by Patricia Mayrhofer

As a business owner and a massage therapist, I am concerned to see that as the massage industry grows and large corporations get involved, the quality and integrity of this industry could diminish. A fast-growing industry oftentimes attracts those who are out to make a quick profit—but with money and profit as the focus, quality and standards in services and education can go by the wayside. Although we all certainly want a successful business and a good profit, don’t we also want to ensure the highest quality of service and care for our clients?
In the past year I have had several experiences with massage and spa businesses sacrificing quality and integrity for profit.

On one recent trip, my director of education and I stopped at one of the top spas in the country. After a short conversation about stone therapy, we were questioned about how we clean the stones. My director and I gave an explanation about using quality massage oil that doesn’t stick to the stones or heater. I then offered them a free class on massage-stone cleaning on our next trip through the area. When we returned a few months later we followed through on our offer to advise their therapists on quick stone cleaning.

The spa therapists informed us they had no time to clean the stones between clients. They said they used a spa oxidizer and didn’t wash the stones or change the water until the end of the day. We offered several suggestions, one of which was to have a few extra sets of stones and heaters that could be ready for a quick switch. We also suggested adding the clean-up time to the session and adjusting the price for the increased time. Regretfully, neither of these suggestions were instituted.

On a trip to another top spa, I spoke with a nail technician, who had previously worked at a prominent spa in a large city and was chastised by her spa manager for taking the time to clean her instruments between sessions. Instead of compromising her integrity, she left the spa and found employment at another spa where quality, cleanliness, clients and education are priorities.

In a recent conversation with a massage instructor at a technical school, I found the teacher was a nurse with no training in massage. She wanted to purchase our full-body stone-massage video, so she could teach her students stone massage. After suggesting she should at least take a seminar herself before trying to teach her class, she asked if I offered a massage class along with our stone training so she could learn massage. It is not ethical for a business owner to take money from students, while employing instructors who are not properly trained.
Many people who go to massage school decide to do so because they want to change careers and help people. Yet, sometimes schools show students a video with no hands-on instruction. Some schools offer introductory classes on stone therapy, reflexology and geriatric massage in three hours, leading students to believe they can then offer sessions in those techniques. This type of instruction is dangerous.

What will happen to the quality of massage instruction when big business takes over and profit is more important than quality education? In speaking with a corporate partner of a large spa organization, I explained the importance of high-quality stone-massage training, including the risks of inadequately trained therapists burning clients. I was told that rather than spend the money on educating their therapists on proper stone massage, they would risk a lawsuit.

Some spas are not are not willing to pay to educate their therapists, and others don’t pay therapists enough, so they can afford to educate themselves. Some spa owners expect the senior therapist to teach the new therapists all treatments offered by their spa, including stone massage and pregnancy massage. I have also heard of therapists who were given a stone massage video to watch the same day they were booked to give a stone massage. In the event of a claim against the spa or therapist, the first question asked by the insurance company would be, “Does the therapist have a certification for the modality they are performing?”

Quality massage education and certification does not happen with diluted, second-hand training. As educated therapists move into the workforce, they are often required to teach other therapists the modalities that they use. Although some therapists are excellent at what they do, they are not necessarily good teachers. Teaching needs to be left to quality instructors and not watered down from therapist to therapist.
Schools need to make sure they are offering quality education, while they and spas need to bring in experts to teach continuing education. Massage schools also need to let students know a massage career includes more learning beyond their basic massage program.
When corners are cut in quality of education and integrity of therapists, it does not increase profits. The growth of this industry will only continue if clients are satisfied.
Corporations, spa owners and schools need to offer and expect quality education. Quality education brings quality treatment, quality treatment brings repeat business, repeat business means satisfied clients. With satisfied clients comes profit and success.

Pat Mayrhofer is president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc., an international massage-stone company. She has 14 years’ experience in massage therapy, teaching for 11 of those years in such places as Italy, Austria, Dominican Republic and the U.S.