“This book is a MUST for anyone interested or think they may be interested in massage therapy…. very informative. So much detail you could never cover this much information in a year long class. GREAT BOOK”

–Amazon reviewer

THE COMPLETE SPA BOOK FOR MASSAGE THERAPISTS is one of the most comprehensive books available for students of massage therapy, especially those who plan to specialize in spa modalities. It also incorporates extensive features to aid instructors in the classroom, including a Course Management Guide, PowerPoint presentations, exams, handouts and reviews. You can order the book on Amazon here.



Maybe you are a single parent. Maybe you are fresh out of school. Maybe you have reached a place somewhere in the middle of your life and you felt a change was needed. Whatever your particular situation, a career move into the spa industry can be vastly rewarding. In this field, you will help people feel better, look better, and actually be better through an emphasis on therapeutic wellness and stress relief.

The environments where you may find yourself working include some of the most beautiful in the world. The clients you will meet and interact with are often influential, well-known, creative individuals whom you can help and get to know. Many spa therapists travel far and wide, see the world, and make new friends. This can become your life, if you have the education and the tools to be successful at your new endeavor. That is what this book is all about. In these pages, you will learn more about spas than you perhaps realized was possible. In the first section, you will discover the rich history of spa cultures from around the world and how they have developed into the modern spas where so many therapists have found rewarding and fulfilling work. In Section 2, you will come to understand the intricacies of hydrotherapy and the ways it is actually applied by working therapists in the modern world. You will learn how to safely perform specialized spa bath and shower treatments, and understand how to master the powers of heat and cold to balance and soothe your clients. You will find out how human skin is regenerated through a myriad of exfoliations, and you will discover the many healing potentials found in our oceans. In Section 3, you will come to know the therapeutic properties of herbs, muds, clays, and other natural products from the Earth.  You will learn what makes a spa massage different from a massage given in any other environment, and how you can make your own spa massages the best they can possibly be. You will work with heated basalt stones, learning how to safely apply them during a spa massage. You will be introduced to the most popular essential oils used in spa settings and be shown how to incorporate them into simple yet effective aromatherapy protocols.

Beyond learning about spa modalities and hydrotherapy, you will also find out what it takes to be a successful member on a topnotch spa team. In Section 4, you will learn the ins and outs of finding and securing the best spa jobs, and then providing the best possible customer service once you have done so. You will come to appreciate the importance of selling therapeutic spa products to clients and how you can increase your own prosperity by doing so. And if you are one of the many therapists who hope to open spas of their own one day, you will find plenty of information here to get you started.

Throughout your studies in this text, you will be given many opportunities to both give and receive dozens of therapeutic (and luxurious) spa treatments. In fact, by the time you are through with your spa studies, you will have experienced more spa services than all but the most seasoned spa goer. Each and every protocol features detailed step-by-step instructions, as well as a full featured set of information about products needed, room setup, benefits, contraindications, and much more.

Sprinkled within each chapter are many notes of interest in the form of tables, sidebars, and profiles of working spa professionals who will help inspire you on your quest for knowledge and skill in this field. You will also find SPA TIP callouts, SPA CAUTION callouts and SPA ETIQUETTE callouts to help draw your attention to those points deserving particular attention.

Throughout the book, you will notice that the instructions and examples are gender-neutral, meaning that approximately half of them will use the “he” pronoun and half will use the “she” pronoun. Though there are more female therapists working in the spa industry than males, both genders are held in equally high regard by spa owners and guests, and no intentional favor is given to either in the following pages.

The new skills you gain through your study of spa therapy will make you a highly portable professional, sought after by many employers, with a repertoire of skills that has grown much richer and deeper. There is much to know if you want to successfully join the thousands of people who are making places for themselves in the spa world. So, let’s get started…

