This past week was a huge one for Lauren ddard. Not only did she celebrate her one year anniversary of rocking her #girlboss status, but she placed on Mountain Express’ Best of WNC! Lauren is the Owner/Founder at Lauren Woodard, LCSW: Bloom Counseling and Consulting. She opened up her practice full time in March of this year to help adults and youth in our community deal with life changes.
I was curious to learn more about Lauren’s path to entrepreneurship and am excited to share a bit of her story through this interview below. Her generous spirit has inspired her to go after her dreams and I am so excited to watch her company grow within the Asheville community.
SK: What is your educational background?
I have a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville (class of 2007) and a Master’s degree in social work from Western Carolina University (class of 2009).
SK: What brought you to Asheville?
I moved to Asheville originally with my mom in 1997. I lived here through graduate school and then moved to Washington, DC. I loved DC, but always had it on my heart to come back to the mountains! I moved back in 2013, and other than starting a business, moving back here was the best decision I’ve made.
SK: What was your first job out of graduate school and how did you land it?
My first job out of graduate school was as a patient navigator/oncology social worker for the George Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, DC. I was very new to DC and applying in a market saturated with social workers during the recession. To increase my odds, I chose the company I really wanted to work for and asked them for an exploratory interview. I was hired on the spot and worked there for over a year. I learned a lot in that position that still serves me today.
SK: Did you always know you wanted to be a therapist/social worker?
I honestly believe this career chose me in many ways and I know it is something I am called to do. As a child, I saw a therapist who was in private practice and thought she had the coolest job. She was so kind and always put me at ease. As I got older, I began noticing that people always came to me for advice and to discuss their problems. By the time I had completed my first psychology course in college, I was hooked. I was very intrigued and inspired to find a way to help people as a career. The rest is history!
SK: What do you do as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?
I provide therapy sessions to clients in the areas of anxiety, depression, adjustment, grief/loss chronic illness/chronic pain. I practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques primarily, as well as Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) techniques. I also offer clinical supervision to provisionally licensed clinical social workers who are in the process of obtaining their full licensure. In my coaching practice, I help people work through blocks in the area of time management and organization (home, work, and/or school).
SK: Do you always meet with clients in person or do you use any technology, like skype?
Most of the time (about 90%), I meet with clients face to face in my downtown Asheville. I firmly believe that face to face psychotherapy is the most effective in terms of how clients are able progress and heal. When necessary, I will meet with North Carolina based clients via doxy.me (a HIPAA compliant form of video conferencing). For coaching, I meet with clients in person and via skype.
SK: What surprised you about your work?
I have been most surprised by perceptions people have about social workers/therapists and how hesitant people can be to come to therapy! I think it is important for people to know that therapists see everyone, not just individuals with major mental health diagnoses. Most of the clients I see do not have a major mental health disorder, and are facing major life changes, lack of work-life balance, and stress that goes beyond their ability to cope. Therapists help with problems big and small!
SK: I can definitely see that. I feel like there are so many transitions in life that could be eased by speaking with someone who is able to keep an open mind.
What is your favorite part about being a Social Worker/Therapist?
There are so many things I love about being a therapist in private practice (it is my dream job!), but I will narrow it down to two. One is holding space for my clients where they feel comfortable being vulnerable and opening up. It is an honor to show up and be present for someone when they are sharing the most vulnerable parts of themselves. I will always see this as a privilege and something I am so honored to do. Secondly, as a therapist, I love watching clients have an “aha” moment. There is something about watching a client break through an emotion or block that has been holding them back that is far more fulfilling than I ever imagined!
SK: What made you decide to start your own company?
As a hospital social worker, I mostly provided case management services, while providing therapy sessions was a smaller part of my day to day role. I fell in love with the therapeutic process in graduate school, and always knew I would one day go on to start a private practice. It was a very long term goal ( I saw it more as something I would do when I retired-ha!) until I discovered Allison Puryear with Abundance Practice Building. Allison offers groups that walk you step by step through facing your fears and building the private practice of your dreams! I am so thankful for Allison and the group–it changed my life!
