Beauty, Education, Health and Wellness, Massage, Musings, Rambliings, Spa, Uncategorized

Dispelling myths about Professional Massage and Spa


Over the past month, I have been actively involved in protesting thru some online forums where the focus is on Lifetime Networks’s upcoming show, The Client List. 99.9% of the emphasis is on educating the public about what Professional Massage Therapy is and is not. But there have also been a few conversations that have occurred that made me aware of just how unprepared some of my fellow therapists are when it comes to dealing with unwanted sexual advances. I heard at least one outright myth about Hotel spas and the kinds of male clients that frequent them and more than a few knee jerk ideas about responding to Lifetime’s attempt to dismiss the legitimate bones of contention groups like Massage Therapists against The Client List have raised. Despite this, I am glad I signed the petitions against the show. I would like to see deeper discussion about the cultural impact this view of the past history of massage implies for the broader profession as a whole. I am one of the many therapists who don’t hold to the view being espoused by the show that is thirty years out of date and littered with defunct and inappropriate terminology. Despite this, this was a very real stereotype that existed and I have personally encountered people in their seventies and thirties who still use these terms despite knowing better and having a vested interest in dispelling these views.

I am going to dispel a few myths I encountered about Hotel and Resort Spas. One young female therapist was so frightened by the terminology she encountered in a job interview with Hilton Hotels that she assumed she would be asked to perform sexual acts and ran to the group full of tales of gloom and doom. As someone who has worked in this segment of the Spa Industry I quickly explained a few things to her but found myself under assault from other therapists who apparently shared her views and who also stated that I was not compassionate enough with her. I don’t suffer fools gladly be they young and inexperienced fools or those who are well-meaning. Myths are Myths and should be dispelled. Period.

  • Hotel Spas come in a variety of forms. They may be privately owned and leasing space from the hotel or they may be a direct part of the hotel’s managed infrastructure. I prefer to work for hotel spas that are directly owned and managed by the hotel rather than one that merely leases space. There are numerous job perks of being employed by a large multi national company that include a retirement plan such as 401k and paid sick days and vacation time. Marriott for example also provides reduced room rates for employees who stay at their hotels and special dates and rates around Christmas at any number of their hotels worldwide for employees.
  • Hotel Spas also have on site security and any time you do a in room massage for a guest, security is advised of the fact that you are in a guest’s room. They are informed of what time the in room service begins and ends and should you have any difficulty with the guest, security is there to protect you from unwanted advances and physical abuse.   They usually make a round of the floors and can time their rounds to coincide with your service so if a therapist were attacked while doing a session it’s likely someone would be in the area to hear your calls for help but I want to be clear, I have never heard of such a thing happening, with the exception of the Massage Therapist in Oregon who claimed she was assaulted by Al Gore back in 2010.
  • Different Spas use different product lines and each product line has different protocols for how their treatments are to be performed. This requires training. This training does not come with a certificate but forms the basis of each spas signature services. If you interview for a position with any Hotel or Destination Spa you will be told that you will be trained in other areas and these other areas do NOT include training you to perform sexual services of any kind! This is standard for every Hotel and Resort Spa.
  • There is also a vetting process for proving your education and licenses are up to date, legitimate and otherwise correct. I was not asked to provide proof of certification or licensure until the hiring process was almost complete. The purpose of interviewing is to make certain that the prospective therapist is a good fit for the business and the business extends to the therapist the professional courtesy of the assumption that you would not proceed with the process unless you had the necessary credentials. In any case, if someone did not, they would be caught before hiring was complete. If you are told not to worry about presenting your credentials in your initial interview until a future date closer to the start date of employment, do not assume that this means that your credentials are unimportant or that you would be working with people who aren’t licensed. The insurance costs to the business would be more than any company would be willing to pay and there is ample financial reason for a multi national business to follow the letter of the law.
  • Yes, many professional athletes and the occasional hollywood native visit Hotel and Resort Spas. This does not mean that you will be expected to provide sexual services to them. If this myth is not tied up with cultural and individual narcissism I don’t know what is. I also don’t know to whom it would be more insulting, those that are the guests in these rare instances or those who are the therapists.
If these myths sound over the top to some of you who are familiar with Hotel and Resort Spas I hope this will encourage you to be willing to mentor young therapists who don’t have Resort or Hotel experience. I also hope that by making others in the industry aware that some of these myths are circulating, will foster discussion about how the industry is failing to address social aesthetics. A young man who went to a public community college massage school in my State was thrilled to have a license plate with the word ‘Masseur’ emblazoned across it. I thought it was horrific and I still do. That he graduated from a program I helped to get off the ground was very eye-opening to me and I have an issue with estheticians who want to lay claim to the discipline of aesthetics rather than mind their own business which is esthetics, because of my involvement in public education. I wonder if luxury spa isn’t being eroded by the proliferation of so many day spas/hair salons that think a back room in a closet set aside for massage makes them a Spa. And despite all the uproar over The Client List, there remains a segment of the country in the US that is clinging to the thirty year old view where terminology like Masseur, Masseuse and Massage Parlour still have a kind of social currency. This is not my worldview and these terms have no value to me. But from a sociological standpoint, I think it’s symptomatic of a larger issue of social aesthetics that the Spa Industry is not dealing with and that this symptom is part of a larger infrastructure issue. Please leave your comments below as I would love to talk with other professionals and thoughtful persons about this topic.

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