Can you imagine having an appointment with your medical doctor about a serious condition, being examined in his or her office,
and then finding out that in the room next door the doctor has employed a tarot card reader?
I wish to sound an alarm. A few weeks ago, the Associated Press ran an article entitled "Supernatural Spa Treatments Catch On" touting things like tarot card reading, astrology, and other supernatural practices as a trend in the spa industry. The article was picked up by CNN.com, ABC.com, and other news sites. I think it is worth a discussion on whether we feel that this is a trend, and furthermore whether or not it should be. My concern is that some of these practices in our industry could undermine the credibility we have all worked hard to attain. Maybe there is a better way.
I find it embarrassing to have the media say things like "Sure, they still give facials and hot-stone massages. But a growing number of spas are dipping their pedicured toes in the supernatural, hoping for more client loyalty in a market that's becoming increasingly crowded." But we can't blame the media—they are simply reporting what is out there.
The spa industry has gained a great deal of credibility since the time when massage parlors were linked with prostitution, fat farms were for wealthy alcoholics, bathing in thermal waters cured everything, and rollers and belts were supposed to melt fat away. I am so proud of the fact that we now have esteemed medical doctors, research scientists, and credible people from all arenas acknowledging and partaking of the various health, beauty, and wellness benefits our industry has to offer.
Canyon Ranch has a myriad of medical services with an extensive staff of medical doctors. Dr. Dean Ornish has chosen a variety of spa settings for his Reversing Heart Disease program. Establishments such as the Cooper Wellness Center in Dallas, Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida and Kurotel in Brazil have joined the spa sector. More and more hospitals are adding spas. Day spas and wellness centers are working with doctors—some are owned by doctors—not only for aesthetic medicine but also for preventive services. Dr. Ken Pelletier, author of numerous books including The Best Alternative Medicine, recently introduced his new book on stress at a New York press conference held at the Exhale Mind Body Spa. In my opinion the spa industry is on the cusp of being recognized as a major contributor to reducing health care costs, as well as fueling a global interest in international health tourism.
On the one hand, our industry is exploding with increasing credibility; on the other hand, we open ourselves up to criticism when tarot card reading, past life regression, and astrology are treated as if these practices were equally valuable to the sound medical practices we trumpet.
Credibility is only one of the problems; the other is the potential damage that can be done to the very people we are supposed to be helping. Clients often come to us in a vulnerable state. I have seen first-hand how an astrological reading at a spa traumatized a woman who had been told that her marriage would not survive. We have all experienced well-meaning therapists who go beyond the physical aspects of massage or skin care to include advice-giving and counseling. While nurses are strictly regulated in what they can and can not say to patients, the spa industry has had somewhat of a free-for-all.
Spa experiences are very intimate. Whenever you allow someone to touch you, trust is paramount. This is not the time for us to violate that trust by exposing clients to our own belief system, which may cause them to put up their guard or even expend the energy to evaluate whether or not they should. We need to help those we serve get in touch with themselves—physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The good news, I think, is that together we can carve out the right balance. We can embrace what is on firm scientific ground—like the value of exercise, good nutrition, and stress reduction. We can present cultural traditions for what they are—cultural traditions. We can educate ourselves about complementary and alternative medicine practices so we know what works, what doesn't work, and what is in the works. And we can admit when something (like chocolate wraps) is just plain fun and whimsical!
Here at SpaFinder, Spafinder.com, and Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, we are committed to bringing the consumer the very best that the spa industry has to offer. We, as a company, continue to evaluate our part and sincerely hope that the small steps we are taking will contribute in a positive way to the consumer's experience and the health of the spa industry. You will notice, for example, that we do not have astrological charts in our magazine. Rather, last year we added "Spa Rx," a lengthy (and costly) analysis of various points where medicine and spa come together.
Well, thanks for letting me have my say. Next month in the SpaFinder Insider I promise to "lighten up." After all, my fortune cookie told me to . . . just kidding!
Till the next Insider . . .