My South African Experience Working as a Therapist

Here in her own words Julianne tells her story....

I completed a V.T.C.T level 3 Holistic Therapy Diploma in 2005 in the UK, I then went to work in South Africa as I have personal connections there.

I originally got a job at a medical practice, for a doctor who was very interested in mixing conventional and alternative therapies. In essence this was ideal, but due to some ill-advised business advice and other complications within the South African infrastructure, it lead to me being retrenched after 7 months.

After that it was not easy to find another position as I did not have any 'beauty' qualifications and also did not have any particular product house training. I had used base products for facials plus aromatherapy oils in my treatments; I could not equal the salary that I had been paid either.

I contacted the main skin care companies but was told I could not do product house training independently as all product houses said you have to be working for a salon/spa that uses their products in particular, however when I applied for positions that used recognized products they said that I had to get the training first as they were not prepared to employ me without it also no one wanted to pay to train. This was frustrating as I couldn't break this deadlock.

My V.T.C.T became an issue, as it is not recognized in South Africa despite it being an international qualification, and the allied health expected anyone who has reflexology to register with them and undertake a South African qualification, this is fine except the one they accept is extremely expensive and was impossible for me to afford.

I eventually got another job for a local South African skin care company but they concentrated on sales and the salary was low for extremely long hours. I was not allowed do my therapies as I'd been trained. I spent most of working day dusting glass shelves! They were not a nice company to work for; I left after a month.

I then worked at a spa. The hygiene and cleanliness was seriously ignored, on all accounts, from not using couch roll, turning towels in between clients, oils not stored properly and various other breaches; and with a poorly paid salary, and little time off, the owner refused to give proper working contracts and conditions after agreeing to on interview.

This man was a tyrant and his main aim was to get as many people through the door regardless of his therapist's wellbeing, who incidentally were all terrified. He has a constant high turnover of staff.

I then went to work for a clinic who were offering oxygen massage therapy, we were not terribly busy due to it being a fairly new business the owner was a difficult and arrogant man who didn't want to spend money on the necessary advertising etc, or listen to advice; eventually the main investors pulled out and the clinic closed literally overnight leaving me jobless. At this stage I had no choice but to give up on working in South Africa.

The very nature of the country dictates that you have to have private medical insurance and a car, which immediately are two costly outgoings.

I found that as a career choice it is not respected at all and there is definite abuse from employers expecting ridiculously long hours of work 6/7 days a week very little flexibility for weekends off and all for very little remuneration in return and poor due care of staff.

I trained to be a therapist at the age of 42 and have a family to support, I need to earn a decent salary and I want to be treated with respect. I was so disheartened with the attitude of majority of employers in South Africa.

I also wish that whilst I was in training I had been given an insight in to how the beauty/spa industry works; I had no idea that salaries are paid as a basic wage and topped up with commission. Or that main product houses were so difficult to get into.

Also I did not become a holistic therapist to end up pushing sales as the main part of my job, I am not a sales person and it makes me uncomfortable to do so.

I don't mind working shifts or weekends (as I have done in previous jobs) but on an alternative basis, but the attitude I constantly came across was that 'oh your just a therapist you must work any hours and days regardless. My age was a bit of an issue as I am clearly an 'older therapist' but new to the industry,

I wasn't prepared to be treated so poorly, some of the young girls I came across were too scared to speak up about the issues I have mentioned and just put up with it, most were still at home so the salary was not such a problem for them, as they didn't have to run a household like I did.

Other therapists like physios, dentists etc are not treated in such a poor manner so why should beauty/holistic therapists be. If our own industry does not treat us with respect and decency then alternative therapy will never be taken seriously.

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