SK: Share a little about your business – services offered, etc.:
I offer individual and family therapy sessions for children (8 and up), teens, young adults and adults. I specialize in anxiety, depression, grief/loss, chronic pain/chronic illness, adjustment disorder (life changes), and coping skills. I accept private pay, Blue Cross Blue Shield, out of network insurance, and sliding scale. For coaching sessions, I provide assistance in the area of goal setting, stress management, and organization (home, school, and/or work). Sessions are private pay. I also offer a variety of consulting services to businesses and organizations who are interested in having me present to their employees or provide training.
SK: What does your typical day look like?
A typical day for me begins with a networking coffee with a potential referral source. We have an amazing community of therapists in private practice in Asheville! Afterwards, I begin my morning sessions (55 minutes each) until lunch. After a lunch break, I will pick up with consulting calls and then begin afternoon sessions. At the end of the day, I respond to emails and referral calls and also take care of tasks like billing insurance and marketing.
SK: What is your favorite part of owning your own company?
The flexibility and autonomy! I love the freedom to be creative and make my business what I want it to be. It is the best experience I could ever ask for!
SK: How are you using social media to help grow your business? Do you have any social media tips?
I have a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter page for my business. Because I see primarily teens and young adults, I love using social media to reach my existing clients… they are my best marketers and I receive many of my referrals from existing clients!
SK: What has been the scariest part of starting your business or one of the biggest challenges?
Taking the leap of faith to quit my full-time job to be able to run my private practice on a full-time schedule was the scariest part of starting my business. I was nervous, but had faith and trusted that there were clients who needed the assistance I had to offer and that they would find me… and they did! I am so proud of myself for taking that leap of faith and haven’t looked back!
SK: What has been the most rewarding thing about owning your own business?
Seeing something I created out of a dream and thin air grow into what it is today has been the most rewarding part of owning my business. I am so humbled and honored with how the Asheville community has embraced Bloom, and I cannot wait to see how we continue to grow.
SK: What resources guided you while starting your business?
Hands down, Abundance Practice Building! I also utilized my training with the Junior League of Asheville which was a tremendous help! My favorite online resource is Levo League!
SK: How do you see your business evolving further in the next few years?
In the coming year, I am excited to launch support groups and e-courses as a part of my business. In the next few years, I am excited to grow the consulting side of my business and see where that goes! I am also excited to launch a blog for my business over the next few months and go on to develop writing regularly as a part of the business model over the next few years.
SK: What was the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have ever received was from my mom. She told me that the world needed my light and that I was born to do this. She has always believed in me and told me I could do anything I dreamt of. I appreciate her belief in me more than anything.
SK: What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to create your dream job. If you can’t stop dreaming about it, you are probably meant to turn it into a career. You may have to start your dream career as a side hustle while working another job, but you can do it with focus, hard work, and determination. It may require sacrifice in the short term, but the pay off will be tremendous! Start before you are ready (a nod to Marie Forleo for that truth bomb) and trust that you already have everything you need to make this happen!
Outside the Office…
SK: Describe your perfect day off in Asheville?
Oh, how I love Asheville. I am so grateful to live here! My perfect Asheville day would involve a morning drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at Craggy Gardens to watch the sunrise. Afterwards, I would have breakfast and coffee downtown at Green Sage Cafe or Tupelo Honey. I would then go antiquing, stopping at Tobacco Barn, Screen Door, and Regeneration Station. I would have an afternoon coffee break at Hi-Five Coffee and then head to Wake Foot Sanctuary and Shop for a foot soak and massage! Before dinner, I would wander through some art galleries downtown…especially Blue Spiral, my favorite! I would finish the evening with dinner at Chestnut, a movie at the Fine Arts Cinema, and drinks at Imperial Life.
SK: Happy hour drink of choice?
A Paloma from The Imperial Life!
SK: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?
Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes. I am very inspired by Blake and his revolutionary idea to incorporate giving as the foundation of his company. I was honored to meet him twice and learn more about how entrepreneurs can build a sustainable business while also giving back. His work has definitely inspired me to give back as a part of my practice. To do so, I am apart of the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective where I offer a number of sliding scale spots to clients who could not otherwise afford therapy.
SK: Some words you live by?
My favorite quote! “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -RWE
SK: What book(s) are you currently reading?
SK: What is your dream vacation?
My dream vacation is to go to Scotland and Ireland with my mom! It is on both of our bucket lists and I think it would be an amazing experience to have together!
Thank you so much, Lauren, for sharing a bit of your story with us! It is truly inspiring to see someone go after their dreams and have such a successful start!