What Makes a Good Therapy?

The definition of the term ‘therapy’ is: a treatment that is intended to relieve or heal a disorder. Therefore by using this definition the term ‘good’ can be measured by the effectiveness that a therapy has in healing or relieving the disorder presented by the client to the therapist.

When measuring the effectiveness of a therapy it’s important to state a few difficulties here:

  • ‘Disorders’ can be very ambiguous and on a large spectrum
  • The effectiveness is measured by the client and wholly based upon their interpretation, which is impossible to compare as it is individual per person and may be affected by things such as current state of mind, previous exposure to treatments, pre-treatment perceptions, and the placebo effect.
  • Effect times are also varied as a client may experience an immediate effect, delayed effect or incremental over a period of time which could even lead to a change in perception of how successful a treatment was.

Regardless of the ambiguity to measure what makes a good therapy, I’ve put some points together that should help you find (or offer) appropriate therapies of a high-quality standard.

What is the need of the client?

This seems like a pretty simple question but some clients may not know exactly what their need is or they may not be able to describe it to the therapist clearly, which is why clarifying this through a consultation is imperative to the success of the treatment. If you’re the client then it’s important to tell the therapist what needs you want them to fulfil and what your expectations are. I think it’s important here to distinguish the need from the actual therapy because it might be that as a client you aren’t aware of certain implications of the therapy that you’re interested in. For example, in my old salon bride-to-be clients would often try and book themselves in for a facial the day before their wedding, thinking that it would give them a healthy glow on the day (their need). Wrong. A facial will actually bring all the impurities to the surface first before it gives the skin a healthy glow. So we would have to explain this to clients and advise that they have a facial at least a week before the big day and maintain a good cleansing regime in between to get their need met.

Depending on the therapy and the client, these answers could describe physical, emotional or psychological needs and they could be expressed or implied through the client’s body language, words or actions. It’s imperative that the therapist has the appropriate people skills and technical knowledge to be able to read the client’s response and consider which treatment should be offered (you can read about this in my ‘3 Step Guide to Finding the Right Therapist?’ Article).

Can the needs be fulfilled?

After distinguishing what the need is, the therapist should then discuss appropriate therapies which may be suitable for the client to try, regardless of whether or not they are offered by the therapist and without an obligation to buy. One of the things I have always admired at the beauty salon where I learnt my trade is that we were taught, to be honest about whether or not we could fulfil the client’s needs. This meant that if we couldn’t, we would quite happily direct them to another salon/therapist that could, because fulfilling the client needs is the most important aspect of any therapy.

Although the therapist will know their professional field, I truly believe that every person is the master of their own wellbeing, so it’s important that when discussing therapy options that it’s a two-way process as the measurement of effectiveness will be completely individual to the client.

Post-therapy, it’s a good exercise to reflect on the whole treatment and whether the needs were met. This way the client can be more informed about what works for them personally and the therapist can apply this knowledge to other clients. Any reputable therapy provider will keep a client record of treatments with therapist comments so that information can be shared amongst staff in case someone is off work/leaves. I think it’s a good practice to keep a record as a client too which is something I do so that I can work with a therapist of any genre to find out more of what works for me and less of what doesn’t.

Clarity of treatment

After establishing the need of the client and that it can be met by the therapist, it’s then up to the therapist to clarify what will happen during the treatment so that the client doesn’t have any surprises. The depth of this is variable dependent on the treatment but it’s important that the client understands the process so that he or she can relax into it and trust that the therapist knows what they are doing. This is something that I always look out for before a treatment and if it’s not offered then I ask because I believe that it should be briefed at the beginning of any a treatment. I’ve found that any therapist who is confident in their ability will happily explain the process without question, if this isn’t the case and you have doubts about the therapist or treatment then I would encourage you to look elsewhere, like any industry there are always good and bad therapists but hopefully these pointers should help you find the good ones.

I also believe it is important to appropriately signify to the client the beginning and ending of a treatment – for example with a massage I was always taught to signify the start of every massage by placing both hands on the client and press down gently before carrying out an effleurage*, then at the end of the treatment I was taught to do exactly the same in reverse before removing both my hands. This beginning and ending notification crosses over a variety of therapies and I think it’s something which is very important because it gently directs the client and clarifies the process.

Consistency of procedures

The consistency of procedures is something which I base my expectations of a therapy on and it ultimately works towards creating a good representation of the business offering the therapy. To me, it’s a measure of quality because it demonstrates that an investment has been made to uphold the standards of the therapy.

If a therapy provider is consistent with their procedures then it gives me the expectation that the staff have been trained to follow certain protocols. Obviously, individual therapists will differ in style and treatments need to be flexible to meet the differing needs of the client and also to evolve with new treatment discoveries but, in areas which involve less personalisation, consistency should be maintained.

To explain what I mean by this, I expect that a spa offering a quality service will be consistent with the booking, consultation and treatment procedure regardless of the therapist who is interacting with the client. I expect this because if an establishment is charging high prices then it leads me to believe that they’ve invested in their staff and management of the spa. On the same note, if I’m having a £5 Thai massage on a street in Bangkok which has been advertised by a woman screeching “Thaiiiiii masssssage”  in my face I’m not going to have this kind of expectation because it’s not the same level of quality, so my expectations are lower. I am, however, often pleasantly surprised with the high standards from some of the cheapest (and dirtiest) Thai massage parlours.

An example that I know personally well is Neal’s Yard Remedies, having been on customer and consultant side I’ve seen that the company makes sure that everything is consistent to give a high-quality brand representation because they offer high-quality products and services.

Client centric treatment

The best treatments I’ve experienced are ones where the client feels like they are the most important person in the World at that moment in time. This is true regardless of whether I am giving the treatment or receiving it. It’s important that the client is allowed to feel completely comfortable and that the therapist makes every effort to ensure this throughout the treatment, that way the client will be able to focus on the treatment and benefit the most. By comfortable I mean free of judgement, free of time pressure (regardless of whether they or the therapist is running late), completely safe to express vulnerability and most of all confident of discretion and confidentially. A large part of this comes down to the social skills of a therapist, but it is also shaped by how a spa/salon is managed and it’s important that the client is the top consideration when designing a treatment list, schedule and general facilitation of treatment.