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Training as a Lush Spa therapist

It’s a cold, overcast afternoon in January 2017, and a group of Lush Spa therapists have gathered in Poole to learn the new Karma treatment. Spa treatment developer Hannah Lammiman watches as they practise the new routine in pairs, stopping to gently adjust a hand or demonstrate. “Down the arm and into the fingers really slowly," she instructs. “Glide up. Make sure your posture is good. Go back, watch your partner. And then walk down. Good, good. That’s beautiful.”

It’s a complex, 65-minute massage with each move choreographed in time to a stirring soundscape of Indian music. To make matters more complicated, the treatment is performed by two therapists working in harmony on the body, meaning the therapists must also be perfectly in tune with their partner. For a majority of the therapists, this will be the tenth treatment they have learned by heart and their first with a partner.

Hannah explains, “Therapists have to learn the entire choreographed Karma treatment from scratch, which is a huge routine. There are 17 tracks on an album that has been especially made for this treatment and we learn the choreography to every track. It’s like learning a dance in unison. The therapists have to be in sync.”

Lush Spa trainer Helen Clark, who joined Hannah in choreographing the treatment, explains that each of the therapists has taken one role in the treatment. She says, “Karma is a really special treatment that has fantastic benefits for the clients. It’s also very different from other treatments but still needs to be performed at that high standard. Every spa therapist training today has chosen a part but as they learn more they’ll naturally learn the other role, meaning that over time they can perform both. It’s continuous development.”

Therapists training for this new treatment will be based in Poole, UK, for two weeks while they learn the routine with Hannah and Helen, and then have a week in their own spa to perfect and polish. Afterwards, they will return to Poole to have a sign-off with their trainers and then with another person in the company. In the process, there is a very real chance that they will perform their final treatment on a company director, all of whom take a keen interest in the development of spa treatments and therapist training.

Hannah explains, “The therapists will have a pre-sign off treatment with their trainer so the sign off itself is actually to check whether everything flows and whether the client would pay for this treatment in one of our spas. It’s a procedure that can be a little overwhelming, but the therapists are given the tools over several weeks to practice that one treatment and ensure it’s absolutely perfect, so they can go into that sign off, take control and provide a wonderful experience.”

Indeed the therapists taking part in the training seem to thrive on the challenge and the camaraderie of working in a tight-knit group. Dawn Prentice, who’s based at Lush Spa Oxford Street, explains, “It’s a really lovely way to learn as you meet so many people and learn so many new things. For me, the really special thing about learning Karma is gaining emotional support from the person you’re working with. You build up a trust together which the client feels too. We support each other a lot physically and emotionally in the process. It’s a really unique thing.”

Emily Moulton, who is also a therapist at Lush Spa Oxford Street, agrees. “The training is nice because it's really immersive. You’re in a house with people who are doing exactly the same so there are no distractions and you go into your spa knowing exactly what you are doing. I’ve had loads of jobs where you’re trained really quickly in a day and then suddenly you have to massage eight clients in a row. Here, you feel like you know everything perfectly before you do a treatment.”

Lush Spa project coordinator Natasha King adds, “In how many places do you get to learn directly from the person who developed the treatment? It’s all very organic and real.”

As well as training in Poole, therapists learn new treatments in their own spas and also take refresher courses at their discretion. On-site spa trainers like Helen are at hand to ensure that therapists are experts at performing the treatments and also in delivering outstanding customer service. For therapists who join Lush from an external spa, a good grounding in Lush products and values is essential, and Helen, who herself knew little about Lush when she joined, now has a hands-on role delivering shop floor and spa training for new recruits.

She recalls, “I joined Lush because I wanted to spend more time with my client: to sit with them before and after the treatment, give them a drink and make sure they’re okay before I let them go again. I came from a generic spa, and had three months of training in the treatments but then knew nothing about the company apart from the spa. Now therapists get all this training together, so it’s really immersive and they’re part of our team. Shop floor training is so important for someone who didn’t begin with Lush.”

On-site training in local shops also gives staff in spa shops or the surrounding areas the opportunity to benefit.  Hannah describes it as “a health care system for our staff”, explaining, “Shop floor staff are able to have the treatment and go out and talk about it, while factory staff get to see the real benefits of this product that they’ve made by hand.”

Lush staff without spa qualifications can also apply to train as a therapist, first by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in Swedish massage. Hannah explains, “The course is completely funded by Lush, so we can give staff the opportunity to gain a recognised VTCT qualification. Then, if they’re good enough and they get the certification, they can go on to become a Lush therapist. It’s an incredible opportunity. Whereas normally it might take you a year to learn and qualify by going to evening courses, we can run it in the day as you get paid. It’s our way of introducing people to massage skills of a very high standard.”

Alanda Colegate, who runs the programme with colleague Gemma White, explains the process. “We like applicants to have worked for Lush for a minimum of six months just so that they know all the products and have Lush in their hearts, and then they come to Poole for five weeks to gain an internationally recognised Level 3 Swedish massage qualification. During the course, we also teach them the Synaesthesia routine, and polish it before they take part in a sign-off.”

Jess Tabram qualified as a therapist this way and now works as a spa trainer in Poole. She says, “I’ve been in the company for seven years now, and originally started in the mail order department before I began work on the shop floor and then joined the VTCT course.  I’m going to be teaching the course this year which is a new role for me - it will be interesting to see it from another direction.” What do they look for from applicants? “Enthusiasm, passion and a willingness to learn!”

As therapists train in further treatments they have the opportunity to collect further qualifications. Alanda Colegate explains, “All of the training we provide at Lush is to an incredibly high standard and it’s all guild accredited. So when therapists learn the Validation Facial they gain a qualification in facials as well. There are so many different skills involved in training such as using hot stones, singing bowls and ear candles. The therapist has to really focus on what they’re doing. In other spas, your mind might wander and you might improvise. But our routines are so structured that you have to focus the whole time.”

Alanda also explains that Lush treatments also give the therapist more time to build a connection with their client: “In other spas you would have a client every hour on the hour. With Lush, because the treatments are longer and you have the time for a consultation and to sit with your client, it’s a more personal experience.”

In light of the high standards exercised by spa therapists, Hannah, Alanda and Gemma all stress that caring for their spa therapists is high on their list of priorities. “I always say to the therapists, ‘look after your body because you’ll need it!’” says Hannah. “We look after our therapists by teaching them the Alexander technique, breathing exercises and by doing some gentle meditation before the training just to focus. It works really nicely. We’ll also take the therapists to visit places of inspiration like Corfe castle to hear where the birdsong for the spa soundtracks was recorded.”

King’s Road Spa therapist Pauline Llorca adds, “Therapists have a 20-minute massage every week, and also receive one free treatment of their choice each month which we will normally book at the end of the day so they can go home and relax afterwards.”

Gemma says that experiencing a treatment each month doesn’t just help to treat the body but to re-charge the mind. “It allows the therapist to stay connected from the other side so they remember what it feels like to receive that treatment. You remember that love you had for it when you first learned it.”

So what’s the treatment of choice for a Lush Spa therapist? “The Good Hour!” comes the unanimous answer, followed by laughter. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Lush’s in-house, deep-tissue massage set to soaring sea shanties is a winner. “As a massage therapist you have to love your job because you do go home some days and ache,” says Helen. “But every Lush therapist believes in the company values and that supports what they do.”

Hannah adds. “I kind of like that ‘ache’ at the end of the day. It makes me feel like I’ve done a good job.”


Interested in becoming a Lush Spa therapist? Keep your eyes firmly on the Lush careers page, speak to your local spa shop or direct general enquiries to [email protected]

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