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Physique has partnered with Katherine Creighton Crook from My Massage Mentor, to offer you a complete guide to setting up your first premises. Katherine has opened 3 locations in the last 8 years for her own clinic in London and has always used Physique for the bulk of her clinic needs.
In this five-part guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to set up your first clinic room. Please note this guide is specifically for therapists who do some type of bodywork, from physio/osteo/sports therapy to aromatherapy/hot stone massage/holistic massage. You can also download a printable checklist to help you keep track of what you’ve got so far and what you need, by clicking here.
For your convenience, we’ve included links to various items in this article. If you’d like further support in growing your client base, details about My Massage Mentor are at the end of the article, or you can click here to go to their website.
Even if you already have your room set up, jump to section 5 with some optional extras - there may be a couple of ideas you haven’t thought of for your room.
Well, here you are.
About to embark on quite an adventure.
Starting out as a therapist on your own?
Opening up in your very own space?
There is quite a lot to think about, isn't there?
If you’re looking for therapy room ideas you’re in the right place!
There's enough for you to figure out on your own through trial and error.
Showing up on your first day and realising you forgot to buy towels won't be one of them.
Here's what we will cover:
Part 1: Things to Consider Before You Start Spending
Part 2: The checklists - minimum and optional extras
Part 3: How to choose your furniture & therapy supplies
Part 4: The extra bits and bobs that are easily forgotten
Part 5: Choosing your extras
There are two main things to consider before you start spending:
Are you getting this?
Depending on where you’re renting, you may have 90% of what you need provided, or be starting with four blank walls and a floor.
Before you go through the rest of this guide, cross out anything on our list that you know is included with where you’re renting out.
If you're not sure check with the place you're renting from.
For the purposes of this guide, we’re assuming you’re starting with an empty (or almost empty) room.
As mentioned, this guide is for therapists offering some type of bodywork.
In the bodywork spectrum, you can be doing anything from super-relaxing, float-away-in-a-cloud massage to deep, sweat-through-the-exercises rehab.
Your space needs to reflect your offering.
Fairy lights and flickering LED candles set a whimsical mood for relaxation clients looking to escape from the world, but might make Joe-the-ACL-repair client anxious about your credentials.
For every decision you make about the clinic, from massage table to what you put on the wall, ask yourself this question:
Does this make sense for the style of treatment I’ll be offering/ the identity of my business/brand?
Here's the checklist for a blank room
It’s divided into ‘you really need this’ and ‘nice to have/down-the-line extras’.
The rest of this guide explains what to consider when choosing each piece - some obvious, some you probably didn’t think of (and may not have until you realise you need it, which is often too late).
Don’t forget to tick off any of the items you know are already provided where you’re renting (if any) before continuing.
Things like choosing a couch seem easy.
Until you search ‘massage couch’. Do you get a new one? A used one? A hydraulic one? A lightweight one?
Let’s start with that.
Obviously, if you’re doing bodywork you need a massage table or a treatment table.
You basically need to answer these three questions:
Portable or Hydraulic/electric?
Big and cushy or minimal/clinical?
New or used?
While a hydraulic table will make certain techniques and working with certain populations easier, I’ve worked with a portable table (i.e. one that’s height adjustable but not height adjustable DURING the treatment) for 10 years and have not missed it.
If you’re just starting out, you should be fine with a portable table, unless you’re working in one of these three situations:
On the other hand, I know a lot of practitioners swear that a hydraulic table saves their posture and makes a lot of their techniques a lot easier so if that’s what you really want, I say go for it.
Just bear in mind that if you don’t have the money for it, it doesn’t mean you’re offering sub-par treatments.
Let’s be honest - you already know which of these you want.
You’ve either trained somewhere that encouraged you to use those comfy, wide wood-framed tables so you can get up on the table and your clients have a ton of space for their arms.
Or you trained somewhere with narrow aluminium tables that are easy to manoeuvre and easier to work across the table without getting on it.
Before you get any table though...
