Health Soc Care Community. 2021 Aug 23. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13553. Online ahead of print.
Hairdressing is one of the few non-health professional occupations where workers physically interact with clients, who are often comfortable in confiding private information to them. Despite this, relatively little is known about how hairdressers understand and experience this role as informal confidants. This study aimed to address this using an in-depth qualitative approach to capture what hairdressers are hearing from clients, and how hairdressers respond and feel about supporting clients. Participant led interviews with prompt questions were conducted in South Australia in 2019, transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis. Results indicate clients disclose information about family, health, identity, mental health and women’s health. Important themes generated in relation to the role of hairdressers included: their need to have a client focus; blurring role boundaries; behaving like a therapist and, providing a place of safety and advice, while also maintaining confidentiality. Hairdressers reported feeling undervalued, emotionally drained, and in need of support in their role, but conversely, also reported having good job satisfaction. Further research is needed to examine whether hairdresser-client interactions may promote better mental and physical health outcomes for clients due to psychological buffering arising from the social support provided by hairdressers, as well as the impact on hairdressers and implications for their training.
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