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Creating a spa-like experience in your massage therapy clinic

May 16, 2022  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

When clients enter a spa, they are greeted by sights, sounds and smells that welcome instant relaxation. Whether you’re an RMT working from home, within a clinic, or offer mobile massage, there are multiple ways you can create a relaxing, spa-like space. 

We chatted with Jaclyn Howse, RMT and Head of Therapeutic Services at Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario, for some insight into how RMTs can tweak their practice spaces to insight a spa-like feel.  

It goes without saying that sanitization and cleanliness are important in the treatment room to allow a client to feel at ease. But if we’re in a room with bright fluorescent lights, basic furniture and a cold tile floor, it could lean towards “sterile.” 

Lighting is a major way to encourage clients to relax. Himalayan salt lamps offer a soft pink glow, while some treatment rooms in a clinic may offer the option to dim overhead lights. 


“Even when we first start talking to clients about their treatment, we make sure the lights are dimmed and make sure the hall lights are dimmed when they come out of the treatment room – it helps to set the experience.” 

While certain practitioners may be unable to bring in their own décor to a space, small details like drawing curtains or blinds could even help with lighting. 

It should be noted that included in “sight,” mirroring is a basic body-language technique that practitioners can utilize to create a sense of calm with patients. Sit down on their level when discussing patient history, for example.

If you’re conducting mobile massage, ensure piles of laundry or clusters of clutter are far from the viewpoints of the client. 

“I did mobile massage for a couple of years, and you can end up in the dining room, with kids running around, dogs barking…it’s kind of crazy” says Howse. “Some clients may not care, but in order for them to get the most out of the treatment, you could recommend moving into a bedroom, away from chaos, but ultimately I think having spa music definitely helps.” A large portion of the population has a phone that allows them to play whatever music they enjoy. Check-in with clients and ask if they have a preference. (The chirp-chirp-chirping of birds could be enjoyable to one client, and of significant annoyance to another.) While some clients may prefer silence, the background noise from a busy clinic could still be distracting, both to the therapist and the client. 

Another interesting way to utilize sound is to speak quietly to the clients. “What I’ve done is as soon as people come in, I slow down. So for me, I talked slower I talked calmer, I talked softer,” Howse says.

Lavender, eucalyptus, perhaps a soft sage scent. When walking into a spa-like space, a whisper of fragrance is often the first sense at work. 

If you practice in a clinic with a variety of other practitioners and rent the room where you treat people, scents and use of essential oils is important to bring up to the clinic owner and other therapists. There could be sensitivities you should be aware of, both with the other practitioners and your own clients alike. 

Howse says scents should never overpower. “Using unscented massage oils while allowing the client to choose a scent to tailor to their unique wants is a good choice.” Another way scents can be used would be in diffusers either in the entrance to your practice, or within the room itself, but again, it’s important to ensure the client entering is OK with scents. Another soft way to introduce scents is to put a couple of drops in a tissue, placing it under the head cradle.

RMTs need a room that’s warm and inviting to their clients, and nothing is cozier than a warm, soft bed (or table).

“That’s something [the spa] experienced during COVID: How can we keep all of our nice spa materials but still follow protocols for cleanliness? I heard a lot of RMTs went down to sheets and didn’t use blankets any longer, but what we did at the spa was the opposite – we bought more,” Howse says. “I think that the other thing that I would never go without is a table warmer. People love getting onto a warm bed and having that warmth the whole massage – especially if a therapist likes to have their room colder because they get hot.”

Howse mentions that even though a general relaxtation massage is the typical choice of clients when in attendance at a spa, those working in other spaces shouldn’t forget the importance of these massages. 

“When do any of us get a full hour, that’s all about us where we can just let go and completely relax? It’s pretty rare. People will say to me: ‘I usually get deep work and it’s painful, and that was the best massage I’ve ever had.’ Relaxation can be a real goal for clients.”

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