Ocean Beach Therapist Opens Her “Office” at the Beach

by on January 28, 2016 · 3 comments

in Culture, Health, Life Events, Ocean Beach

OB Gina Smith mw 02Beachfront Therapist is Ready to Listen

By Matthew Wood

It’s Thursday afternoon, which means Gina Smith is at her normal post by the beach … waiting to talk.

The licensed therapist has made the grassy area at Veteran’s Plaza her office hours of sorts, bringing two chairs and a sign that says the “Listener Is In.”

“It’s a play on the Lucy, Peanuts thing,” she said. “I thought it was cool and fitting.”

Listening is exactly what Smith, 66, wants to do. She moved to OB in September of 2014 after coming to visit her son and newborn grandchild.

“I came to OB and was like, ‘Wait, did I step in a time warp?’” she said. “I love the community and the people.”

Before moving here, Smith spent 16 years in Connecticut as a neuro linguistic programmer and life coach. She still keeps her practice back east, finding ways to meet with clients from thousands of miles away.

“They didn’t want to stop working with me, so I said, ‘Let’s Skype and Facetime and Hangout and whatever they need.’”

I spent a recent afternoon with Smith perched out by the beach. She said she tries to bring low expectations to her “sessions.” The goal isn’t to try to cure anyone or drum up business. It’s just a chance for OB residents and others to talk in an informal setting.

“You can just come to sit with me and just shoot the shit,” she said. “This isn’t therapy. That’s what I do in my office.”

Indeed, Smith has an aura about her that encourages conversation. Her informal speaking style and easy-going personality make it inviting to talk.

OB Gina Smith mw 04

Photos by Matthew Wood

Smith says it all depends on the day how many people actually come up to talk, but she hopes it makes some sort of difference. She tells of one guy who came to talk which stands out in her mind, a social worker from Washington who was clearly having some problems.

“He was going to rehab the next day,” she recalls. “It was such a heart-wrenching story. He wants to work with autistic kids. We talked for a long time. I never saw him again. I don’t know how he was doing, but I hope for the best. I just do what I can do.”

Smith says that’s OK. The goal of her sessions isn’t necessarily to find any solution, just to offer a listening ear.

“It really varies,” she said. “There might be a stigma about sitting down and talking to me.”

If you want to get her excited, ask about her work with neuro linguistic programming. While NLP has been discredited by some, Smith is a firm believer in the practice.

“It’s a bit like hypnosis,” she said. “It’s retraining the brain to think in different pathways.”

One example she cites is a patient who had huge animal allergies.

“She said there’s no way to get rid of these allergies. I said that’s B.S. I worked with her and she’s getting an animal now. She’s able to bury her face in its fur. It’s amazing.”

Smith says her therapy might not be for everyone, but stands by the results.

“I understand totally when people are skeptical,” she said. “So was I. You have to make the suggestion to the body that allergens aren’t pathogens. It frickin’ works!”

But that type of work is reserved for the office. When she’s at the beach, Smith is just another OBcean with an ear who wants to bring the neighborhood together.

“I want to make a space available for when people try to unburden themselves,” Smith said. “I don’t tell anybody what to do or how to do it. I make a space.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mercy Baron OB Mercy January 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Gina is awesome! Nicest person and volunteers her time for many causes here in OB.

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Gina Smith January 28, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Thanks, OB Mercy! I do it cos I love it!!

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claudia jack January 28, 2017 at 9:23 am

Fantastic, I met Gina last year at Ocean Beach Holiday Festival Committee and she is a Great volunteer~~ Claudia (150% volunteer)

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