Ask an Expert
Mental wellness


Spas are a natural place to focus on whole health – including mental wellness – but as more spas tackle the challenges of the mind, the question is: where do spas fit on the spectrum – and how deep should they go? We ask the experts


The World Health Organization reports that one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, and that 450 million people are currently suffering from these conditions, placing mental disorders as one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

As we learn more about the mind/body connection, and as more research points to the ways in which traditional wellness activities such as meditation, yoga and good nutrition can support mental health, the spa industry is paying attention. These are, after all, some of the cornerstones of wellbeing and areas in which spas have long had expertise.

In addition, exercise has been shown to be more effective than drugs for treating mild to moderate depression, while research is emerging that links the gut biome to our mental health.

This broader view of mental wellbeing is opening up many new opportunities for spas to support guests in achieving better mental health, and areas for spas to develop services.

There’s a wide range of approaches, from programmes that relieve stress to complex holistic offerings that help heal the body and the mind.

It’s certainly a hot topic; the Global Wellness Institute has started an initiative on mental wellness, and this year’s Global Wellness Summit has a strong focus on the subject. But what exactly do we mean by mental wellbeing – and where do spas fit in? Can spas tackle mental health and also offer luxury relaxation? And what do operators need to know to make sure they’re not getting out of their depth? We ask the experts.



Michael Schroeder Program Manager & Lead Counsellor Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

 

Michael Schroeder
 

At Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, we address mental health and wellness to the extent we deem appropriate for each guest. A readiness for mental health awareness can be likened to a guest’s ability in a yoga class; the instructor needs to tailor a class so as to not overwhelm or push a guest beyond their comfort level.

Our life consultation and enhancement services are an important segment of our integrative spa menu, for it is from our mental health state and orientation to our world that all else flows. We have a package where guests can work with our medical director and myself to evaluate their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. We also offer animal interactions with our Silkie chickens and play with our in-house puppies to create awarenesses for our guests, and to have a bit of fun. Some of the classes we offer in expressive arts, movement and meditation create opportunities for heightened awareness and clarity. We also offer one-on-one, couples’ and group counselling.

All of the research and data about wellness tourism points to the growing interest in wellness-related travel experiences, with mental health being an important area of interest.

Based on the growing global epidemics of stress, lack of sleep and overexposure to electronic devices, it makes sense for spas to look at how they can incorporate mental wellness interventions into their services.

But spas must be prepared to address the fact that the underpinnings of our mental states run deep; guests must feel safe in their environment, and be able to easily ‘surface’ from the counselling process. There must be adequate space and time for reflection, and staff must be able to assess guests’ needs. Specific training is recommended for staff members who are involved with delivering mental health services.

Although wellness travellers are seeking a one-stop approach to their health needs, training and oversight are required to address the mental health elements.

Some spas are forging relationships with outside medical facilities who are experts in this arena and collaborating on guest care.

The growing interest in mental wellness services represents an opportunity for spas to offer higher levels of care while also increasing revenue.


"It is from our mental health state and orientation to our world that all else flows"



Dr Fikry Isaac Founder and CEO WellWorld Consulting

 

Dr Fikry Isaac
 

I worked as vice president of global health services for Johnson & Johnson for 15 years, and caring for the employees was a key priority, not because it was the right thing to do, but because it created a competitive advantage – offering mental wellness programmes and services was critical to business success. Business leaders in many organisations now recognise that good health equals good business, and that there is no health without mental health.

The traditional role of spas is changing as consumers demand more holistic approaches to their wellbeing, and spas can – and should – transform their ways of thinking to meet these demands. Addressing mental wellness in a spa setting is a must; beyond the traditional modalities, programmes that combine physical, mental and spiritual components can lead to positive outcomes.

The biggest challenge for spas is to change their own mindsets from being a place for relaxation to a place where people can seek more tranquility with their own wellbeing. People will come to spas to focus on mental wellness in part because it eliminates the stigma of mental illness, and focuses more on mental wellness.

