The hair-dresser-as-therapist trope endures for a reason: There’s some element of truth to it. Having your hair cut or styled is intimate, peels back insecurities, and requires a certain level of calm professionalism. Sounds a lot like an hour in the therapist’s office, doesn’t it?
“Salon professionals are a really nurturing group,” says Kristie Paskvan, the founder of Chicago Says No More, a non-profit focused on domestic violence. “They have this unique time that they spend with their clients.”
To help hairdressers better serve clients dealing with emotional trauma, Paskvan and Chicago Says No More worked with the state of Illinois to create a law, mandating that all stylists complete awareness training in domestic abuse and sexual assault. The idea is straightforward and powerful: Stylists with domestic abuse training will be able to identify and serve clients in need of support. It’s a new line of defense in a country where domestic violence affects one out of three women.
“I knew from early on that I was going to use my talents to help victims of domestic violence,” says George Gonzalez, founder of George the Salon, who is excited about the measure. “My mother was in an abusive relationship and as a young child witnessing that, I know the long term effects of what that can do to a family.”
In order to train stylists to meet the new requirement, Chicago Says No More held free sessions at America’s Beauty Show. This gave stylists the chance to deepen their knowledge of domestic abuse and understand its far-reaching effects.
“I think it was a great opportunity to have a group of people be more aware,” Paskvan says.
That new level of awareness among salon professionals may not be exactly like therapy — but it can certainly help to serve those in need.