Check the size of your room.
By actually measuring it.
Before you buy any massage table:
If you can swing it, a new table will last you longer and you’ll get more life than out of a used one.
(especially considering you just don’t know for sure - unless your table comes with a full ‘service history’ how old that table or is how respectfully it’s been used)
But if you’re really strapped for cash, a used table is a good option when you’re just starting out.
Your first few months aren’t likely to be extremely hectic.
Just plan on purchasing a new one when you get a bit busier.
True story: I started with a used table that was nice and comfy and it lasted me for about a year, when I thought, hmm… I’ll get a nice, new Physique table… this one, actually… at CAMExpo.
As I came back from CamExpo that day, one of my therapists who had been working that day texted me to tell me that our used massage table had cracked - just when he was leaning on it - and was totalled.
Thank goodness that hadn’t happened with a client on it!
The point of the story is, fate might not be so kind to you as to wait for your used table to break until you’ve purchased a new one, so being proactive in this case is always a good idea)
You’ll really want a stool with wheels in pretty much every therapy setting. We use the Therapy Stool at our clinic and it’s served us well over the years.
You should also have somewhere for your clients to sit.
Some clinics choose cushy chairs like these bowl ones (link or picture), but they take up a lot of space in a room AND can be hard for mobility-compromised people to use.
You need a space for clients to put their rings, wallets, etc, that’s a good place for any promotional materials and your tissues.
If you get a drawer/shelf side table, you’ll have a piece that functions as both a table and storage (perfect if you need to make the best use of your space).
And of course, hangers or hooks to hang up coats or other clothes (for the ones who don’t just throw everything on the floor!).
And almost every therapist will have a few extras they need.
While it would be impossible for me to list every therapy supply that a therapist might need depending on their therapy here, to make sure you’re not forgetting anything you need to try this trick:
Mentally walk through a treatment with your client, from start to finish, and write down anything you use in your mind when going through the treatment. That’s the best way to make sure you don’t forget any essential therapy supplies.
Now that we’ve got the big stuff out of the way, it’s time to look at all the bits and bobs you need for a well-equipped room.
Believe it or not, this is actually more important to go through than the furniture section.
Most practitioners aren’t likely to forget they need a massage table or a stool.
But hand soap? Or a clipboard? It’s these little things that often get overlooked in the rush of getting everything set up.
OBVIOUSLY, couch roll.
While there may be a small number of practitioners who do a new set of couch cover after every client, couch roll is a must for most practitioners.
Make sure you get the 50cm wide roll - the shorter one is not for massage tables.
Most clinic supply companies offer a discount if you order over a certain amount (like Physique at 12 it’s £2.99, 24p less per roll) but make sure you know where you’ll put the extra rolls before you order them or your room will look like a couch roll tornado rolled through - couch roll -ageddon).
Hand towels are great because they can function as hair covers, foot covers, chest covers, AND for drying your hands.
How many to order
When ordering towels, you should estimate how many clients you’re likely to see a week, and therefore how many towels, and start with that –
You'll probably need more later, but there’s no point in ordering 20 towels if you’ll only be seeing 5 clients a week when you first start building your client base!
While this is kind of true for all cloth products at your clinic, it’s especially true for towels.
Choose a colour, and stick with it.
While a rainbow of towel colours might seem like a good idea, you only need to have your haircut in a salon that uses every colour under the sun to know how unprofessional it looks.
Our clinic chose navy because it’s easier to find couch covers and bolsters that are navy vs any other colour, but you can have one colour couch covers and another colour towels, as long as all the towels are the same colour.
White is another popular choice, but if you use any sort of oil in your practice, you may want to avoid it. Oil stains white towels really easily, and oil-stained white towels never really look clean.
Whatever colour you choose, commit to that colour for both large towel bath sheets and hand towels.
Generally speaking, if you have antibacterial liquid hand soap you don’t need hand sanitiser.
The only exception to that is if you do any on-site massage where you wouldn’t be near a sink.
