We share the story of a sensory-friendly transformation at a massage therapy practice. It helped attract more customers and garnered positive reviews from returning customers.
Creating a sensory-friendly experience does two important things:
This is a low-cost example of sensory-friendly changes. Becoming sensory-friendly does not have to take a lot of time, money, or resources.
Later in this blog post, you can also download a sample sensory sensitivity questionnaire. It is an example to use with customers. You can also easily adapt it to other healthcare practices like the dentist, doctor, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychologist, or any other location that provides a personal service to a customer such as a hairdresser, salon, or spa.
Creating a sensory-friendly experience to attract more customers to access your individual service is an easy thing to do. Ask potential customers what their sensory preferences are, and then match them as best you can during service delivery.
Here is what Kerry Legere Jenkins, a Registered Massage Therapist in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada had to say about a sensory-friendly transformation that I undertook in her massage therapy practice called Got Your Back.
“I had my office space made sensory-friendly last year with Christel Seeberger and it has made a huge impact on my business. Since the space was done, I noticed a substantial increase in bookings, which I found overwhelming, unexpected, and completely welcome. My clients, who have been here before, some for years, began noticing décor or artwork that has been here the whole time because of the movement of items to help group them, or by the suggestion of Christel, placed in another spot altogether. I hear feedback a lot from clients who think my space is “wonderful” or “lovely” or “welcoming” and I know the help I had, and the changes we made, are all the reason for it.
Christel was great to work with and was also concerned about me being comfortable with everything we did every step of the way.
Now moving forward, I know I am meeting more needs, some I was unaware of, for everyone in the public. This is very important to me because I work in the public service industry, and I am very thankful to Sensory Friendly Spaces for helping me achieve that! Thank you!”
-Kerry Legere-Jenkins R.M.T.
Kerry’s practice is on the lower level of her home and she is a solo-practitioner. While the business and personal space in the house is separate, it has a different look and feel because it is in a home and it is still in her personal space.
Therefore, the evening before I did the assessment and transformation of Kerry’s massage therapy practice, I moved around the furniture in my living room. I felt it was important to remind myself what the experience of having my personal space changed felt like in preparation for this sensory-friendly transformation project.
Another key point was that nothing new was purchased as part of this project. Sensory-friendly changes would be made on the spot where possible. I also left Kerry with some further recommendations.
One of the first things I did was to explore the clientele Kerry saw for treatment in her massage therapy practice. Of the list of underlying conditions known to contribute to sensory sensitivity, we identified the following as most common: people with anxiety, concussion, hearing loss, the highly sensitive person, myalgic-encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and vestibular disorder.
The next thing I did was provide Kerry with additional screening questions she could include when she assessed new clients or use during re-evaluation. Part of being ready to attract more customers is understanding the needs of current or incoming customers.
Do you like music playing during your treatment?
If yes, what type/s of music do you prefer?
Also, what type/s of music do you not prefer?
Do you like more or less light in the room during the treatment?
If so, would a warmed, moist washcloth over your eyes?
Alternatively, would you prefer an eye mask?
Do you like ice water or room temperature water? Or even hot water?
Do you like lemon or plain water?
Note for the service provider: Have a glass of water available for clients when they come out of their treatment session to encourage hydration. You can offer hot or cold water.
Do you find scents relaxing? If so, which scents?
For the service provider: Essential oils may then be enjoyable.
Note for the service provider: Be mindful of scented products, scented detergents, and scented cleaning products, and so on, if scents are bothersome to your client. If scents and smells are a problem, scent free odor absorbers may help.
Do you like light touch or deep pressure during a massage therapy session?
Do you sleep with lots of blankets or just a sheet? (This is an indication of whether the clients likes the weight of blankets or not). Consider a weighted blanket too.
Do you like cold packs or icing?
Are there movements that are difficult for you?
Do you like to stretch?
Note for the service provider: Incorporate movement into the massage therapy treatment session if that is a preference of the client.
Do you experience dizziness?
If yes, when?