Spas that want to offer mental wellness services would need more specialised staff with extensive training, and will need to be connected directly to mental health medical providers in the event that guests need to be referred on to specialists. While mental illness requires specialised medical attention from diagnosis to treatment, spas can play a bigger role in supporting the medical community and supplementing clinical care – and an even a bigger role in reducing stress and enhancing mental wellbeing.

Mental wellness will be a necessity as we move into the future. Living well will require a major shift in the way our well-care ecosystem operates. The spa world will be part of the solution, but will need to transform its service delivery and its definition of wellness – including mental wellness.


"Spas can play a bigger role in supporting the medical community"



Professor Gerry Bodeker Department of Epidemiology Columbia University

 

Professor Gerry Bodeker
 

As recently as a few decades ago, it was thought that adult development largely froze in late adolescence and that any growth in mental and emotional capacity during adulthood was marginal. Subsequently, a wealth of neuroscience and cognitive research has shown this to be a serious underestimation of the potential for adults to continue their development throughout their lives.

New findings on the connection between gut microbiota and the brain have given rise to the term the ‘gut-brain axis’ and nutritional and probiotic solutions to mental health and wellness are currently being studied.

New evidence suggests that the shortening of our telomeres across the lifespan can be reduced and that we can actually increase their length. Telomeres are the caps on our DNA, which are shortened by stress, inflammation and ageing, leading to cellular degeneration and a shortened lifespan, resulting in conditions such as cancer and depression.

Strategies for lengthening telomeres include a healthy and anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, clean air, healthy sleep, and the mental paths of positive thinking, gratitude, mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga or qigong, as well as a supportive and nourishing social environment.

Regular connection with nature has been shown to increase mental wellbeing and research on ‘earthing’ has found that having the feet in contact with the earth is associated with enhanced immune functioning, wound healing and the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Spas and wellness destinations can contribute to the mental wellbeing of their guests by sharing these research findings to give confidence that these approaches offer real benefits. They can also create programmes around evidence-based approaches to enhance mental wellbeing and fulfilment – from the very molecular to the very global. But it’s also important that spas remember to ‘start at home’ and address the mental wellbeing of therapists and staff, since their mental state will subtly influence that of the guests.


"Spas can create programmes to enhance mental wellbeing"



Patrick Huey
Group Director of spa, Asia MSpa International Limited

 

Patrick Huey
 

I think most spas are playing catch-up in the area of mental wellness – they understand the importance of having a response to this growing aspect of the industry, but defining and refining the scope of how they can respond – and getting the right programming and practitioners in place – will take some time. Within our spas, we work with doctors of ayurveda and have relationships with visiting practitioners, so we can address issues related to mental health outside our regular treatment offerings, but this is still emerging for us. It’s an area that is a key focus for me.

I think the role spas can play in relation to mental wellness is a supportive one; we should be in addition to – not in lieu of – proper medical care. Most spas are not affiliated with doctors or hospitals, cannot prescribe medicine, and in many countries aren’t allowed to diagnose medical conditions. We can provide the soft skills of care that help guests to release stress, and we can sensitise spa staff to the nature of mental health, but it’s important to know how we fit into the larger picture.

Because of the seriousness of mental wellness and the broad range of challenges that can be associated with it, I think the spa industry as whole should move cautiously into this arena. Spas that are looking to address mental wellness in a larger context would face issues of coverage from an insurance perspective, liability and the costs associated with bringing in true mental health doctors and experts. Smart spas that have the resources and desire to trailblaze in this area will partner with entities like hospitals and care facilities to fold into their programmes.

The link between good sleep, proper diet and exercise and stress reduction are an essential part of addressing mental health in a holistic way. These non-medical areas are well within the wheelhouse of many spas, particularly as we talk about practices like yoga and meditation, stress reduction through massage, and the use of traditional Chinese medicine modalities like acupuncture.

I just went to a medical conference in Bali attended by some of the largest hospitals in Asia. Top of discussion was how to make the hospital experience less like a hospital and more like a spa experience, because the psychological component for a patient is just as important as the physical care they are receiving. The nurturing, less threatening spa environment can be key to healing.


