Brief Look at Dr. Reinhard Bergel
Zahira J. Coll
I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with one of this
industry’s visionaries, Dr. Reinhard Bergel. We were able to look
back at the past 20 years and look forward to the next 20. He spoke
with passion about his mission, his vision and what he sees as the
future of the spa/salon/wellness industry.
Bergel was born in Salzburg, Austria and raised in Bavaria, Germany
where he received some of his university education. He came to United
States to continue his graduate studies and has since made California
has degrees from:
University of Cologne Germany
degree in Physiotherapy and Masters degree in Kinesiology from
the University of California Los Angeles specializing in cardiovascular
and orthopaedic rehabilitation.
in Exercise Science from the University of California-Berkeley.
Bergel has seen the fads and trends over the past 20 years, but
hasn’t always followed them. From the beginning he wanted to mix
spa therapy with health/medical practices. However the spa industry
was just in its infancy in North America and had yet to embrace
the European "Kur Therapy" (cure-therapy) concept.
1978, Dr. Bergel was fortunate to find a vacated fitness-massage-and
skin care center, which included an indoor swimming pool. This building
lended itself very nicely to start a European type Spa Kur Physiotherapy
facility, like those he was trained to operate in Europe. His Spa
Physiotherapy Practice specialized in Injury Therapy, Cardiovascular
Rehabilitation and Prevention. In the opinion of the North American
spa industry however, his spa was really considered more of a "Clinic"
than a "Spa".
this approach to wellness was not entirely new it was rather unique
for its time (1980). Even then the newly founded Spa Finders Magazine
did not know how to classify his operation, so his facility was
listed under "Specialty Medical Spa". This term was used
because the facility was attracting guests from around the world
who stayed for three to four weeks to experience a customized Spa
Kur therapy program.
Finders founder, the late Jeffrey Joseph, asked Dr. Bergel to write
the first glossary of terms for the magazine and train the Spa Finders
staff. In order for the magazine representatives to be able to handle
the phone call requests with more than a basic knowledge.
Bergel was convinced that his approach toward Spa-Kur Therapy was
the answer to his client’s needs, particularly since he had seen
such great therapy results from his personal experience in Europe,
where he was introduced to this field.
quickly realized the biggest problem he had was finding qualified
staff to perform the Spa Kur therapy treatments. Therefore, he had
to educate and train his staff in almost all of the European treatment
methods. So he brought experts from Europe to assist him. He also
documented and filmed the procedures as the training was being executed
for future use.
Bergel felt his materials, education and experience could benefit
the rest of the spa industry and decided to take the information
to the North American Massage Therapy convention.
of his time, few seemed to understand the benefits of these methods,
however at that same convention he met William Strunk, "who
was genuinely interested in my message" and invited him to
contribute to his then newly founded BODY THERAPY MAGAZINE. These
contributions continued when Strunk became DERMASCOPE Magazine’s
in particular has given Dr. Bergel the opportunity to further his
‘educational message’ by opening up other educational avenues that
lead to solid revenues and sound therapy for all concerned.
Dr. Bergel’s opinion the work of Strunk has moved the aesthetics
profession in the direction of body therapies and in a way overwhelmed
the profession with advancement in professional education.
Bergel states that he "has been totally surprised by how readily
open to change the aesthetics industry is" vs. "how comparatively
little changes the body therapy industry has been willing to take",
"leaving the technicians in the aesthetics industry to perform
services for which they were not formally trained".
his seminars and advance classes he has observed that while the
aestheticians may have a limited knowledge in anatomy and physiology
they have a great thirst for that knowledge, and other basic education
relevant to skin-and body care, which is imperative in understanding
and working with doctors. He is concerned that much of the knowledge
and training is derived from "product education" and that
there must be an independent process or format developed separate
from this product dependency as in other professions.
asked what he thinks will lead to the greatest growth for the industry,
Bergel said he feels that the skin and body care industry must govern
itself by professionals inside and outside the industry and possibly
merge with the national massage and body worker organization. Only
then will it achieve higher levels of acceptance by peers, professionals
has been my intention to contribute to this growth process all along
and hopefully have an impact on the actions and thinking of an umbrella
skin-and body care organization that addresses these points. Since
the dermatological industry reaches so many individuals it has the
greatest potential to have an impact on the ‘wellness and beauty’
can we accomplish all these goals and dreams, how can we really
bring the industry to the next level?
educational curriculum spectrum is necessary in order to make the
United States comparable with European educational and work requirements
in the spa industry. I see the trend and believe that there will
be great changes in the next 10 years in the spa, beauty and wellness
‘Aerobics" generation has become the ‘Pampering" generation
and we need to take them to the next step, ‘Wellness’. We must lead
our children and adolescents in this direction as well. The Health-Fitness-Wellness
industry has yet to accomplish its educational goals as evidenced
by the high rate of obesity due to inactivity and overindulgence.
need to become part of the Spa Kur Wellness culture and demonstrate
that health and fitness has to be acquired with hard work whereas
external beauty can be purchased. The day spa industry has taken
over the role of educating clients from the fitness industry and
has the opportunity to influence the consumer in this direction
destination resorts and ‘fat farms’ have fulfilled their role and
now the day spa has the opportunity to fill the physical and spiritual
needs of consumers that do not have time and funds to travel to
far away destinations. However, the industry has a history of being
behind in adapting to the customer’s demands and needs. Therefore,
instead of being proactive, the industry has allowed the customers
to dictate where the industry is going next. We need to analyze
what the new generations are going to need from the spa industry
and adapt our services to it. "We have to be more active in
providing the education in health and wellness that the schools
and home life are not providing."
view of the rapid development of the industry, one of the most frequently
asked questions of Dr. Bergel is: "how much does it cost to
build a spa" and "what size of facility is required to
make it financially profitable". So Dr. Bergel’s company (H.E.A.T.
Inc) has developed a rather detailed unique formula, which has helped
planners to incorporate services for the marketplace.
salon expansions have dominated the scene but more and more facilities
have evolved to include fitness, yoga, elaborate water treatments
and relaxation rooms as well as physical therapy operations. The
health insurance industry has become interested in facilitating
preventive treatment payments encouraging their members to pay more
attention to good health maintenance which saves everyone money
in the long run.
order to expand this concept, more cooperation in educational programs
is needed between the day spa and the allied health professionals,
"after all most of the treatments are described as ‘therapy’
such as aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, pelotherapy,
mission of H.E.A.T. says Bergel is to help facilities expand their
menu of services and provide a curriculum in order to bridge spa
and health professions with continuous education seminars addressing
all the industry issues.
is our goal to assist the industry well into the next level by providing
the owners, managers and providers with the tools they need."