It’s par for the course to listen to your clients’ ups and downs but when you’re done for the day, how do you ensure you’re not getting weighed down by everyone else’s emotions? VITALITY Editor, Becci Vallis, look at what you can do and whether specific support should be put in place for beauty professionals.
As beauty, hair and wellbeing therapists, it’s a necessary part of your job to enquire about your clients’ mental state as their environment and emotions will play a huge part in how their entire body is responding (or not) in and out of the salon. From acne outbreaks to hair loss, tight muscles to eczema, a bit of a back story ensures you can prescribe the best treatment for them. However even a simple manicure with an unknown client can lead to a full blown therapy session as they reveal over a cuppa their inner worries, secrets or simply, the dramas of their social life.
And while more and more support and teachings are being given to professionals such as The Lions Barber Collective with regards to how to recognise if clients are struggling with mental health issues – what about you – the therapist. Because let’s not forget, psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors go through years of training and research looking at how to react, advise and not let other people’s problems become so all-consuming it impacts their own quality of life.
“The energetic and emotional toll of listening to clients’ problems needs to be recognised and addressed as part of the basic training,” admits Suzy Reading, psychologist and BABTAC’s resident wellness expert. “There needs to be clarity on remit and responsibility - ie you are not a trained psychological therapist and it’s not your job to fix or provide emotional support but to establish rapport and help people feel at ease so they can get maximum benefit from your work.”
It's even more crucial since the pandemic when more people than ever are reporting mental health issues and there simply isn’t the support out there to cope with the demand. “As a whole there is such a squeeze right now with all the healthcare providers – from doctors and nurses to allied health professionals to beauty professionals – everyone is under enormous pressure to support a very depleted general public while also weathering depleted teams. Regardless of this reason, you are not a dumping ground for your clients’ issues and your health, career satisfaction and career longevity all matter,” affirms Suzy.
CHANGES MUST HAPPEN
Ask most hair and beauty professionals and they’ll no doubt say their own self-care is lacking. After witnessing this first hand, Made for Life Organics decided they wanted to incorporate this into their Advance Cancer Touch Therapy training and have now added new modules into their education programme that focus on therapists’ wellbeing. Designed by Emma Williams who heads up the brands’ training the additional modules encourage therapists to find ways to ‘catch a breath’ and take time to look after themselves.
“There is always space for more training and support to look after people who look after others and post COVID as our training developed it became even more apparent that therapist self-care was sadly lacking,” says Amanda Winwood, founder of Made for Life Organics. “It’s why we developed our modules and we’ve had incredibly positive feedback from both the spa managers and directors we work with as well as the therapists we train. It’s also why we developed a four-hour training course, ‘The Real Conversation’ working with the clinical team at award winning hospice Compton Care. The more focused we become on looking after therapists, the more they will shine through in business.”
An honourable initiative, Made for Life are hoping their way of thinking will catch on with other companies and brands who produce education programmes. “We’re an industry of wellbeing and so should be focused on the wellbeing of our industry,” says Amanda.
HOW TO MANAGE THE LOAD
There are things that both the individual and the employer can do to stop the stress of being a constant sound board taking its toll.
As an employer:
- Allow a reasonable amount of time between treatments so your therapist can decompress and have time to recharge before moving onto the next client.
- Provide a clean and welcoming space for your team to take breaks and where they can check in with team members regularly – whether it’s to lighten the load or simply change the subject.
- Check in with your team to make sure they have the support they need and that they feel valued and listened to. People need to feel cared for and communication is key to this.
- Provide fresh water, tea/coffee and healthy snacks if possible for your staff – it’s a small gesture that goes a long way and your therapists will be thankful after hours on their feet and in treatment rooms.
As a therapist:
- Recognise the toll that listening to your clients’ problems can take and give yourself permission to articulate and honour your boundaries within the session, advises Suzy. Healthy boundaries mean you get to decide what feels safe for you to talk about so instead of asking people what’s happening in their life, find something more neutral like – how was your journey in today?
- After you finish with a client or when you notice yourself taking on their stress, have a ritual to encourage a feeling of letting go. Suzy recommends a gesture like shaking your hands or a breathing practice like candle breath (in through the nose, out through the lips for a long cathartic exhale). A few minutes in fresh air is another good go-to if the location allows.
- Remember that the stress, emotion or problem you’ve just heard is not yours and turn the worry into wishing your clients well, maybe say a little prayer or set an intention for them and then bring your mind back to the moment. And remember to give yourself some of the same kindness and compassion too!
- Don’t ignore what fills your cup. When you’re feeling low and depleted you’ll be more likely to be affected by others’ problems so whether it’s sleep, exercise, socialising, solo time, cooking, make sure you implement some small steps to give you a big boost.
With the stress and strains of everyday life going nowhere soon, the beauty industry is an invaluable part to making people feel cared for and nurtured so they leave with a more positive outlook. Now the industry just needs to repay the favour so you get to feel your best self at all times too.