Note for the service provider: Provide a sturdy step stool for clients to climb on/off the treatment table if needed. Some medical step stools also come with handles. Include an assessment of getting on/off the treatment table as part of the intake assessment for safety.
How is your body feeling today?
Note for the service provider: Invite clients to use the bathroom before and after treatment. Ensure they feel comfortable interrupting treatment to use the bathroom, too, if needed.
Download this Sensory Sensitivity Questionnaire to use to attract more customers by understanding what makes them feel comfortable.
I went through my 70 + point sensory-friendly assessment checklist. This is a checklist I used when helping businesses and organizations become sensory-friendly.
In the massage therapy treatment room, Kerry had a beautiful large beach scene painting that was hidden in a corner. We moved it to a wall that clients would see immediately upon entering the treatment room. I wanted to create a calming space for clients. Surprisingly, many clients asked after the transformation if it was a new painting.
We also angled the massage therapy table and moved all of the supplies Kerry used to the same corner in the room, making it easier for her during treatments and helping the room appear less cluttered.
We removed a table from the room and placed it in the corner of her waiting room for her printer to make more space overall. So at one end of the room, we created a client space and at the other end of the room, we created a therapist space with the massage therapy table in the middle. Putting all of the things Kerry uses in treatment together means that she has to walk around less during treatment sessions. Walking around is more work for her, and massage therapy is a labor-intensive job. Accordingly, Kerry walking back and forth across the room can also be more disruptive for some clients during treatment sessions.
One of the biggest changes we made in the waiting room was moving Kerry’s desk. We moved it so that she was perpendicular to the window, important to decrease glare, but also so that she could see outside. Exposure to nature is important for the health and well-being of people at work. Including this sensory-friendly feature for her is just as important as the changes we were making for her clients.
We reorganized the seating in the waiting room to make it appear less cluttered. We put a chair for clients directly in front of her desk.
Kerry has a collection of meaningful décor, gifts from clients, and things she has picked up over the years. Sometimes all those personal mementos can make spaces feel cluttered. Therefore, we grouped “like” things together, such as all the plants in one spot, and created some uncluttered and clear spaces too. Sometimes people like to look at things and somethings they need a blank wall too.
Kerry has a water cooler and also offers her clients hot beverages. Having those on hand are important for the sense of interoception too. In other words, keeping clients well-hydrated is a good healthcare practice!
Back to Kerry’s desk. Part of being sensory-friendly is movement and that does not just mean the movement of clients. In addition, Kerry started using a laptop stand to help with the height of her screen so that she didn’t have to scrunch over it to see it with an external keyboard and mouse.
Once we completed these changes, Got Your Back, Kerry’s massage therapy practice is now listed in the Sensory Friendly Finder.
Did you know that you have more than five senses?
You have at least eight: vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste, balance, movement, and interoception. Interoception is your internal body sense, telling you if you are hungry, thirsty or in pain.
|Vision||Covering blinking lights on electronics.
Grouping décor and decorations
Creating uncluttered spaces
Highlighting calming décor
|Hearing||Having music playing in the background during treatment or not per client preference|
|Smell||Using scented or unscented products per client preference|
|Touch and temperature||Adjusting sheets and blankets to a comfortable weight
Use of hot packs and cold packs per client preference
|Taste||Having hot, cold, and flavored water on hand to drink|
|Balance||Footstool if needed for getting on/off the treatment table
Long-handled shoehorn at the entrance
Chair in the treatment room so clients can sit
Chair at the desk for clients
|Movement||Reorganizing the spacing of furniture in the waiting area
Reorganizing the spacing of furniture in the treatment room to
Clear pathways for both customer and staff
Ergonomic workstation adjustments to the staff desk
Table 2 sensory-friendly examples for a therapy practice or personal service.
Sign up for our Sensory Friendly Business newsletter to receive our Questionnaire for Healthcare or personal services that you can use in your practice as well as news and information about making your business or practice sensory-friendly.
Christel Seeberger worked as an occupational therapist for more than 25 years helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has sensory sensitivity herself; she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016. Sensory Friendly Solutions brings together people around the world looking for sensory friendly living and businesses and organizations who offer sensory friendly experiences.