Why playing the role of therapist is so important to regional hairdresser, Cher Ney

From relationship problems to mental health issues, hairdressers hear it all. Strathfieldsaye local hairdresser and business owner, Cher Ney, explains why playing the role of therapist is so important to her and her clients.  

Cher Ney always wanted to be a hairdresser. In fact, she would have left school early to pursue her ambition, but her parents encouraged her to complete her Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). Upon failing her final school year, she quickly realised what she had to do to get her dream back on track. 

Cher explains, “The government was offering a six-month pre-apprenticeship course to about 12 people and 120-odd [people] applied. I was very lucky to be able to start that. It was a passion that I always had. It just took me a little while to get started on it.”  

Eventually, Cher began working at her local hairdressing salon in Strathfieldsaye, about a 10-minute drive from central Bendigo in Victoria. When her husband was made redundant from his job in 2010, Cher decided to take stock of her family’s future and buy the salon from her employer. As a mother of two with one on the way, it wasn’t an easy decision—but one that made sense for her growing brood.   

“My husband and I discussed it and we said, ‘You know what? We need a really steady income, particularly with three children. So, we'll buy a business. We'll buy something that I love, that I'm passionate about, and we'll have that income.’”  

Ten years on, and like many other small business owners in recent times, Cher has felt the negative impacts of COVID-19 on her and her clients’ mental health. Fortunately, she understands and appreciates the value her salon adds to the regional community.   

Hairdressing is an industry that is going to survive pretty much anything—drought, flood, pandemic. It's always going to be needed.

Cher Ney

The power of listening when it comes to mental health  

Cher says, there are many similarities between her role and that of a therapist. In fact, The Hair Stylists Association (HAS) has recently pushed to provide Australian hairdressers with relevant training and support to better deal with clients’ mental health issues. Although, Cher admits, she doesn’t feel the need to offer advice.  

“I think the beauty of it for them is that we're not there to analyse their feelings. We're just there to listen to them. There's no judgement. That's not necessarily our job. It's just to hear what they're saying. Just to hear them.”   

Clients take solace in chatting with her about deeply personal matters, Cher explains.  

“In another salon I worked in, I had a lady that came in and her husband had passed away due to cancer. She told me that on the very first visit to the salon and she was a client for a few years before I moved away from that salon. I think it’s definitely therapeutic for some people to be able to talk to someone that doesn't know them person