close contact treatment. Similarly, therapists must present themselves cleanly and professionally to inspire confidence in clients.

Sensitivity

A good Spa Therapist will be in tune with the needs of their client and able to adjust their approach accordingly. For example, if the therapist senses that a client is anxious about a particular treatment they may spend a little longer explaining what will happen, or if they identify that a client is feeling tense, they may change the level of lighting or privacy to encourage relaxation.

Discretion

Relaxation and hands-on treatments can create an illusion of intimacy encouraging clients to share more personal and private information than they might usually discuss with a stranger. In addition, Spa Therapists may become aware of client insecurities about their bodies. Good Spa Therapists will respect the privacy and vulnerabilities of their clients and will not disclose or gossip about what they see and hear.

Knowledge of Anatomy and Kinesiology

In order to deliver an effective massage, professionals in this field requires a good understanding of how the human body is put together and how it moves.

Knowledge of Physiology

An understanding of how the systems of the body work is important to the services and treatments they provide.

Massage Therapy Skills

Training in massage therapy is usually a core requirement. There are a variety of different types of massage therapy all involving rubbing and kneading the body to relax the muscles. Common types include Swedish, Thai, shiatsu, hot stone, and deep tissue.

Time-Keeping and Organization Skills

It is important to balance the delivery of a treatment experience that feels luxurious, unhurried, and relaxing for every client. Spa Therapists, therefore, need to manage their own time carefully, ensure they are efficient and well-organized with their equipment and supplies and that they can tactfully and efficiently move a client through the stages of a treatment without making them feel rushed.

Business Awareness

A spa is a complex small business. Understanding the ways that a spa makes money and how to maximize income while minimizing costs and waste, ensure that the Spa Therapist will be better able to contribute to the success of their employer.

Hygiene Expertise

Maintaining high-standards of hygiene is an important aspect of spa therapy. One must have an excellent grounding in cleaning and sterilization techniques. Professionals on this field must follow a strict equipment and personal cleaning protocol between client appointments to ensure the safety of their customers.

What are the Advantages of Being a Spa Therapist?

  • Flexible Schedules – Spa Therapists are usually able to work on a flexible schedule that may allow them to balance childcare responsibilities, additional studying, or other requirements alongside their work. However, they may also be required to work weekends and evenings in order to provide services at the times that best suit busy clients.
  • Working environment – Spas are pleasant, serene, relaxing, healthy environments by design. Spa Therapists benefit from working in these enjoyable environments.
  • Wide variety of skills – Spa Therapists usually have the opportunity to acquire a wide variety of skills and knowledge enabling them to become more valuable and versatile and potentially progress to more senior roles. Should they decide to enter another field, their customer service skills and experience could lead to a wide variety of roles.
  • Access to spa treatments and facilities – Spa Therapists often offer to treat each other if there are no client bookings. This can help build and maintain the skills of therapists in delivering rarely requested treatments and results in Spa Therapists enjoying access to exclusive spa treatments and facilities much more frequently than the average person.
  • Exotic locations – Spa Therapists often have the opportunity to work in luxurious and desirable destinations such as vacation resorts, high-end hotels, and on cruise ships.
  • Opportunity to help people – A career as a Spa Therapist might be a good choice for someone who feels rewarded by helping others and wishes to do so in a serene and uplifting environment.

How Much Does a Spa Therapist Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a specific category for Spa Therapists but indicates that the mid-point pay for Massage Therapists, as of May 2017, is $39,990 per year or around $19.23 per hour. On top of their hourly rate, Spa Therapists may also receive tips from clients and commission from selling products used in the spa to clients.

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