There seems to be a growing trend in the United States to offer reflexology at settings other than a healthcare or wellness facility. It started out west, drifted eastward, and has recently debuted in my home state of Florida.
Practitioners are promoting an evening of foot massage or reflexology, along with enticing hydrotherapy services; all delivered in a tasteful salon setting. Guests lounge in comfy recliners (often leather) in a relaxing den-like decor, along with other folks enjoying foot treatments. Marketing materials invite you to “make a date of it”; to bring your best friend, mom or “main squeeze” – and a bottle of wine. The idea for these new ventures began with the need to create more revenue, and includes the goal of encouraging “healthy” dating.
That led me to recall a delightful Friday evening a few years ago at a famous hydrotherapy facility out west. When my friends and I walked into this very popular spa, I was surprised to see so many people relaxing in the common areas. Some were fully dressed; most were lounging in thick, fluffy bathrobes provided by the facility. People were rehydrating themselves with exotic non-alcoholic fruit drinks following their bodywork or “tub”. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. The owners had very successfully built a reputation as a healthy date destination. Guests received their bodywork in private rooms; hydrotherapy soaks were available communally for groups of friends or privately for couples.
At the same time as I was pondering these business models, I learned that the state of Utah has just replaced the word “therapeutic” with “recreational” in its scope of practice for massage therapists. (Reflexology is governed by the massage therapy act in Utah.)
The synchronicity of these events got me thinking about the direction of reflexology. Do we want to create more of a “social” atmosphere (including an association with alcohol), or do we want to continue to set our goals on being recognized as a bona fide “healthcare” modality? Can both models exist compatibly?
I think this is an important dialogue for those of us interested in the field of reflexology. Should the economic market and/or our culture’s insatiable need for social connection and multi-tasking dictate who we become? What do you consider to be the benefits of reflexology and how are they best delivered? These are critical questions, the answers to which will determine the path we take in the years to come. What do you think?
I believe it is important that all models of therapeutic treatments be looked at as bona fide “healthcare” modalities. I for one would rather see it continue with the goal. Yes, I am all for socializing. However, Reflexology is a time for socializing with oneself. It has taken too long to be of value within the healthcare industry. And making it a social event would lessen the value.
Cregg Mullins [Apollo] says
Does insurance currently pay for reflexology?
Karen Ball says
That depends on which state you live in, Cregg. If you live in a state that licenses massage and that includes reflexology in the massage practice act, and allows massage therapists to bill insurance (as many do), then yes. Only If reflexology is unlicensed or exempt from a massage practice act, then no. A modality must be classified as “healthcare” in order to bill healthcare insurance companies, and a modality must be state licensed in order to bill.
Himalaya Parker says
I believe it is a therapy, and for the recipient, it is a special time to relax, be more quiet inside oneself, and feel some of the benefits. For the therapist it is also a wonderful, flowing and happy time in offering this service. I feel it should remain as a healthcare therapy.
Karen. In india reflexology was always practiced behind closed doors. Today there are people who have not taken formal studies and practicing; it is hereditary business here.
Karen Ball says
Thanks for providing the information on how reflexology is practiced in India, Raju.
Barb Timmer says
I too would like to see reflexology continue as a therapy. The goal in reflexology is to help the body effect a change in physiology and therefore is a personal one. Here in Canada, we are striving to make reflexology not only more well-known but known for its therapeutic effects. To that end, one major insurance company has just moved forward in adding reflexology as a modality that it covers. Yes!
Karen Ball says
Yes, indeed! Hopefully, that move will spread across Canada and the United States. Thanks for the info, Barb.
Wendy Decker says
I would like to see reflexology go to the next level with therapeutic effects being studied and published in a medical journal. However, I don’t see why there can’t be different models of reflexology, such as a relaxation/stress reduction and medical models. Perhaps there will need to be different levels of certification eventually. Right now, licensed massage therapists are discussing this. Some LMTs work in medical settings and some in spa settings. Clients tip for one. While there already are certifications to be had for medical massage, there is discussion about whether to have the law recognize that and only allow those trained in it, to perform it.
Karen Ball says
Hi Wendy! I think your idea is definitely one worth discussing. Thanks for putting it forth.
I like this debate. It’s terribly relevant. I am usually first in line to an activity where I can socialize and have a glass of wine in a relaxing environment. However, when I receive reflexology, I can barely keep myself on Earth as it is. I definitely am useless for conversation and would never want to add alcohol to the mixture of delicious self-made dope my body is already creating and rushing around. I think dating/drinking/reflexology sessions would be overkill and overstimulation, even counter productive. Now, if I’m drinking wine with friends and someone wants to work on my feet for some reason, I don’t think I would oppose it, but to purposely combine the two would just be too overwhelming for me. Perhaps a better model for someone bent on combining the activities would be to have reflexology first, plenty of water and a light snack, and then maybe a glass of wine later, with plenty of time to navigate to the next level of “coming to”. Or is it just me? I really am a Martian when I get off the table. 🙂
Wendy Decker says
I agree with you, Martian. I guess I missed the alcohol part of the question. I was taught that reflexology improves circulation and to never mix alcohol with reflexology. I would expect and was taught that reflexology added to alcohol consumption would only tax the liver, heart and other organs and increase the circulation of blood alcohol quickly. Also, alcohol will effect the client’s pain perception and the practitioner could go too deeply.
I have offered reflexology parties, in the past, as a way to introduce reflexology, but don’t think it makes for a very relaxing session. And I didn’t allow alcohol. I personally want to zone out when I get reflexology…I call it lala land.
Interesting issue to contemplate. The “massage therapy snob” in me wants to say that this is a therapeutic modality and as such, should be practiced in a serious, professional setting. There is a risk of being seen as more frivolous and less therapeutic in the type of setting you describe. Being a Pisces, of course I have another side! I truly feel that it’s important to meet our clients where they are comfortable. If we limit ourselves to entirely “therapeutic” settings, we are turning our backs on the many individuals who would benefit from our modalities and who might never find their way to a clinical setting. I believe in the healing power of touch, wherever it is received, and would like to think each of us can choose to practice in a setting which supports our own skills and comfort. Let’s coexist! I do have mixed feelings about mixing the alcohol with the therapy. With my own bias, I prefer the idea of healthier, nonalcoholic drinks. But work received in a social environment could lead to more serious work done in a clinical setting with individuals in need of therapy. I’d like to think it opens the doors of perception for those who might not otherwise have considered receiving any type of bodywork.
Karen Ball says
Thanks for putting forth another valid point, Lee: that some practitioner are more drawn to work in casual settings where social conversations take place during the sessions and some are more drawn to work in the quieter, more focused environments of a clinic space.
My concern would be increased liability due to the alcohol factor. Liability increases for those who serve alcohol when people leave places where alcohol is served and then drive. Because of the already heightened state of relaxation of a client I don’t know if adding alcohol would be the best choice of drinks. As far as a social setting for reflexology I would not be opposed to the idea, but would probably not promote it in my practice unless I needed to for financial reasons. I believe a session in private is more beneficial from a therapeutic standpoint.