The psychology of spa

The science of ‘holistic’ wellbeing

Authored by: Jeremy McCarthy

The Routledge Handbook of Health Tourism

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138909830
eBook ISBN: 9781315693774
Adobe ISBN: 9781317437505


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The International Spa Association (ISPA) has defined spas as ‘places devoted to enhancing overall wellbeing through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit’ (ISPA, 2006). The spa industry’s promotion of ‘holistic’ healing across ‘mind, body and spirit’ is ubiquitous, but is typically mentioned without definition, detail or support from scientific study. Scientific research on spa services is scant and the majority of studies that have been done are based on the physical effects of therapeutic treatments on clinical populations. This gives us some insight into the effectiveness of spa treatments as a form of physical therapy, but does little to attest to the ability of a spa to impact diverse populations, even healthy ones, across mind, body and spirit. To truly validate this claim we need to review the literature from the field of psychology and see if contained within, we can find some of the keys to how a spa might have a healing effect on the mental and spiritual domains.

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