In many parts of the world, beauty professionals are often called “beauty therapists,” while the services they provide are widely referred to as “treatments.” With National Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 6-12) upon us, we are thinking about the many ways that licensed beauty pros extend empathy, energy, and healing touch. More and more, beauty rituals that address the whole person are being incorporated into—or evolving from—more traditional salon services.
Adina Mae Doss, a hairdresser in Santa Monica, CA, has been laying hands on people for years as a professional hairstylist. Certified in Reiki, an ancient practice using body chemistry and body energy to transfer healing energy, Doss also provides Inner Beauty Treatments in her Santa Monica salon. They include work with crystals, chakra balancing and meditation. All can be incorporated into a hair service appointment as a complement or as a stand-alone.
“I don’t always have to lay hands to do the work,” she explains, “but during a shampoo service, we’re directly connected to their crown chakra and that is not to be taken lightly.” Chakras or “energy centers” are thought to be located throughout the body and when one is out of balance, it’s believed to create problems within that area. By being sensitive to these areas of energy and by balancing the chakras, Doss helps restore inner/outer alignment and harmony.
Doss will take her guests on guided mediations based on what she intuits would help them release blockages in their body and mind. “I’m not a therapist so all I do is have a very natural conversation and it’s almost shocking to someone that I know what to say,” she says. “I call it an intuitive translation of the words they need to hear to break down any wall and barriers to see the light inside. But what happens is that I’m so close to their energy and I’m feeling their emotions.”
Also, incorporating crystals (Doss is a certified crystal reader) provides information that helps her connect to her client. “I ask them to select a crystal and based on what they pick up, I can talk about why they chose that crystal—and why the crystal chose them—so they have a better understanding of what healing and breathing points they need.”
Massage for Mental Health
According to American Massage Therapy Association, a review of more than a dozen studies concluded that massage therapy helps relieve depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. Massage therapy also promotes better sleep. Michelle Ebbin, massage therapy expert and author of The Touch Remedy, believes that holistic practices like massage therapy can play a greater role in helping people keep their mental health in check.
“Massage has been scientifically proven to lower the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) in the body,” says Ebbin. “Massage is an excellent way to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, worry, and even depression, and it can be easily incorporated into one’s wellness regimen at home and work.”
She continues, “At home, I recommend getting a massage on a monthly basis so that you’re not bearing loads of stress and tension that gets unintentionally released in your interactions with partners or family members. There are many types of massage you can request, such as Swedish, deep tissue, sports, reflexology, as well as assisted stretching, which can suit your desired level of intensity, as well as address specific needs. And, they can be combined with other holistic practices like yoga, meditation, and ongoing exercise to relax the body and mind. Plus on-demand services like Soothe deliver the massage therapist directly to your home, office, or hotel room with at little as 60 minutes advance notice, which makes it very convenient so you don’t have to drive anywhere.”
Andi Scarbrough, co-owner/founder at Framed Salon, launched CrownWorks, a multi-dimensional offering of client services, stylist education, and ritual tools to foster a different, more holistic way of looking at haircare and selfcare.
“The reason people return to a stylist or salon over and over again is they have been provided with something beyond the service,” Scarbrough shares. “They have been seen by a caring person interested in their overall wellbeing who is considering how they will feel days and weeks after a blow-dry has been washed away.”
But this “stylist as therapist” role could be draining, she recognized. Scarbrough says stylists often become a confidant and a repository for their clients’ problems or fears…and that it can be overwhelming to be on the receiving end.
“Often, during a service--this time of stillness, silence, and loving touch without an agenda--a lot of emotional content can arise that stylists frankly have not been prepared for in our professional training. We don’t go digging for this information--it just comes up. And since no one has told us what to do with this information-- how to hold space for these conversations without taking them on-- largely, we internalize these feelings. I believe this results in the rampant phenomenon of addictions, depression, anxiety, poor boundaries, and struggles with charging for our work, compassion fatigue, and creative burnout in our industry.”
This prompted her to launch CrownWorks to bring awareness to and support facilitating the management of this crucial and overlooked component of the profession and to update the service model to become an exchange of energy that is as centering for the stylist as for her client. "Inside the sacred space we create together, we (stylists and guest) explore and discover patterns and beliefs that are impacting the way we see ourselves, and the message we are projecting into the world about how we want to be seen. Using tools like crystals, oils, sound, and breath we alchemize intention into action with a ceremonious haircut."
Doss also acknowledges the “physician, heal thyself” nature of the work. “When you are interested in doing the work on others, you must be doing the work for and on yourself, too. You can’t just pick it up and start doing it because it will deplete you. You must have your own daily practices that are helping you stay centered and balanced --a morning ritual or mantra--while you’re providing these services.”
Elbin suggest self-massage if you don’t have the budget to book yourself a massage service. “You can always buy a simple self-massage tool for less than $30 to massage tense neck, shoulder and forearm muscles which work extra hard. I recommend using the self-massage tool for 5-10 minutes during your breaks. You can also buy small ‘tune up’ balls for use at home, which you can roll your back, neck, shoulders, and legs onto, to loosen stiffness and tightness. I recommend doing this for at least 10-15 minutes daily. Plus, doing deep bends where you fold over at your hips and allow the upper body to hang like a ‘rag doll’ to release back and neck tension.”
- Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step.
- Reach out to your health insurance, primary care doctor or state/country mental health authority for more resources.
- Contact the NAMI HelpLine to find out what services and supports are available in your community.
- If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.