Member Spotlight: Lauren Woodward
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.
Hi DBC! My name is Lauren Woodard and I live in the amazing city of Asheville, North Carolina. I am an INFJ and HSP. I love books, my cat Grover Cleveland (who wears a bowtie), and all things coffee and tea related. During the day, I teach as a part-time adjunct professor in the social work department at a local 4 year college here in Asheville. I am also the owner and founder of Bloom Counseling and Consulting, where I see therapy clients on a full-time basis. Outside of work, I enjoy reading, focusing on self-care, and am currently learning to watercolor!
Why is this month’s topic, mental health, near and dear to your heart?
I have always had a love for helping others. I saw a therapist named Catherine when I was a child and became fascinated with the idea that I could help others for a career just like Catherine helped me. Fast forward to many years later, I graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology in 2007 and went on to earn my Master's of Social Work in 2009 along with my clinical license (LCSW) to practice therapy in 2013. I worked as oncology social worker from 2010-2015 and then opened my private practice in August 2015. In my private practice I see children, teens, and young adults who are struggling with anxiety, depression, perfectionism and OCD, trauma, and/or chronic illness.
I am passionate about mental health because I believe it is something we can all prioritize and give attention to, whether we are currently facing struggles or not. Just as we take preventative measures to stay physically healthy, I think every person can benefit from giving time and attention to their emotional health. Whether it be learning coping skills for anxiety, self-care routines, better communication, or working through a past trauma...I whole heartedly believe that we function better as individuals when we give ourselves time and space to sit with our emotions and understand them. I also think mental health is important because many of us are our own worst critics. As we pay attention to our mental health, we can learn self-compassion and how to truly show up in the world as our best selves.
What are your favorite books that address mental health? Why?
There are so many! One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to read constantly in order to better serve my clients. A few favorites include:
1) The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk. I consider this an essential resource for learning about the "felt sense" of trauma and how we hold onto trauma in our bodies.
2) Brainstorm and The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel are fascinating and helpful resources on how the brains of children and teens function, grow, and develop. If you have children, work with children/teens, or geek out on neuroscience like I do, I highly recommend these books!
3) Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I was very fortunate to take 2 meditation courses in college (for credit!) and this text was used as one of the required readings. I can honestly say this is one of the 10 books that changed my life and taught me how to be more mindful in everyday life.
4) The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book also changed my life. If you are hard on yourself and find it difficult to embrace imperfections, this is a MUST HAVE resource for cultivating self-compassion.
Do you find there is a stigma around mental health in our culture? How has this impacted your experience?
Unfortunately, I do think there stigma around mental health in our culture. For some reason, our culture sometimes represents individuals struggling with mental health issues as "scary," "bad," or "weird." This is disappointing because I think this widespread stigma impacts individuals feeling comfortable seeking help when they are struggling. I also think there is a stigma around the therapeutic process that it is scary and that you will feel worse after coming to therapy and opening up. I have so many clients who say "I wish I had come sooner, I didn't know it be this helpful." I can't speak for all therapists, but I know that I LOVE what I do and my goal is to help clients gain insight and FEEL better. I am passionate about helping others and want my clients to feel safe in opening up.
Are there any additional resources (movies, articles, podcasts, music, etc) about mental health that you would recommend to our readers?
Yes! For folks wanting to start a daily gratitude practice I LOVE the Five Minute Journal. You can purchases a bound journal or the app. I also love the apps Calm and Headspace for cultivating a daily meditation practice, and I enjoy Pacifica for tracking your mental health and self-care routines.
Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?
I truly believe therapy can benefit EVERYONE. You do not have to be struggling with a severe mental illness or be in crisis to benefit. I see many clients who feel mentally healthy, but want to gain better insight, have a safe place to process what goes on in life, or simply have accountability for the goals they are setting.