Massage Therapy – Working in the Spa Environment

Working in a Spa

by Tiffany Cox, LMT

I used to think working in a spa was the most definitive statement of “selling out” a Professional Massage Therapist could make.

I was, happily, very mistaken.

When I started my career as a therapist, I was driven by a newly-found interest in science. I wanted to know all there was to know about anatomy, physiology, etiology, kineseology…if it there was an “ology” in the name, I wanted to know all about it! Okay, maybe it was more like an obsession…

That obsession led me to work in a clinical setting as soon as I graduated from massage school, and I loved it. My inner-German was thrilled beyond belief, and it was like getting paid to go to school! Well, barely paid…but I still loved it.

Being instinctively logically-minded, I was like a fish to water. I soaked up all the information and skills I possibly could, and eventually gained the courage to implement some of my own. It was a profoundly rewarding time, and I couldn’t imagine ever being more fulfilled.

Fast-forward to the day when I realized I’d learned all I could in that realm, was stagnant in my role, and frustrated with the lack of input and stimulus. I began searching for a change, something new and adventurous, beneficial for myself, my employer, and our clients.

Then I met a spa massage therapist who told me stories of fulfillment and challenges, a supportive and nurturing environment, a place to really make a difference…and employee benefits to boot!

I was sold, and interviewed with the owner and manager a few days later ~ and got the job!

I have since worked in just about every type of spa environment you could possibly imagine (and some you can’t!), and have found something of value in each one. They all have benefits, and they all have challenges, but they also provide support that an independent therapist could never secure on her own.

Most spas are all about providing luxury to their clients, and will likely provide premier equipment, facilities, advertising, and materials that would otherwise be a financial burden on an independent therapist.

The larger, extravagant spas are usually run much like any standard for-profit corporation, and may offer benefits, sick days, vacation pay, health insurance, etc.

However, they generally follow a standard business model for implementing schedules, work conditions, employee expectations, and so on. You will be expected to adhere to a standard of Company Policy which can include uniforms, personal appearance, non-compete clauses, therapeutic techniques administered, etc.

Keep in mind, a smaller spa doesn’t always mean the owner has a small-business model. Do your homework, and find out what the company’s Mission Statement entails, who the owner is, how the spa is managed, what their policies are, and if they parallel your own goals.

The better informed you are about a new work environment, the more enjoyable and beneficial the experience will be ~ for everyone.

And, if you’re like I was, don’t worry about feeling like you’re “selling out” by working in a spa ~ incorporating clinical techniques into relaxation massage will help increase your distinction and, in turn, your client base. Pretty soon you’ll be asking yourself why you waited so long to come over to the other side!

Having worked in the best and the worst of the spa world, I’m now able to easily determine if I’d want to work in that particular environment. Develop your own method to ask yourself if you can imagine working there, how you would interact, react, benefit, and so on.

The experiences and support I’ve had while in the employ of others have all been of benefit to me professionally, as well as personally. Perhaps most importantly, I have acquired an increased familiarity with our profession as a community.

These insights will help you better understand the diversity of our profession, and heighten your awareness of your own weaknesses and strengths, interests and challenges, and possibly even help you find your focus ~ but that’s a topic for another day…




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