Jeannie Smith, owner and operator of the massage therapy practice Sanctuary of Hampton Roads, wants her clients to feel great all the time, not just after one of her treatments.
To accomplish this, Smith focuses on addressing the root causes that are responsible for the pain and discomfort that prompt people to seek her help. “I’m not a cheerleader; I’m a coach,” she says. Instead of administering her physical treatments and turning patients loose only to see them again when the pain returns, Smith takes the time and puts in the effort to talk with her clients about the steps they can take to permanently resolve their pain or to accomplish long-term goals like weight-loss or quitting tobacco products.
This full-service approach to wellness begins in the intake portion of her appointments. Right away, Smith likes to ask questions like “what was it like growing up for you?” This, she says, helps her clients to loosen up and relax from the start of their time together. From there, she builds relationships with people and coaches them through their difficulties.
“For most people, when they come in for their first appointment, I explain the connective tissue system to them in detail. What it does, how it becomes compromised, how to resolve issues and how to keep them from returning, including what they can do on their own. And then together we can set a goal for treatment,” Smith says. This intake meeting is an important part of Smith’s business, where she covers ground that will help her better serve her clients in every subsequent appointment. “It’s what makes me different and it’s my favorite part of what I do,” she says.
Best of all, Smith is not charging her customers for all of the additional help she provides. Smith’s clients pay for the physical treatments they receive, but her efforts to help them plan for better lives and the advice she gives on achieving goals comes free of charge.
Smith has been practicing her craft since 2002, and she opened Sanctuary of Hampton Roads in 2004. “We all need a safe place to go,” she says of why she named her business Sanctuary. Smith has practiced out of her Newport News location since 2004.
“The year 2004 was monumental for me,” Smith says, “because that’s when I began to explore the connection between the mind and body and how events and trauma that occur mentally can affect us in a physical way.” The practice of focusing on this connection is referred to as Body Memory Recall (BMR). Smith studied this connection vigorously and began incorporating into her practice techniques that not only relieve pain and tension, but also address and release the underlying trauma that is often the cause of chronic distress.
The practices of BMR that she uses to release trauma, which she says can be stored as energy in the body, include myofascial release, cranio-sacral therapies, visceral organ release and dialogue.
According to Smith, putting all of these physical modalities together with dialogue is something that sets her apart from others in her industry. That’s where she goes above and beyond for her customers. “I’m not a talk therapist,” she says, adding, “if somebody needs that kind of help to resolve issues, I have people I can refer them to. But when something that has an emotional component becomes a physical problem, that’s where I come in and where I can help.”
On starting a business, Smith says, “It doesn’t just happen overnight.” To attain success, according to Smith, new business owners must be willing to put in the work, which involves an emphasis on networking in the community and a willingness to work weekends and long hours, prioritizing the growth of the business.
“This is a great place to grow a business because there is a large and diverse population,” says Smith, but her love of the Hampton Roads area isn’t just practical; she’s also a history buff and greatly enjoys living and working in this area that was so impactful in the formative years of the United States’ development into and as a nation.
When she’s not working, Smith loves gardening. “I love to change something that is not so beautiful and gorgeous into something beautiful and gorgeous.” Smith’s love of gardening has ironic roots. As a kid, growing up in the Midwest, out in the country, when she got into trouble her punishment would often be to go pull weeds. Somehow, over time, that old punishment turned into something that she now loves to do. Her Midwest country childhood also instilled in her a lifelong love of nature and books.