Anne Bramham shares her expertise in an illustrious career that spans from consultant, designer, trainer of spa therapies to founder of the Advanced Spa Therapy Education Certification Council (ASTECC). Her “constitutionally” based ASTECC curriculum is widely regarded as the benchmark for spa therapy education, and she is known for being the creator behind Spa Montage’s Surrender program.
What inspired you to create the Montage “Surrender” Program?
Drawing on my experience as a practitioner I knew how important it was to guide guests toward treatments that would deliver the desired result. At Montage, ‘Surrender’ serves as an invitation to experience spa’s therapeutic potential. It elevates a spa visit into one of personalized care.
Can you give us an insiders look at the importance/ benefits of this particular program and what sets it apart from other spa/wellness programming out there?
The program’s lifestyle and constitutional analysis are two of the indicators that allow us to determine what combination of biochemical elements and treatments will best support the guest’s needs. “Surrender” is a process of communication and touch that promotes self awareness while offering the guest an experience that is therapeutic and regenerative. A ‘whole body’ approach, the program carries the potential of gently shifting perception . With a better understanding of their ‘essential self’ guests usually become more proactive in their well being. The goal of “Surrender” is connection – connection with oneself and the environment we inhabit.
How can spas on a smaller scale incorporate a program such as this?
In developing a program like “Surrender”, training, expertise and intent are the single most important elements. Smaller properties are ideally suited for such an approach. They are more likely to cater to a local client base and be in a position to cultivate ongoing relationships . Having said that, as a large resort catering mostly to out of town guests, Montage has been very successful in attracting repeat clients who recognize the value of this highly individualized approach.
Can you define ASTECC’s definition of ” art and science of spa practice” and how this approach plays into the council’s training?
The science is the foundation. It’s an understanding of anatomy and physiology and the body’s specific response to specific stimuli. The art, on the other hand, is the application of this knowledge. It is the spirit in which services are performed, a willingness to be of service and to acknowledge the fundamental human need to be touched. Communicated with compassion, intention, and grace, it is the gift that brings meaning to our work.
What makes ASTECC different from others? Why do you think Spas should adopt this approach?
ASTECC speaks to spa’s therapeutic potential. Integrative in its approach the training provides the practitioner with the skills to asses and determine an appropriate course of action.
Education naturally introduces a new level of service. Therapists who know how to connect the the therapeutic dots discover a new level of meaning to their work. And so do the guests. This element of ‘added value” ( “ They really helped me with my sinus problems at XYZ Spa”) is what attracts and retains both a loyal clientele and serious minded practitioners. I recently spoke at a trade show and my audience was made up mostly of spa management. I asked them to describe in a word or two the spa experience and the words ‘pampering’ and ‘indulgent” were heard over and over again. We must do better than that. We must learn how to use the tools of our craft if we hope to prosper. Education is the key. It will open the door to the future.
ASTECC provides extensive, integrative training in four major disciplines, hydrotherapy, soft tissue therapies, Dr. Vooder’s MLD and Bio Chemical Elements – how did you come to select these four sections?
As a premise, let me say it is important that we view the body as a whole. We are a 70% water body in which approximately 50 trillion cells abide. The life of each cell is dependent on the efficient delivery system of nutrients and the removal of waste. And this, in effect, is the primary focus of ASTECC training.
In Hydrotherapy we teach that “Blood is the River of Life” and its constant flow (circulation) is vital for health and well being. Water is the greatest conductor of energy and Hydrotherapy is the most powerful tool in manipulating circulation.
In the soft tissue therapies, we address our internal linking system – that which connects from the derm to the core. Often referred to as an ‘organelle’ , loose connective tissue is the body’s life support system through which everything must pass. With specific touch we can elicit reflex actions via the dermis through the loose connective tissue to the organs by using pathways which share the same root nerve derivative.
Manual Lymph Drainage – Decongestive, analgesic, restorative and anti -inlammatory, MLD removes congested substances from the loose connective tissue. MLD encourages and promotes a healthy reflow system, reducing the distance between the cells and blood. MLD has a remarkable effect on the ANS (autonomic nervous system) inducing deep calm, restoring sleep patterns, aiding with digestive disturbances and dozens of other lifestyle and stress related conditions.
In commenting on Chemical Elements I’m compelled to quote one of my teachers, Bernard Jensen: “We are composed of the same chemical elements as the dust of the earth, the ocean and even the dust of the stars”. The focus of Chemical Elements is learning how to identify and apply the nutritional elements that replenish and support body and mind. Essential to our wellbeing, we find them in seaweed, muds, botanicals, food and other natural elements. Our dependency on these elements remind us of our essential connection with the world we inhabit.
What challenges, if any, do you see the spa and wellness industry facing in the future?
In so many ways the Aspen Global Summit spoke eloquently to the many challenges we are facing. Several of the speakers talked about the degradation of our environment and therein may lie our most challenging and profound opportunity. At ASTECC we teach that it is the environment of the cell that provides for life. In turn, it is the environment of the earth that provides a home for us. We, as a health industry, have a responsibility to shape and articulate internal and external “environmental consciousness”. The healthier we are, the more empowered we are. This is a goal worth committing to. We must dare to become who we really are.
What are your goals going forward and what are you most proud of accomplishing over the last five years?
My goal has always been to do the work I truly love. I stand on the shoulders of my students and my clients. They have taught me so much. They are the ones realizing the promise of spa and laying the groundwork for the next generation. I am also indebted to the properties I work with – especially Montage – who has done a remarkable job of demonstrating “the true potential” of Spa Therapies.