The recent claims of sexual abuse at Massage Envy locations have been all over the news. As spa owners, therapists and leaders in the industry, it is incredibly important that we pave the way so these types of incidents don’t occur. It’s vital to have a clear, concise, and transparent set of policies and procedures in place to ensure that both guests and therapists are safe from sexual abuse.

The most important policy (which is pretty simple) is that if either party feels uncomfortable in any way, at any time, for any reason they are encouraged and fully supported to terminate the service.  Both staff and clients need to know that their well-being is the number one priority and that spa management is 100% supportive of this. There are several ways to make sure this is clearly known. Training for staff is critical and a “training” of sorts for clients is also critical. What I mean by this is that on the company website it is important to address possible concerns clients may have such as draping, male/female therapist requests, customization, comfort and professionalism. We write this into our treatment menus as an eloquent way to reassure potential clients that their safety and comfort is important to us.

Continuing education and an open dialogue is also vital to a spa’s success. Spa Mangers must have the difficult conversations with their teams.  At staff meetings I encourage open dialogue, role-playing and the review of policies such as proper draping, modesty and professionalism. Work to button up all protocols so everyone feels comfortable. The fastest and easiest way to address these issues with the team is to be open, start conversations and hold ongoing training.

I believe that as an industry we are still trying to convert a large percentage of the population from non spa-goers to spa-goers.  We believe in spa treatments as a necessity, not a luxury, and our mission is to help enhance peoples’ well-being. I think that the ramifications for our industry after the Massage Envy sexual abuse claims can potentially set our new customer conversions back because the non spa-goer is looking to feel comfortable and reassured as they enter the unchartered spa territory; these claims certainly don't help.  The last thing we want is our potential client to feel uneasy when they walk through our door. Making guests feel comfortable and reassured comes down to how you train your team and the philosophy you have set for your spa.

Finally, as an industry I believe we should never hire an unlicensed therapist.  If your state does not require a license, you as an employer, should require your therapists to be licensed in a neighboring state.  As an individual spa, we must follow or set our own
code of conduct.  You can use the NCBTMB or ISPA as a guideline: http://www.ncbtmb.org/code-ethics or https://experienceispa.com/membership/code-of- conduct

A warm, comfortable environment for our guests is incredibly important to cultivate lifelong clients and spa enthusiasts. We want our guests to feel they can openly ask questions and voice concerns without feeling awkward.  My philosophy has always been to over communicate rather than under, with guests and employees alike.  So much falls through the cracks when there is a breakdown in communication; it is our job as leaders in the spa industry to ensure that everyone, clients and staff alike, know the rules and
remain safe when enjoying treatments.

 

About Julie Pankey
As a Spa Director and Consultant for various brands in the Northeast region for many years, Pankey has developed an extensive network of trusted relationships with some of the most well-known, distinguished spas and resorts in the region. As a thought leader and innovator, Pankey developed The SpaHive Community to connect spa and wellness professionals through a private online community, education sessions, pop up boutiques and special events. 
Pankey continues to further the spa industry by collaborating with the consumer and corporate sectors through her newly launched SpaHive Corporate Wellness Programs. She has contributed to the success of such companies as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Spa at Norwich Inn, Marriott, Cliff House Resort and Spa, Catania Hospitality, Pacifica Hotels, Fluhme Beauty, Christopher Drummond Beauty, OSEA Malibu, The Industry Source and many more. Her website is www.jmpankey.com.