Trust me when I say this - you’ll be happy you have it the next time a client walks in with muddy shoes or has a nosebleed lying prone in the face cradle (yes, it happens).
And, don’t forget a rubbish bin and bin liners (sounds obvious, but often overlooked).
If you order business cards with space for appointments on the back, you’ll have a dual-purpose business card.
Having one or two clipboards mean you have a backup if a client breaks one and you won’t have to give them a book to lean on to fill out their intake form.
Always plan to have about 20 pens - even when you always ask for them back from clients they go missing easily.
Good storage is the difference between a streamlined, clean looking clinic and one that looks messy and distracting.
The storage you need will depend on the space you have.
some rooms come with a sink so you have under-sink storage, others have built-in bookshelves.
You’ll need to store any paper related to clients in a secure space - you can buy one or two-drawer filing cupboards that lock, or take documents home (but make sure wherever they’re kept they’re secure as per data protection legislation).
The size of filing storage you need will depend on whether you plan to keep electronic or paper treatment notes for your clients.
Remember that you need an information security policy to be in line with data protection legislation, and a lockable filing cabinet is a good part of that policy.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out just taking cash - I ran my clinic as a cash business for the first year or so.
The truth is, most people expect businesses to be able to take card payments nowadays.
You can order a card machine and set up a merchant account from your bank, or you can use PayPal or iZettle for mobile card payments.
The key here is to do your research and see what all the charges are - usually, there’s a cost for the card machine, a percentage taken of sales and a flat fee you pay every month, or some combination of that.
Payment transaction fees must be included in your prices - as of earlier in 2018 businesses are not able to charge card payment fees on top of published prices, unless you charge a fee for all payments you take.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about some extras that you don’t need to have the moment you open your clinic, but you should put on your list for later down the line.
The pictures you choose can really improve the mood, or open up the room.
My first clinic room didn’t have anything but an anatomy poster on the wall for the first year or two, and once I added two canvases in-line with my clinic’s identity, it really opened up the place and actually made the room feel bigger.
A mirror is important if you do any sort of assessment with your clients - it’s nice for them to see what changes before and after. Having a reflective surface where people can un-smudge their mascara or re-arrange their hair before they leave will be appreciated.
If you have internet, you may not need to purchase anything for your room as there are services where you can stream license-free music.
Otherwise, an mp3 player or CD player with a selection of CD’s works just as well. Don’t forget: certain music requires you to pay for a music license if you play music in your place of business - this includes playing the radio.
If you choose license-free music, you won’t need to pay any license.
Your client’s comfort should always be a priority for you - even if you’re doing some of the more intense bodywork.
Here are some options you can use to make your client’s experience a more comfortable one:
Warm, fleecy blanket
Putting a fleece couch cover underneath your normal couch cover adds a layer of cushion that makes your massage table a lot more comfortable.
If appropriate, a large fleece blanket or comfy duvet is a snuggly way to help your client feel nurtured - especially if you have clients that tend to have drops in temperature during treatments or cold.
If you really want to wow your clients, you could try having a heated blanket underneath your couch cover.
It’s especially good for winter months or if you’d like to warm up the muscles in the other side of the body while you’re working on one side.
Just remember to exercise the normal amount of caution when using anything electronic, e.g. having your electronic items PAT tested each year and check the temperature before clients get on the table to ensure it’s not too hot for them.
Now you know all the things you need to set up your very own clinic room.
While there may be other things you need to add for your own specific therapy (like, ultrasound for physio, needles for acupuncture, hot stones for hot stone massage) this guide should give you the basics to get started with and make sure you have what you need on your first day.
Here’s the checklist again if you’d like to download a printable version.
All the best on your exciting journey... now get out there and get started.
This guest post was provided by Katherine Creighton Crook, the founder & principal therapist at Leyton Sports Massage and creator of My Massage Mentor.
My Massage Mentor helps massage therapists who want to spend more time with clients they love and less time working on the business side of things get there faster.
For more info visit My Massage Mentor