Table of Contents





Chapter 1                        Spa History

            In the Beginning—Spas’ Watery Roots

Roman Baths

Layout of the Roman Bath

The Turkish Hammam

            European Spas

            Sebastian Kneipp

The Five Pillars of Kneipp Therapy

            American Spa Roots

            Asian Spa Roots


Chapter 2                        Spas in the Modern Age

The State of the Spa Industry Today

Types of Modern Spas

The Spa Client

            Massage Therapists in the Spa Setting

                        Forming Realistic Expectations

            The Spa Community


                        Companies Related to the Spa Industry

                        Important Individuals in the Modern Spa Industry


Chapter 3                        Spa Equipment and Facilities

Dry Room Vs. Wet Room

The Spa Classroom

Setting Up the Spa Dry Room

            Optional Dry Room Equipment

            Spa Wet Room Equipment

            Stocking and Storage in the Spa Room

                        Towels and Laundry

            Safety Issues in the Spa

            Self Care for the Spa Therapist

            Liability and Risk Management for the Spa Therapist

            Spa Room Sanitation


PART 2:    Hydrotherapy for the twenty-first Century: WATER-BASED SPA TREATMENTS


Chapter 4                        Bath and Shower Techniques

            The Effects of Hydrotherapy

                        Water Temperature

            Bath Techniques

                        Draping for Spa Bath Services

            Administering a Therapeutic Bath

                        Therapeutic Bath Protocol

            Hydrotherapy Tub Bath

                        Hydrotherapy Tub Protocol

            The Cold Plunge

            Shower Techniques

                        Vichy Shower

                        The Handheld Shower

                        Draping on the Wet Table

                        Swiss Shower

                        Swiss Shower Protocol

                        Scotch Hose

                        Scotch Hose Protocol


Chapter 5                        Heat and Cold Applications

            The Effects of Heat and Cold Therapy

                        Temperature Regulation

                        Local Effects of Heat

                        Systemic Effects of Heat

                        Reflex Effects of Heat

                        Local Effects of Cold

                        Systemic and Reflex Effects of Cold

                        Effects of Hot and Cold Contrast Therapy

                        Pregnancy and Spa Therapies


                        Alternate-Temperature Leg Affusion Protocol



                        Infrared Saunas

            Steam Baths

                        Table Top Steam Canopies

                        Turkish Baths and Rasul Chambers

            Paraffin Applications

                        Paraffin Hand Dip Procedure

            Spa Cold Treatments

                        Wet Sheet Wrap

                        Cold Mitten Friction

                        Sunburn Relief Cooling Treatments


Chapter 6                        Exfoliation


                        Exfoliant Types

            The Skin and How Exfoliation Effects It

            Wet Room and Dry Room Exfoliation Techniques

                        Wet Room Exfoliation Protocol

                        Dry Room Exfoliation Protocol

            Dry Bristle Brushing

                        Dry Bristle Brush Protocol


Chapter 7                        Thalassotherapy

            Origins and Development of Thalassotherapy

                        Algae: The Foundation of Thalassotherapy

            Effects and Benefits of Thalassotherapy

                        Thalassotherapy Contraindications

            Seaweed Applications

                        Seaweed Body Wrap

                        Thalassotherapy Bath


                        Seaweed Cellulite Treatment




Chapter 8                        Body Wraps, Mud, Clay, and Herbal Therapies

            Body Wraps

                        Body Wrap Protocol

            Mud Use in Spas


                        Peloid Treatments – Mud Wrap

            Herbal Therapies

                        Herbal Wrap

                        Herbal Compress Therapy


Chapter 9                        Spa Massage

            Massage Practice in the Spa Setting

                        The Real Meaning of “Relaxation Massage”

