The Difference Between a Spa Massage and a Private Practice Massage

If you are looking for someone to work out knots and tension, and you aren’t accustomed to massage on a regular basis, your first area of research is likely to be online, and your search results are likely to be a list of spas and day spas at the top. You also may be prone to ask around for references, but massage is such a personal experience, it’s difficult to tell if the referred practitioner will be a good match for your needs. So, you book at a day spa, hoping to get some relief, even if just a little. It’s relaxing, the therapist is professional, and you leave feeling rested and rejuvenated, but, dang-it that knot just didn’t get worked out!

The pros of a the spa setting are atmosphere and accessibility. The downside is that it is much more expensive (Burke Williams charges $155 for 80 minutes of “Pure Relaxation Massage” ie, no deep work) and you don’t get a personalized session. The truth is, the primary goal of a spa is to get new customers in the door, and to get as much of their money as possible, which they then use for more marketing and advertising toward more new customers, as opposed to retaining existing ones. And while many less experienced massage practitioners use the spa environment to build on their skills, they usually move on once they have gotten better.

So, when a client decides to forgo the spa experience all-together, what could she/he expect from a private practice?

At a private practice, the setting is usually minimal, and you don’t have the luxurious setting of a spa. It is generally located in a small office or suite in a building, a converted space, or even at the client’s home. This way the practitioners keep their overhead low, and can ask a more competitive fee. A private practitioner will typically have a more consolidated skill-set, and will tend to focus on a few specific tecniques that he or she has honed over a longer period and knows are effective. Sessions are almost always tailored to fit the clients’ needs, and unlike a spa, the price does not fluctuate for different modalities.

Simply put, the goal of a private practice is this: to deliver an effective product that produces results, and encourages client loyalty – the cornerstone to any successful practice.

It’s possible that some people just don’t feel comfortable going to what could be perceived as some ‘random’ office for something like massage therapy. How do you know your therapist can be trusted? It may be more convenient all-together to simply book at a day spa, simply for the peace of mind in having a full staff in the vicinity, especially if you are not totally comfortable receiving massage treatments. This is totally understandable, and can be addressed before you ever enter a practitioner’s office. It may be helpful for you to have a list of questions about the practice, such as cleanliness, fragrance, lighting, temperature, noise, etcetera – Things you may not think about, but you know would make you uneasy if confronted with. Ask for credentials, and about experience and qualifications. Remind yourself that you are the customer, but also remind yourself that your responsibility to you is your own due diligence. This is the case for supporting any business, but is that much more important when it is your own body. Chances are, your caution and diligence will be welcomed, as these same hesitancies have been experienced by all of us at some point.

So, in an epoch of rising prices and dwindling customer attention and care, a bodywork session with a local, independent massage practitioner can be an excellent antidote!

Be Well.