Confessions of a Spa Therapist

Published on: 9 Mar 2017

So having worked in the industry for over 15 years, I have come to realise that in this profession there is no such thing as a stupid question or a totally bizarre request, as believe me I have seen and heard it all!

The ‘Late’ client

The first thing that I’m sure most therapists can relate to is the ‘late client’. In my experience there are two types of ‘late client’, the ones that turn up precisely on the dot (i.e 10am) or the ones that are so late it was hardly worth arriving at all (a good 15/20mins into their treatment time). The genuine late client will be full of apologies and excuses as to what’s made them late, possibly flustered and dishevelled as they hastily try to complete their health questionnaire. The clients that casually saunter in 20 minutes late, will make no apologies, barely give any reason as to their delay and may in fact somehow blame the spa itself (‘oh your car park was full’ ‘I couldn’t see your spa sign so got lost’ ‘our breakfast arrived late’ etc etc) and then will enjoy a leisurely sit down whilst they complete their health questionnaire in absolute detail, leaving nothing out (‘I once had a verruca in 1999’).

At this point as a therapist, it tests your patience and empathy as you keep checking your fob watch for time, just knowing that from this point on in your fully booked day, you will never make up the time and be constantly chasing your tail, possibly having to cut your one break from your 9 hour day short to keep to time for your other clients. It is your absolute right to deduct treatment time but the caring therapist in most of us just can’t seem to do that!

Once finally in the treatment room (you do a little happy dance in your head that you made is past the toilet without your already late client wanting to delay themselves further by using it!) you double check your client’s health questionnaire for any serious health concerns whilst trying to get them onto the couch as quickly as possible to get the treatment underway but by asking them about their health it then gives them reason to launch into a detailed explanation of everything they have written on their form.

At the end of what feels like the most rushed treatment, you give your client a glass of water whilst you administer the appropriate aftercare advice. You leave the room to allow them to get dressed in private crossing everything that they will be up and out of the room within about 30 seconds! As a therapist you are torn between wanting to have done such a fabulous treatment that your client is in no state to rush about as they are just so relaxed, and hoping that they are an ‘up and at em’ kind of client!


Is it just me, or do you ever have an issue with your clients clothing or appearance? I tend to find that clients either take too much off (you don’t need to be completely naked for a facial) or not enough (I once had a client booked in for a back, neck & shoulder massage who was wearing a full coverage one-piece swimsuit and didn’t think to remove the top half to her waist, even though I’d asked her to do this! Not quite sure how she was expecting me to massage most of her back with it still covered up!) I’ve also had clients booked in for facials who don’t want oil in their hair, or their eye makeup removed or they have fake eyelashes on! Gah!


Speaking purely from my own experience and from what I have seen working within a spa, bring your man for a spa treatment and watch him lose the ability to function with any normality! From obscene drawings on the health questionnaire, making inappropriate jokes or asking for a ‘hand massage’ in a back neck and shoulder treatment, from the moment they walk in you can tell they are way out of their comfort zone and even forget basic manners! I greeted a spa guest once with a cheery ‘hello, how can I help you’ and he just looked right through me as he gazed around the spa like he’d arrived on a different planet. Once changed and ready for treatment (even though you’ve advised them accordingly of what to wear) you never quite know what you’ll be faced with underneath the robe!

‘How’s that pressure for you?’ is always met with ‘I like a really FIRM massage, so you can go as hard as you like’ then 2 minutes later they are squirming on the couch as you do indeed follow their request and go ‘as hard as you like’. Most men start to relax towards the end of the treatment, but of course, by this time you’re wrapping up your moves to finish. So a word of advice chaps, when having a massage it’s no different to an appointment with your doctor, dentist, solicitor etc. We are all professionals, we know what we’re doing and we have qualifications to prove it! So just relax and give in to the endorphins, trust me, you’ll enjoy it!

‘Fine’ feedback

One of my biggest pet peeves as a therapist is the ‘fine’. I don’t think there’s much worse than delivering your absolute all to a client, feeling so proud of your treatment and that you’ve done such a great job they must be so sleepy and relaxed, but when you ask them ‘how was that for you?’ you are met with the dreaded ‘fine’. It doesn’t happen often, but even if you’ve had amazing feedback from all of your other clients that day, that ‘fine’ is the one that sticks with you the most!

The special request!

It’s bad enough on arrival if your client wants to change their appointment, as the chances are you have already set up your treatment room accordingly, but even worse are the special requests. I used to dread what was possibly coming next if a client started a sentence with ‘I don’t know if it’s possible…..’ or ‘is there any way……’ as most of the time it wasn’t anything related to the spa at all! I was covering the reception in my most recent spa position and we had a couple that arrived late. As my colleagues took them through to the double treatment room, the guy returned to me at reception stating that his girlfriend was feeling a bit light-headed as she hadn’t had any breakfast (apparently they had skipped breakfast to be on time for their spa treatments, so how they were still late is anyone’s guess!) so could he request some tea, toast and jam to be delivered during their treatment (who knew we served in-room refreshments during a treatment!) I knew this wasn’t possible, as they had missed the breakfast service at the hotel and how would they eat and drink it whilst lying on a couch being massaged? However, I kept this to myself as he finished with ‘see what you can do’ and headed back towards the treatment room.

As a compromise (and after much running around the hotel to arrange this) I was pretty pleased to get a plate of homemade shortbread biscuits that were made daily at the hotel for the hungry clients. As they emerged from the treatment room at the end of their treatment, bleary eyed and relaxed, I explained that unfortunately we couldn’t provide them with any tea and toast as the breakfast service had long since finished but I had gotten them a plate of shortbread biscuits. They thanked me and I left them in the relaxation room. When I returned a little while later, I was annoyed to find the plate of biscuits almost still intact, between them they had only eaten half of one! So the client couldn’t have been that hungry at all! Moral of the story?........stick to your actual job, don’t allow yourself to be waylaid by clients and their sometimes outlandish requests, they certainly won’t appreciate that you may have been running around to make whatever it is possible for them.

So there you have it, I’m sure every therapist can identify with these scenarios and will no doubt have their own stories of similar situations. My therapist friends and I are always swapping stories of things that have happened to us, you could honestly write a book! 


View our latest spa jobs

Visit the career hub for more of Your Views