                        Scope of Practice

                        Spa Massage Intake Procedures

                        Number of Massages

                        Timing of Spa Massage

                        Preparation and Cleanup

                        Practicing Elements of Spa Massage

            Basic Massage Modalities in the Spa Setting

                        Pregnancy Massage in the Spa

                        Spa Reflexology

                        Deep Tissue Massage

                        Sports Massage

                        Couples Massage

                        Four-Handed Massage

                        Chair Massage

                        Topical Cooling/Warming Massage Treatments


Chapter 10           Stone Therapy

            The Stones Used in Stone Massage

                        Harvesting Stones

                        Shapes and Sizes of the Stones Used

                        Effects of Stone Massage

            History of Therapeutic Stone Use

            Safety and Sanitation for Stone Massage Applications


                        Benefits of Stone Massage


                        Placing Stones

                        Massaging with the Stones

                        Correct Body Mechanics for Stone Massage Application

            Stone Massage Treatment


Chapter 11                        Aromatherapy

            Development of Aromatherapy

            Essential Oils

                        Steam Distillation

                        Water Distillation

                        Water and Steam Distillation


                        Solvent Extraction

                        Carbon Dioxide Extraction


                        Cold Pressing

                        Popular Essential Oils Used in Spas

                        Blending Essential Oils

            Physiological Effects of Aromatherapy

                        Contraindications for Aromatherapy

            Aromatherapy Spa Treatments

                        Aromatherapy Massage

                        Aromatherapy Wrap

                         Aromatherapy Baths



Chapter 12                        Advanced Modalities


                        The Ayurvedic Doshas

                        Pancha Karma

            CranioSacral Therapy

            Indonesian Treatments

                        Javanese Lulur Procedure


            Manual Lymphatic Drainage

            Myofascial Release

            Neuromuscular Therapy



            Thai Massage


            Signature Services


Chapter 13                        Esthetic Modalities for spa therapists

            Face Treatments

                        Mini Face Treatment

Back Treatments

            Scalp Treatments

            Hand and Foot Treatments


PART 4:            SPA CAREERS


Chapter 14                        Finding Spa Work

            Seeking Spa Employment

            What Employers Are Looking For

            Creating Your Résumé

                        Customize the Résumé

                        Call Yourself a Therapist

                        Emphasize Your Strengths

                        Emphasize Customer-Service Skills

                        Choose References Wisely

            Spa Employment Applications

                        Arrive Prepared with Everything You Need

                        Follow the Instructions on the Application Carefully

                        Be Neat and Thorough

                        Provide Plentiful Information

                        Be Truthful but Not Negative

                        Do Not Mention Specific Salary Requirements

                        Check Your Application Before Turning It In


                        Be Flexible

                        Speak Up

                        Be Prepared to Answer Questions

                        Watch Out for Negativity

            Personality Testing for Spa Therapists

                        Tips for Cultivating Your Positive Social Styles for Job Interviews

            The Interview Massage

                        Tips for Giving an Interview Massage

What Happens After the Interview

            Intern Programs and Probationary Periods

            Finding the Right Spa

                        Spa Ambiance

                        Seasonality Concerns

                        Staffing Needs


                        Seniority Systems – Pros and Cons

                        Compensation Models

                        Personal Factors

            Resources for Spa Jobs


Chapter 15                        Becoming a Valuable Spa Employee

            Customer Service on Steroids

                        The Seven Main Customer Service Skills for a Spa Therapist


            Spa Stress

                        Battleground Scenarios

            Attitude is Everything

                        Actions vs. Attitude




            Spa Ethics

                        Sexual Issues

                        Money Issues

            Spa Etiquette

                        Etiquette Inside the Treatment Room

                        Etiquette Outside the Treatment Room

                        Etiquette Outside the Spa

            Your Job Description and Beyond

            Teamwork, Teamwork, Rah Rah Rah!

                        A Team with a Mission

                        Team Members


Chapter 16                          Spa Retailing for Massage Therapist

            Ethical Selling

                        Retail Concept #1: People Need to Purchase Products

                        Retail Concept #2: People Purchase Products from Other People

                        Retail Concept #3: Buying from Knowledgeable Professionals Is Preferable

                        Retail Concept #4: Selling Products Is Not Unprofessional

                        Retail Concept #5: Other Health Professionals Sell Products

                        Retail Concept #6: Massage Therapists Are Permitted to Sell Products

                        Retail Concept #7: The Products Offered in Spas Are Beneficial for Clients

                        Retail Concept #8: Home Care Completes Spa Services

                        Retail Concept #9: Not Selling Spa Products Is a Disservice to Clients

                        Retail Concept #10: You Do Not Need to Be a Salesperson to Sell

            The Importance of Sales in the Spa

            Becoming Positive about Sales

                        The Fear of Rejection

                        The Fear of Change

                        The Fear of Success

            Getting Paid for Sales

            Spa Sales Protocols

                        Soft Selling Component 1—Creating a Relationship with the Guest

                        Soft Selling Component 2—Educating the Guest

                        Soft Selling Component 3—Cooperating with Your Team

            Types of Products for Sale



                        Body Wash

                        Herbs, Clays, Seaweeds, and Muds Applied in Treatment

                        Weight Loss and Cellulite Reduction


                        Massage Tools


                        Non-Treatment Items

            Ancillary Sales Tasks for Spa Therapists

                        Working With the Front Desk


Chapter 17                        Opening a THERAPEUTIC Spa

            Determining if Spa Ownership is for You

                        Information Gathering


                        Market Analysis

                        Financial Analysis


            Creating a Spa Business Plan

            Creating the Spa Experience

                        A Dedicated Space

                        The Therapeutic Use of Water

                        Well-Developed Spa Service Menu

                        A Consciously Created Environment

Spa Lighting for the Massage Room

            Spa Sounds for the Massage Room

            Spa Aromas for the Massage Room

            Spa Tastes for the Massage Room

            Spa Textures for the Massage Room

            Spa Retailing for the Massage Room

Creating A Team


                        Leadership, Discipline and Training


            The Grand Opening

            Common Business Models for Spa Therapists

                        The Sole Practitioner Spa

                        Offering Spa Services in Clients’ Homes


Chapter 18                        Spa OPERATIONS

Financial Management


                        Paying the Bills


            Computer Systems Management

                        Spa Appointment Scheduling

            Managing and Motivating a Team

                        Running Staff Meetings

                        Setting Schedules

                        Recruitment and Hiring

                        Promotions and Raises

                        Disciplining and Firing Employees


            Special Precautions for Spa Owners

Liability Insurance

                        Licenses and Permits

            Spa Marketing

                        Guerrilla Spa Marketing

                        Spa Marketing Collateral

            Into the Future

                        Growing Within the Spa Industry

                        Becoming a Supervisor of Spa Services

                        Becoming a Spa Director

                        Becoming a Spa Trainer and Workshop Teacher

                        Becoming a Spa Consultant

                        Becoming an Allied Service Provider

APPENDIX I: Bibliography/ Resources

APPENDIX II: Answers To EndofChapter Review Questions



The photographs for the second edition were taken by my friend Yanik Chauvin from Montreal. You can see more of his work at his website.  We spent a week at Paraiso de la Bonita spa resort on the Riviera Maya south of Cancun, Mexico for the shoot. A rough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

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