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Founder Of Life First Therapy: An Interview With Dr. Holly N. Sawyer, PhD, MS​, CAADC

Hi Dr. Holly, can you start by introducing yourself please include education, social, and cultural background. 
I am a pre-licensed, Master Level therapist and certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor. I have a Doctorate in Education. My experience includes providing mental health and substance use disorder services in residential and outpatient settings as a therapist to Clinical Director. I have been an educator in higher education for over 10 years, a professional development training specialist and a public speaker. The topics I speak on are Stress Management, PTSD, Psychological Trauma, Women Empowering Themselves and Other Women, Mental Health Stigma and Substance Use and Recovery.

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How did you get into Mental Health and how long have you been practicing? 
I decided to get into mental health because I was not able to provide therapy to countless of adult learners I have taught over the past 10 years. A lot of the learners I had the privilege of teaching dealt with a lot of depression, anxiety, PTSD, sexual trauma and/or substance use disorder. As an educator, I was not allowed to cross boundaries and provide counseling as an educator so that is what motivated me to go into the counseling profession. My goal is to treat the whole individual. I have been practicing for 5 years.

You are the founder of Life First Therapy, How long has it been in existence and what motivated you start it? 
Life First Therapy LLC was established April 2017. I was motivated to start it because there are a lot of professional women of color that experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety due to microaggressions, constantly having to prove themselves and not being respected in the workplace. I help professional women of color build their self-confidence to build a career and live a life worth living. 

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Your tagline "Making Living Your Priority" could you talk a bit about you philosophy for change and healing? 
My tagline encourages women of color to put themselves first, if not, what type of life are you living? Putting yourself first is not a selfish act. Instead, it is an act of self-love so that you are able to help others. One cannot help others without healing and changing yourself for the better first. 

Mental health isn't for a specific group of people; it is for everybody. We hear a lot about "protect your mental health" "we should have take mental health days from work" etc. How would you define "mental health"?
Mental health can be defined as taking time to acknowledge when things are not quite right with how you may normally function and live day to day. For example, if something is causing you anxiety or making you anxious and stops you from living or functioning day to day, this could be an alert for you to check your mental health and find the root cause of the anxiety so that you can take action steps to protect your mental health. Action steps could include seeing a therapist, taking time off from work or even setting boundaries with family and/or friends.

You ask "Are you constantly having to prove your worth as a woman of color at work? Do you find yourself feeling insecure and as a result, thinking negatively about yourself?" How do you empower women thought these circumstances?
I ask them to provide me examples of how their self-worth is compromised then ask them to identify all of their strengths. I focus on the strengths of each woman I work with to empower them.

"Philadelphia's Career Woman's Therapist Specialities: Substance Use & Recovery/Depression/Anxiety/Stress & Anger Management" Do you cater to just women? if so why just women? 
Yes, I only see women because women of color need a safe space to heal through therapy without fear of being judged for being themselves!

Substance Use & Recovery/Depression/Anxiety/Stress & Anger Management; a list of services you provided. are there other services and also and How much does therapy cost at Life First Therapy? 
Sessions are $120 per hour. I do not accept insurance because the therapeutic relationship should involve the therapist and client, not the insurance company. The client should have control and choice over their treatment without having to follow harsh treatment guidelines (Types of Services, the Amount and Length of Sessions). Not every individual that seeks therapy has a mental health diagnosis, however using insurance will require a diagnosis. I help women of color work through: Self-worth Effectively manage feeling stressed, overwhelmed, depressed or anxious Microaggressions in the workplace Career Exploration How to apply coping skills instead of using substances Discovering your own definition of success Breaking free from the need to live up to others expectations Identifying and completing realistic goals to create an ideal life Explore ways to break familial cycles that impact your life today Gain a full understanding of "Who Am I" through intensive self-exploration assignments Letting go of the need to control outcomes and live in the present.

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Can you briefly walk through your therapy process from start to finish, to give the readers a sense of what it might be like to work with you? 
I provide a 20 min free consultation where a potential client and I talk to get to know each other and their reasons for attending therapy. I ask questions to get a better understanding of their needs. I then answer any questions they may have. If we both decide to work together, they can schedule their first session with me over the phone or on my website where I have a schedule for them to pick their day and time. Prior to the first session, clients are asked to complete the intake paperwork which can be found on my site as well. The client will bring it to their first session. I ask if there are any questions they may have before we begin their first session. From there, I listen attentively and remember details to tell truths that need to be spoken. I also assign homework better known as action steps for clients to implement towards change.

From your experience how long does it take for a client in therapy to recover?
That varies and is based upon the client's needs, how often they attend therapy and the work they put into their process. 

What are some exercise you will recommend for any one dealing with Substance Use & Recovery/Depression/Anxiety/Stress & Anger Management?
I like to encourage deep breathing exercises that can be done in session or alone, journaling and meditation. For those in recovery, I encourage them to build a recovery support network outside of themselves and that could be NA/AA meetings or their church. I provide my clients with weekly assignments that they are to complete prior to attending their next session. Therapy has to be accompanied by action steps. The homework does vary based on the goals of the client and their needs. 

What are your thoughts on mobile/online therapy? 
Mobile therapy is excellent because it makes therapy accessible. Some people may have mobility issues that prevent travel. Some people prefer attending therapy from the comfort of their home or office for various reasons. Mobile therapy is very helpful.

What would you say is one of your greatest joys from working with clients? 
Seeing them turn their life around by doing their work towards healing themselves.

How would you want "Life First Therapy" to impact your immediately in Philadelphia and those around the world who will use your mobile/online therapy services? 1 response

I would want Life First Therapy to remain a premiere therapeutic service for women of color by allowing them the option to access therapy with me online. I want women of color to know they are valuable and worthy of making their new life their best life through therapy.  

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Do you think we need more mental health councilors? What advice do you have for men or women currently pursuing a career in Mental health? 
Yes, more counselors of color are needed or at least promoted because as a nation we need to heal. For those seeking a career in counseling, know your "why" and allow that to keep you motivated. Also, if they do not have a therapist, get one just to help with preventing burn-out. Therapy is cool!

Is there any advice you'd give to those who hope to lunch their own private practice? 
I would suggest being around others that are already doing it in order to learn more about the process and to not give up because there are a lot of people in need.

What is one thing you would like to live the readers with? 
Therapy is normal and you do not have to be dealing with a mental illness to see a therapist.

How can people connect with you and Life First Therapy? 
Email:
hnsawyer@lifefirsttherapy.com
Website:www.lifefirsttherapy.com
Phone #:267-245-6146
Instagram: lifefirsttherapylc

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