"The spa industry as a whole should move cautiously into this arena"

 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2017 issue 3

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Spa Business - Mental wellness

Ask an Expert

From Spa Business 2017 issue 3
Mental wellness


Spas are a natural place to focus on whole health – including mental wellness – but as more spas tackle the challenges of the mind, the question is: where do spas fit on the spectrum – and how deep should they go? We ask the experts

Spas like Sunrise Springs in New Mexico, US, are addressing mental wellness

The World Health Organization reports that one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, and that 450 million people are currently suffering from these conditions, placing mental disorders as one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

As we learn more about the mind/body connection, and as more research points to the ways in which traditional wellness activities such as meditation, yoga and good nutrition can support mental health, the spa industry is paying attention. These are, after all, some of the cornerstones of wellbeing and areas in which spas have long had expertise.

In addition, exercise has been shown to be more effective than drugs for treating mild to moderate depression, while research is emerging that links the gut biome to our mental health.

This broader view of mental wellbeing is opening up many new opportunities for spas to support guests in achieving better mental health, and areas for spas to develop services.

There’s a wide range of approaches, from programmes that relieve stress to complex holistic offerings that help heal the body and the mind.

It’s certainly a hot topic; the Global Wellness Institute has started an initiative on mental wellness, and this year’s Global Wellness Summit has a strong focus on the subject. But what exactly do we mean by mental wellbeing – and where do spas fit in? Can spas tackle mental health and also offer luxury relaxation? And what do operators need to know to make sure they’re not getting out of their depth? We ask the experts.



Michael Schroeder Program Manager & Lead Counsellor Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

 

Michael Schroeder
 

At Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, we address mental health and wellness to the extent we deem appropriate for each guest. A readiness for mental health awareness can be likened to a guest’s ability in a yoga class; the instructor needs to tailor a class so as to not overwhelm or push a guest beyond their comfort level.

Our life consultation and enhancement services are an important segment of our integrative spa menu, for it is from our mental health state and orientation to our world that all else flows. We have a package where guests can work with our medical director and myself to evaluate their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. We also offer animal interactions with our Silkie chickens and play with our in-house puppies to create awarenesses for our guests, and to have a bit of fun. Some of the classes we offer in expressive arts, movement and meditation create opportunities for heightened awareness and clarity. We also offer one-on-one, couples’ and group counselling.

All of the research and data about wellness tourism points to the growing interest in wellness-related travel experiences, with mental health being an important area of interest.

Based on the growing global epidemics of stress, lack of sleep and overexposure to electronic devices, it makes sense for spas to look at how they can incorporate mental wellness interventions into their services.

But spas must be prepared to address the fact that the underpinnings of our mental states run deep; guests must feel safe in their environment, and be able to easily ‘surface’ from the counselling process. There must be adequate space and time for reflection, and staff must be able to assess guests’ needs. Specific training is recommended for staff members who are involved with delivering mental health services.

Although wellness travellers are seeking a one-stop approach to their health needs, training and oversight are required to address the mental health elements.

Some spas are forging relationships with outside medical facilities who are experts in this arena and collaborating on guest care.

The growing interest in mental wellness services represents an opportunity for spas to offer higher levels of care while also increasing revenue.


"It is from our mental health state and orientation to our world that all else flows"



Dr Fikry Isaac Founder and CEO WellWorld Consulting

 

Dr Fikry Isaac
 

I worked as vice president of global health services for Johnson & Johnson for 15 years, and caring for the employees was a key priority, not because it was the right thing to do, but because it created a competitive advantage – offering mental wellness programmes and services was critical to business success. Business leaders in many organisations now recognise that good health equals good business, and that there is no health without mental health.

The traditional role of spas is changing as consumers demand more holistic approaches to their wellbeing, and spas can – and should – transform their ways of thinking to meet these demands. Addressing mental wellness in a spa setting is a must; beyond the traditional modalities, programmes that combine physical, mental and spiritual components can lead to positive outcomes.

The biggest challenge for spas is to change their own mindsets from being a place for relaxation to a place where people can seek more tranquility with their own wellbeing. People will come to spas to focus on mental wellness in part because it eliminates the stigma of mental illness, and focuses more on mental wellness.

