Therapy Sessions With A Hairdresser

by laeti.y.felix on February 10, 2015 - 12:44am

          Sometimes in life, we all need someone to talk to and to give us some objective advice about things that go on in our lives.  But throughout our lives, it becomes more and more difficult to find someone who we trust enough to talk about our problems and would be able to give some objective advice to us.  Often we would entrust a professional, such as a therapist or psychologist, to help us unravel our deepest secrets.  But many people are unable to afford the recommended amount of sessions that are needed to help get everything off their chest.  There may be others who are unable to fully tell (or entrust) the professional with everything that goes on in their lives.  But there is one profession that is often overlooked when it comes to getting therapy.  The field of hairdressing may do wonders for people aesthetically but it can often also be a therapeutic experience for others.

          In the article written in The Ottawa Citizen on November 19th, 2005 by Diane Stabel titled “Hair cut: $50. Therapy: Priceless: How hair stylists became our most trusted therapists”, the author explains her experience of going to a new hair stylist.  Stabel explains that despite the fact that it was her first time going to that hair stylist, she poured out intimate information to the stylist that even her own friends weren’t aware of.  According to Alison Landry (mentioned in Stabel’s article), an employee of Allora Hair & Esthetics in Edmonton, she says that if an individual entrusts a hair stylist with their appearance, people can entrust the stylist in other areas of their lives as well.  Landry also mentions how it may be easier for people to entrust the stylist with sensitive aspects of their lives because the stylist typically doesn’t know anyone from the client’s life, therefore offering a form of objectivity.

          In “Therapy on the Hair Chair” by Bill Sass, published in The Edmonton Journal on April 20th, 1992, it is extensively explained how important it is for a hairdresser to master the skill of listening to the clients, tune into their emotions, and to give an opinion when need be.  The article points out that of everyone a client surrounds themselves with in their lives, the one person who remains consistently there no matter what the client’s emotional state is, is their hairdresser.  No matter how many times a person goes to the hairdresser, whether it is every week to every two to three months, a hairdresser would be the ground in a person’s rollercoaster of a life.  But this would be under assumption that an individual has one hairdresser they frequent, rather than going to any hairdresser they happen to walk by.

          In Sass’s article, it is remarked at how people often reveal more to their hairdresser (and maybe even accept advice from them) rather than their own therapist.  It is hypothesized in Sass and Stabel’s articles that with the gentle, non-threatening and intimate touch of a hairdresser, it is another aspect that also builds a sort of connection between the clients and the stylist.  The touch that the authors refer to is the touch the clients experience when a stylist is washing a their hair or caressing the hair gently as it is being cut, dyed, washed or styled.  Something about the soothing touch builds a stronger energy and connection between them.  By building such a strong and friendly connection, many clients tend to come back to experience the same kind of good feelings as they had initially grown accustomed to.  A hairstylist often obtains a large clientele, not because they are gifted in technical ability, but because of their personalities and their ability to connect with each client on a different level.

          In my experience as a hairdresser, people frequented the salons for a variety of reasons.  There were many people who wanted to just talk about things while feeling like they’re being pampered because they’re lives isn’t going so well.  There were others who simply wanted to upgrade their looks.  Other clients would ask if I, or my co-workers, would be willing to be matchmakers and set them up on dates with other clients we had.  There were also some clients who would come to the salons to celebrate certain milestones in their lives, such as new relationships, a graduation, an upcoming wedding, etc.  Sometimes (in my experience) there were clients who would come to the salon to celebrate a finalized divorce!  There were other clients who had absolutely no self-esteem, or were very depressed, and would come to the salons every few days or every week to have their hair done.  They would often admit that the attention hairstylists give them flatters them a lot and makes them happy.  The attention they desire most are always the small things, like having someone listening to them intently, getting eye contact as often as possible while they speak, receiving the utmost attention to their outer beauty while getting advice for their personal lives, and etc.  These would be things that they would not get on a regular basis.

          I think that what Stabel and Sass had written about in their articles is true in many respects.  Quite often, after the first physical contact a client has with a hairdresser (which is usually a hair wash), that’s when a client would decide if they can trust the stylist or not with personal details.  In my experience, the reason why is because the client can tell if they like and/or trust a stylist by the way the stylist touches them and handles their hair.  If the client is a sensitive person, they tend to prefer a stylist who will be very gentle with them.  If the stylist is too aggressive with hair, the client might be turned off and not particularly be willing to open up about themselves to the stylist.  This might be in contrast to clients who gravitate to people who are assertive, stand their ground and are brutally honest about their opinions.  Typically clients who prefer such characteristics tend to open up more to a stylist who is unafraid to be rough with the hair, who isn’t afraid to aggressively rub off the hair dye stains off of someone’s skin, and etc.

          Quite often, though, people have a misconception that if they reveal some scandalous or quirky personal details about themselves or their lives, the hairdresser will share the information with their co-workers after work.  Quite often, this is not the case.  The majority of hairdressers don’t gossip about their clients to anyone.  But on the other side of the coin, if a client is going to the hairdresser and the hairdresser is unable to get a sense of what type of person the client is, the hairdresser is unable to give a haircut that may suit the client’s personality.  Therefore the client may leave unhappy about their hair, not knowing that had they revealed more about what kind of person they were, they would have probably gotten a better haircut.  This doesn’t mean that the client has to talk about their entire lives.  It just means that the hairdresser might need to know basic things such as what kind of job the client has (if they need to have a professional looking haircut or not), if the client is a parent (usually if a parent, they don’t have much time to get their hair done on a regular basis), if the client is a timid person (if a woman, the haircut would usually have bangs to hide the face), etc.

          There are so many things that hairdressers do that people don’t even realize.  A lot of people don’t realize how personal a conversation may get when a client sits in their hairdresser’s chair.  Most hairdressers, even myself, don’t realize how much of an impact we have on people’s lives.  We don’t realize that we are the shoulder that many people run to, the listener that people need to talk to and the confidence booster that is, in some ways, the solution to the entire ‘therapy’ session.