Improving the wellness of clients is the goal of most spas. That may be achieved physically, emotionally, or spiritually through a myriad of treatments and offerings. This same wellness boost inside and out is even more meaningful for spa-goers fighting cancer or in survivorship.
Cancer is a debilitating disease that has a huge impact on patient wellbeing. According to Julie Bach, founder and executive director of non-profit training organization Wellness For Cancer, seven out of 10 cancer patients suffer from fatigue, only one in five receives spiritual support from doctors, and one in two patients is nutritionally deficient. This is a group of people in desperate need of wellness support, and spas are ideally positioned to help them deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and offer ways to improve their state of mind.
Bach believes clients can become overwhelmed by the disease and not always know where to turn for support, which is where spas can step in. Making this even easier is a new partnership with Spafinder Wellness in which member spas are able to connect to Wellness For Cancer’s budget-friendly training resources and spread awareness of the benefits of spa to potential spa-goers who need it most. “We are meeting our clients wherever they are on the wellness spectrum,” she says. “If we are the wellness industry, we cannot simply be wellness for people who are already well.”
Prior to this partnership, one of the challenges in our industry was connecting people who need services to the right professionals who understand them and know how to work with them, says Betsy Isroelit, senior director of global media relations for Spafinder Wellness. “We are a bridge for professionals and people looking for services.” Now, the solution is simple. Spa teams who complete the training courses receive a Cancer Aware designation on the Spafinder Wellness website, so cancer patients, friends, and physicians can easily find businesses with the expertise to provide proper care. “There’s always something we can do,” says Bach. “When we turn someone away because they have cancer, it’s far more harmful than touching them. If we get the training we need, we can work with all clients within our parameters. Spa and wellness centers need to be ready.”
With that in mind, you can prepare yourself and your entire team—massage therapists, estheticians, manicurists, and front desk associates—with the Wellness For Cancer training course outlined here.
Laying the Groundwork
The first four training modules—Cancer 101; Body Changes; Mind. Body. Wellbeing; and Contemplative Elements—help bring everyone up to speed on cancer, cancer treatments, and related changes in the body and mind. Resources in these sections include videos from doctors sharing background information about radiation and chemotherapy and the side effects that relate to the spa industry. The goal of this section is to give spa professionals an overview of life with cancer and how the different wellness practitioners can complement the medical treatments. It also offers a deeper understanding of mindfulness as it applies to communicating and working with cancer patients.
Understanding Caring Touch
With a basic foundation of cancer knowledge, participants can then learn general best practices and how to care for clients in the spa. “Touch is the most important part,” says Bach. “We need to move away from a medical model with these clients. They have medical 24/7, and they don’t need any more medical.” Cancer Aware Core Frameworks, Client Assessment, and Protocol Modification modules cover treatment procedures in greater detail to ensure client comfort and excellent service throughout their visit. These modules also help therapists better understand their individual roles, necessary modifications in different positions, and how to deliver a safe and nurturing experience. Participants receive a personalized framework to use in treatments to guide their movements and their minds.
Beyond physical modifications, participants learn how to develop a supportive connection with clients while maintaining a healthy distance. Mindfulness plays a significant role, as it gives therapists the capacity to observe the experience without being overwhelmed by it, to acknowledge client pain and discomfort without personally absorbing it or carrying it along with them. They are guided in listening with a quiet mind and encouraging clients to relax through communication. By incorporating these practices, therapists are better able to fine-tune their responsiveness to clients’ changing needs throughout a service.
The training concludes with three modules focused on how the spa team presents services to potential clients—Booking Clients, Client Appointment, and Marketing. In these sections, the discussion emphasizes putting guests first and cancer second, keeping in mind the mental limitations to consider when booking and welcoming guests. “We give them an extra reminder call and pad in extra time in case they need more time getting off the table,” says Leanne Sedlak, owner of Skin Catering (Springfield, MA), whose team is completing the training. “We’re also much more lenient with no-show policies and cancellations.”
Additionally, the Marketing module helps spas advertise their training and new offerings. There is a fine line between authentic promotion and seeking a profit boost from the cancer community. “It makes me sick to my stomach to see companies make money off of cancer,” says Sedlak. “Instead, we promote what we have available if someone is going through cancer and needs help. We try to walk that fine line with integrity and not make it sound like we’re profiting off these people who are already going through enough.” Still, a Cancer Aware designation can bring in significant business, as it distinguishes the spa in the community. Sedlak adds that her spa’s plans for Cancer Aware training helped seal the deal with an exclusive spa membership plan for employees of a large company in the community.
So far, the partnership has garnered positive feedback from participants as more spas have become certified Cancer Aware. According to Bach, an average spa completing the certification has employees from all departments sign up and work through the online resources independently, and Isroelit estimates around 70 spas are Cancer Aware. “They are very passionate about providing this kind of care,” says Isroelit. “They feel the training has been beneficial, and they are confident when they administer treatments.”
The training resources equip the entire spa team so it can care for clients fighting cancer, from initial booking to post-treatment products. The training and services for cancer patients go beyond protocol modifications to changes in mindset and intention and ultimately improve wellness throughout the community. “The ultimate objective of this new relationship is to help those living with cancer—including friends, family, and coworkers—to easily find Cancer Aware wellness locations with confidence,” says Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer of Spafinder Wellness. “We hope the industry will join us in recognizing the vital importance in bringing wellness to those who need it most.”
Spafinder’s popular gift cards with celebratory images were not a good fit for promoting Cancer Aware spas and services. As such, the company designed a set of gift cards that express caring and condolences. Says Isroelit, “We also hope the program reaches caregivers, friends, and family to introduce a relative or friend to the spa by treating them to a service with a qualified professional.”—J.N.