A wellness treatment is not results-driven: you won’t necessarily see the effects of your wellness treatment as you would an anti-ageing facial or, more obviously, any kind of beauty treatment such as waxing or tanning. A wellness treatment will treat the whole person – mental, physical, environmental, spiritual, lifestyle, culture, creativity and connectivity – rather than try to fix one specific area or part of you.
Wellness is a wide-ranging umbrella term that covers anything non-medical to do with our health: nutrition, physical and mental health, spiritual connectivity (whatever that may mean for you), lifestyle, culture, creativity and relationships.
A wellness treatment often features an element from healing therapies around the world, such as Traditional Chinese or Thai Medicine (TCM and TTI). For example, your massage may include hot poultices, acupressure (using fingers instead of needles on points), vibrations from ringing gongs or prayer bowls (from Ayurvedic medicine) or crystals. It may also use herbal and botanical ingredients to cleanse your skin or calm your mind, such as the minerals in mud treatments, or herbal and botanical essences in massage oils. Your therapist may introduce elements of mindfulness, breathing exercises and other therapeutic methods commonly used to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which soothes hyper-aroused stress-induced states.
A wellness massage, a meditation session or yoga class may make you feel physically more relaxed, more in tune with and connected to parts of your body, and perhaps clear-headed enough to make better decisions.
Wellness treatments include:
Reiki (energy healing, from Japanese healing traditions)
Reflexology (the belief that points on your feet correspond to organs in the body)
Ayurveda (self-healing through massage, herbal remedies, yoga and diet)
Meditation (including forest bathing)
Traditional Thai massage
Hammams and mud treatments
Acupuncture or acupressure (based on TCM beliefs around energy channels being unblocked)
Sound baths (using soundwaves to achieve a relaxed theta state and vibrations to activate self-healing)
CBD oils and herbal supplements
Wellness treatments at a spa can be facials, body treatments or massages, as long as they feature one or more of the elements featured above, and that the aim is holistic rather than targeted.
Wellness treatments at spas are usually carried out by people trained in their specific field and have the relevant qualifications. Wellness therapists may be members of a professional body that aims to set guidelines for good practice but are not regulated by law.
Qualified wellness therapists include
Does a wellness treatment work?
A wellness treatment is unlikely to have any scientific evidence to back its effectiveness. This means the studies that have been carried out are small or inconclusive.
Some wellness practitioners believe their treatments can promote self-healing by improving the immune system and blood flow around the body, but there is no solid evidence to support this.
However, that is not to say a wellness treatment has no benefits. There are some studies that suggest a wellness massage, for example, can relieve stress or improve sleep. Since both stress and lack of sleep have been linked to serious health conditions, then a wellness treatment would be beneficial.
Often, the aim of a wellness treatment is to make you feel calmer and more relaxed, which is an entirely subjective evaluation. Do you feel less stressed after a wellness treatment than before? Is that due to the treatment or because you are at a spa? Maybe you would feel equally relaxed after a non-wellness treatment, or from just sitting in a hot tub gazing at a nice view.
Other outcomes of wellness treatments are even harder to quantify. How do you know if you feel “balanced” or “centred” or even “cleansed”?
Wellness treatments are often safer for people with sensitive skins or ongoing health conditions, such as cancer, because they are generally non-invasive* and soothing – although if you do have a health-condition, you should always check with your doctor and therapist before proceeding with any spa treatment. Some herbs may interfere with cancer drugs, for example.
*The exception being Hopi ear candling or acupuncture.
Six spa wellness treatments
Follow the links to the spa listing to read our in-depth reviews.
The Kloris Stress Melting Ritual with CBD Balm (90 minutes, £270) and Acupuncture with David Peters (60 minutes, £200). A massage with CBD oil and hot stones. David Peters, who delivers the acupuncture, is a TCM practitioner and delivers a bespoke holistic treatment with consultation.
The bespoke Gold Cellular Face Therapy (90 minutes, £160) is not your average anti-ageing facial, designed by product company ILA which is inspired by Ayurvedic techniques. The therapist uses singing bowls and chanting and begins with a marma point massage. The facial uses natural products and LED light.
The Pure Massage (90 minutes, £115) was created by therapist Beata Aleksandrowicz based on touch therapy, trigger points, healing energy as well as deep tissue massage. It is very deep and intense and uses Temple Spa products.
Garden Therapy at Carden Park Elemental Herbology Signature Treatment (90 minutes, £120). The treatment begins with a Five Element consultation form to find out whether your character is Wood, Earth, Fire, Metal or Water. The treatment will adapt herbal oils to create balance, and includes Thai herbal poultices and Thai massage style stretching.
Weavers’ House Mind Therapy Massage (60 mins, £150) offers something totally new. The spa therapist delivers a relaxing body massage while the (real, live) meditation specialist – Lizzie Falconer – sits in the corner and guides you on a hypno-mediation journey.