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Trio taps senses with a new type of therapy

MIDDLEBURY — Spas are one barometer of a community’s mental and physical health, and last winter the staff at Waterfalls Day Spa, on the lower level of the Middlebury Inn, saw that their clients were suffering.
“Last winter was brutal,” says Sara Daly, one of the spa owners. “It was so icy; we noticed an increase in fractures. People didn’t want to be in Vermont.”
So Daly, along with Waterfalls aesthetician and co-owner Laurie Webb, and massage therapist Sarah Kuhl, got to work.
“We said, ‘Let’s do something different,’” Daly explained. Their spa clients wanted an escape, “so we brought the journey to them.”
Beginning in March 2014, the three women began experimenting with various therapeutic techniques. This November, they launched the result: a brand new spa treatment called A’chromatherapy.
A’chromatherapy combines color therapy, aromatherapy and visualization in a 50-minute massage session. The overall experience engages multiple senses — sight, smell and touch — in order to reduce stress. “People respond to all different modalities,” Kuhl said.
Color therapy taps into the emotional reactions elicited by various colors. A’chromatherapy clients begin each session by selecting an image from a “Journey Palette”: seven photographs of nature scenes, each featuring a particular shade from the color spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.) These seven colors are associated with certain bodily functions, emotions and personality types. (Red, for instance, is the color of the circulatory system and excitement.)
Aromatherapy uses inhaled aromas to decrease stress hormones and stimulate endorphins. Every color in the A’chromatherapy spectrum has an accompanying body lotion, body/room mist, and body oil made from herbal extracts and natural essences, with scents like “Honeycomb & Twig” (Green), and “Pepper & Peony” (Orange.) The A’chromatherapy products are 96 percent natural and 61 percent organic, the Waterfalls staff claims.
Having chosen the color theme that will guide the A’chromatherapy session, the client enters a massage room where LED lights around the ceiling are turned to the color of their choice. As the client lies on the massage table, an A’chromatherapy practitioner mists the room with the session’s scent, and then talks the client through a visualization of the image they selected. Daly said she realizes that this guided visualization might seem “‘out there,’” but added, “Visualization is a proven technique; the most successful people use it.” She cites the example of golfers, who visualize the trajectory of their shot before taking it.
After visualization comes the massage, using A’chromatherapy body lotion and oil.
At the end of each session, the client retires to a “Relaxation Room,” to ponder a card of their image printed with various insights based on the principles of color therapy. Every client also receives a string bracelet in their session’s color, and a small meditation card of their image to take away; these serve as tools for practicing visualization on their own.
Kuhl says that clients approach her on the street to show her that they’re still wearing their bracelets.
“They feel like members of ‘a special, secret club!’” she said.
When Waterfalls began offering A’chromatherapy, the treatment used only four colors, and essential oils purchased elsewhere. Clients raved about the treatment immediately, and encouraged the spa owners to patent it.
“The community has given us really good feedback,” Daly said.
PHYSICAL PRODUCT
The trio called a patent attorney, who advised them to create an actual, physical product. Webb and Kuhl located a supplier: Pravada, a manufacturing company in Ontario, Canada, that specializes in natural lotions. They tested samples of lotions and oils until they were satisfied. Meanwhile, Kuhl, whom her colleagues call “the creative director,” developed the label design, written copy, and a website.
“We wanted to get all our ducks in a row,” Kuhl said.
The entire process took eight months, during which the three women continued their full-time jobs at Waterfalls.
“When you’re passionate about something, you find the time,” Daly states.
All A’chromatherapy products are packaged in Canada, but Daly, Kuhl and Webb are committed to using local labor whenever possible. New Haven-based 802 Print and Marketing produces their labels and cards, and Cheryl Burnham of Cacklin’ Hens in Middlebury is helping to design the string bracelets.
The complete A’chromatherapy line of products is now trademarked, and began retailing in mid-November at Waterfalls Day Spa and www.achromatherapy.com. Now, its creators are thinking big.
One goal is to market A’chromatherapy to spas nationwide. The A’chromatherapy Pro Spa Kit includes all 21 body products, a “Journey Palette,” seven in-spa color cards, 40 take-away meditation cards and bracelets, and an instruction manual. Daly, Kuhl, and Webb planned to promote A’chromatherapy at spa conferences in New York City and Las Vegas. They’ve also applied to be on the entrepreneurial reality TV show “Shark Tank.” Their long-term vision is to have A’chromatherapy-accredited spas throughout the country.
But spas are only part of the creators’ vision for their product; they’re particularly excited about A’chromatherapy’s potential for use in clinical medical settings.
Before they founded Waterfalls Day Spa eight years ago, Webb and Daly were co-workers at Addison County Home Health & Hospice; Webb was a speech pathologist and Daly was a physical therapist. They recall the stress of working in healthcare, and believe that A’chromatherapy offers “something to escape that (stress.)”
This past fall the three women were invited to attend Porter Hospital’s first annual “Raise Your Spirits Wellness Fair,” where they ran a small case study of how A’chromatherapy might function in a working health care environment. Porter staff — including doctors and nurses in scrubs — entered the A’chromatherapy tent, picked an image from the “Journey Palette,” and were guided through a short visualization and a brief treatment with A’chromatherapy products. They rated their stress levels before and after treatment.
Daly said the results were impressive: 42 people reported a 100 percent reduction in stress; the average person reported a 67 percent stress reduction. Written feedback included: “I feel like you gave me more energy,” and “I feel like I don’t have a care in the world now.”
“I think people were shocked by it,” Daly said. “They didn’t want to leave.”
According to Laurie Borden, Porter Hospital’s administrative assistant for public relations and development/spiritual care services, the A’chromatherapy tent was rated one of the fair’s top exhibits by attendees.
“It was a huge success,” she affirmed.
FOR HEALTH CARE
Webb believes that making A’chromatherapy available to healthcare providers could decrease work stress, and increase productivity and patient care: “(A’chromatherapy) centers you so that you can do your job.”
Porter’s Borden agrees.
“We’re in the early stages of planning ahead for next year how (Porter Hospital) might be able to provide (A’chromatherapy) for our staff and volunteers so that we can allow them to be as healthy as our patients,” she said.
The A’chromatherapy team also has experience as patients: Kuhl has Lyme disease, and Daly is diabetic. Both women spend ample time in waiting rooms, which they describe as “very anxious.” They each began using aspects of A’chromatherapy to manage their own stress while awaiting treatment.
Plans to study whether A’chromatherapy could reduce stress in patients are in the works. The trio is scheduled to conduct a case study at a local dentist’s office, using A’chromatherapy prior to treatment; they’ve also been approached by an OB/GYN practice.
Kuhl’s dream is that A’chromatherapy  “becomes a positive force.” Added Daly, “How can we reach people to de-stress them? That’s really one of our missions.”
As A’chromatherapy becomes a strong player in both the spa and medical industries, its creators anticipate the brand branching off into its own entity, with staff dedicated entirely to A’chromatherapy. In the meantime, Webb says, “We’ll continue to develop it; we’re really in the beginning stages.”
“Go big, or go home!” proclaimed Daly.

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