We share the story of a DIY 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:
- It helps to attract more customers, and
- It improves the experience of current customers
Sensory-friendly solutions can be no or low cost
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 services can be simple. Ask potential customers what their sensory preferences are, and then match them as best you can during service delivery.
Becoming sensory-friendly attracts new customers
Here the story of Kerry Legere Jenkins, a Registered Massage Therapist in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada and a sensory-friendly transformation at her massage therapy practice called Got Your Back.
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.
Another key point was that nothing new was purchased as part of this project. DIY sensory-friendly changes would be made on the spot where possible.
Kerry first thought about the clientele she saw for treatment in her massage therapy practice. Of the list of underlying conditions known to contribute to sensory sensitivity, she 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.
Below is a sample questionnaire for Kerry to use as 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.
Sample sensory sensitivity questions for 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?
Would you like your eyes shaded? With a warmed shade?
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 like scented or non-scented oils?
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.
Touch and Temperature
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 the moist heat or a hot pack?
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.
Sensory-friendly checklist action examples
In the massage therapy treatment room, Kerry had a beautiful large beach scene painting that was hidden in a corner. She moved it to a wall that clients would see immediately upon entering the treatment room. That created a more calming space for clients. Surprisingly, many clients asked after the transformation if it was a new painting.
Kerry also angled the massage therapy table and moved all of the supplies she used to the same corner in the room, making it easier for her during treatments and helping the room appear less cluttered.
She 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, she created a client space and at the other end of the room, and she 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 disruptive for some clients during treatment sessions.
Spaces can be sensory-friendly for Kerry, the employer, too!
One of the biggest changes made in the waiting room was moving Kerry’s desk. She 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 she made for her clients.
Reorganizing the seating in the waiting room to make it appear less cluttered. And she 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, she 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.
Attract more customers by making changes like this for a sensory-friendly space
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.