- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) - When Sherrie Smith turned 36, she had no idea she would find a new life path after receiving a single massage - but she did.

Smith admits to always having an intuition when it comes to people. When she met a massage therapist who shared that quality, a new career field opened up.

“She had a natural touch, I felt connected to her and I knew I could replicate that experience for someone else,” Smith said.

She said she fell in love with “the body work and the therapeutic aspect” of the field. So, at 38, she went back to school for a new career. In 2006, she attended a ninemonth course at the Louisiana Institute of Massage. After graduating and earning her license, she worked a chair at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans for eight months.

“Chair massages at a casino are basically neck rubs,” Smith said. “The players are still in the game and pay you no attention.”

At the same time she started room massages at the Le Pavillion hotel, where she would set up a table right in a hotel room for a client. She charged $1 a minute for chair massages and $140 an hour for room visitations.

“Honestly, I got paid more doing the chairs, but that kind of massage is really hard on your body,” Smith said.

A year later, Smith was given the opportunity to work for herself and have her own office. She opened a massage studio at Premiere Fitness Gym in New Orleans and got to focus more on the private clientele. She worked there for a year.

“It was great experience,” Smith said. “There were so many different types of people with different types of issues.”

It wasn’t long before Smith realized that it wasn’t relaxation massage she was called to but more therapy and medical massage.

“I liked addressing issues - making changes and seeing changes,” she said.

So she went back to school. She attended the Advanced Massage Training Center of New Orleans for a 240hour course on myofascial and orthopedic massage while continuing to work at the gym.

“The great thing about massage is you are never going to know everything,” she said. “There is always a new technique or a new avenue of massage to try.”

Smith has now been a massage therapist for eight years. The field has a quick burnout rate, but she said she loves every minute of it.

“This career field has given me a chance to be a small business owner,” Smith said. “I’ve never had to work for anyone but myself. To me that’s worth it.”

Smith moved to Greenwood two years ago, about two years after she advanced her training. She has worked at Park Avenue MedSpa doing therapeutic massage ever since.

“I still do relaxing massage, but the excitement is on this side of the spectrum,” Smith said. “You get to see the difference you are making.”

For her, every client who walks in is a potential friend, and every issue is a challenge they meet together.

“We know what is going on in each other’s lives, and we work through it together,” Smith said.

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Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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