Janna Schaefer brings a healing touch to people across Colorado and those in developing nations such as Nepal.
Schaefer is a fourth-generation Durangoan who has a range of interests: She is the owner of Healing Touch of Durango, a holistic energy-based practice, and is involved in the organization of several nonprofits and support groups in the Four Corners.
She is a mother of five and has a long history of involvement with military families: Her husband, Steve, served in the Gulf War, and her father was a World War II and Korean War veteran.
After her husband died in 1993 as a result of his service, Schaefer wanted to find a way to help other military families, and anyone else who might be suffering.
“I always had a heart and passion for military and their families,” she said. “I wanted to help others that are hurting in some way.”
Schaefer started working with Disabled American Veterans, coordinating drivers to take veterans to and from the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque.
She joined the TAPS Peer Mentor Program, acting as a mentor for other military spouses who lost a husband or wife, which she continues today.
Schaefer is also the co-founder of the first Colorado chapter of the Blue Star Mothers, which provides support for mothers who have sons or daughters in the military.
Through Blue Star Mothers of Durango, Schaefer helps organize Colorado Gold Star Parents Weekend, now in its 13th year.
The annual event honors fallen soldiers and brings inspiration and support to Gold Star families left behind.
But her involvement with military families does not stop there: Schaefer also helped start Four Corners Veterans Stand Down in 2014, an annual, one-day job and health fair for homeless and at-risk veterans who live in Archuleta, Montezuma, La Plata and San Juan counties.
“We try to find the homeless and at-risk veterans to get them connected with jobs, houses and education,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that on average, 20 veterans a day completed suicide in 2014, the most recent VA data available. Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the Western U.S., with Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico having the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014.
“I met a couple military families in town who lost children to suicide,” Schaefer said. “There was no support for them, or anyone else who had lost someone to suicide.”
Schaefer’s interest in helping veterans returning from war with PTSD and sleeplessness led her to study alternative energy therapies.
“I saw so many of them on so many medications, and I know there is sometimes a gentler way to cope,” she said. “I wanted to give them another coping mechanism.”
Her initial studies in reiki shifted to Healing Touch, a five-level, reading and writing intensive program that spanned two years.
Schaefer said all people are made up of energy, and sometimes, that energy becomes blocked. Energy blocks can manifest in the body because of stress, fear, negative thinking and illness.
That is where Healing Touch comes in.
“It (Healing Touch) helps balance your system, helps you relax and eases your pain,” she said. “It has been very helpful for people who need cancer support, and those preparing for surgery or coming out of surgery.”
Schaefer describes Healing Touch as a “light touch” on the major and minor chakras, or wheels of energy throughout the body, that restores balance in the energy system.
“That energy goes to where it needs to be,” she said. “Someone might come in for back pain, but also have an emotional release of something else that is going on.”
Schaefer runs Healing Touch of Durango, 48 County Road 250, Suite 7, with the help of her daughter, Catherine Moler, a massage therapist, and Bethany Bachman, a craniosacral therapist.
Clients are fully-clothed, and sessions take place in a bed, on a table or in a chair. Sessions often last from 15 to 60 minutes depending on the needs of the client, putting the mind and body completely at rest, she said.
Schaefer also brings Healing Touch therapy to people outside of her practice, such as those at Southwest Safehouse and Four Corners Nursing Home.
Later this month, she will travel to Ghana to volunteer at an orphanage, and she offered Healing Touch to survivors of the 2015 Nepal earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people.
“Touch can be very detrimental to some, like those at the Safehouse, yet it can also be very healing,” Schaefer said.
And she understands that many people are skeptical about the effectiveness of energy medicine.
“People do not understand energy medicine, but there is a scientific backing to it,” she said. “There is a lot of research done on the help it gives to people.”
Greg Hopkins, a disabled veteran, is a true believer in Schaefer’s therapy.
His 20-year-old son, Finn, is multiply disabled and sees Schaefer for Healing Touch therapy on a weekly basis. Finn is like a new person after meeting with her, Hopkins said.
“He has been seeing Janna for about a year, and you see the most amazing change in him after,” Hopkins said. “He can think more clearly, stay calmer and focus on things more easily. She works wonders with him.”
Hopkins suffers from PTSD and also received therapy from Schaefer. He said Finn’s therapy helps to make him more manageable.
“It dramatically helps me out because he’s calmer after he sees her,” the father said. “She is such a wonderful, warm soul, and he trusts her immensely. Her dedication to veterans in particular goes above and beyond.”