Spas that want to offer mental wellness services would need more specialised staff with extensive training, and will need to be connected directly to mental health medical providers in the event that guests need to be referred on to specialists. While mental illness requires specialised medical attention from diagnosis to treatment, spas can play a bigger role in supporting the medical community and supplementing clinical care – and an even a bigger role in reducing stress and enhancing mental wellbeing.

Mental wellness will be a necessity as we move into the future. Living well will require a major shift in the way our well-care ecosystem operates. The spa world will be part of the solution, but will need to transform its service delivery and its definition of wellness – including mental wellness.


"Spas can play a bigger role in supporting the medical community"



Professor Gerry Bodeker Department of Epidemiology Columbia University

 

Professor Gerry Bodeker
 

As recently as a few decades ago, it was thought that adult development largely froze in late adolescence and that any growth in mental and emotional capacity during adulthood was marginal. Subsequently, a wealth of neuroscience and cognitive research has shown this to be a serious underestimation of the potential for adults to continue their development throughout their lives.

New findings on the connection between gut microbiota and the brain have given rise to the term the ‘gut-brain axis’ and nutritional and probiotic solutions to mental health and wellness are currently being studied.

New evidence suggests that the shortening of our telomeres across the lifespan can be reduced and that we can actually increase their length. Telomeres are the caps on our DNA, which are shortened by stress, inflammation and ageing, leading to cellular degeneration and a shortened lifespan, resulting in conditions such as cancer and depression.

Strategies for lengthening telomeres include a healthy and anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, clean air, healthy sleep, and the mental paths of positive thinking, gratitude, mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga or qigong, as well as a supportive and nourishing social environment.

Regular connection with nature has been shown to increase mental wellbeing and research on ‘earthing’ has found that having the feet in contact with the earth is associated with enhanced immune functioning, wound healing and the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Spas and wellness destinations can contribute to the mental wellbeing of their guests by sharing these research findings to give confidence that these approaches offer real benefits. They can also create programmes around evidence-based approaches to enhance mental wellbeing and fulfilment – from the very molecular to the very global. But it’s also important that spas remember to ‘start at home’ and address the mental wellbeing of therapists and staff, since their mental state will subtly influence that of the guests.


"Spas can create programmes to enhance mental wellbeing"



Patrick Huey
Group Director of spa, Asia MSpa International Limited

 

Patrick Huey
 

I think most spas are playing catch-up in the area of mental wellness – they understand the importance of having a response to this growing aspect of the industry, but defining and refining the scope of how they can respond – and getting the right programming and practitioners in place – will take some time. Within our spas, we work with doctors of ayurveda and have relationships with visiting practitioners, so we can address issues related to mental health outside our regular treatment offerings, but this is still emerging for us. It’s an area that is a key focus for me.

I think the role spas can play in relation to mental wellness is a supportive one; we should be in addition to – not in lieu of – proper medical care. Most spas are not affiliated with doctors or hospitals, cannot prescribe medicine, and in many countries aren’t allowed to diagnose medical conditions. We can provide the soft skills of care that help guests to release stress, and we can sensitise spa staff to the nature of mental health, but it’s important to know how we fit into the larger picture.

Because of the seriousness of mental wellness and the broad range of challenges that can be associated with it, I think the spa industry as whole should move cautiously into this arena. Spas that are looking to address mental wellness in a larger context would face issues of coverage from an insurance perspective, liability and the costs associated with bringing in true mental health doctors and experts. Smart spas that have the resources and desire to trailblaze in this area will partner with entities like hospitals and care facilities to fold into their programmes.

The link between good sleep, proper diet and exercise and stress reduction are an essential part of addressing mental health in a holistic way. These non-medical areas are well within the wheelhouse of many spas, particularly as we talk about practices like yoga and meditation, stress reduction through massage, and the use of traditional Chinese medicine modalities like acupuncture.

I just went to a medical conference in Bali attended by some of the largest hospitals in Asia. Top of discussion was how to make the hospital experience less like a hospital and more like a spa experience, because the psychological component for a patient is just as important as the physical care they are receiving. The nurturing, less threatening spa environment can be key to healing.


"The spa industry as a whole should move cautiously into this arena"


Originally published in Spa Business magazine 2017 issue 3

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