Body Image

Adventures in Private Practice: Weight Management Counselor Michelle Lewis, LCSW

Screen shot 2015-01-26 at 9.14.14 PMThis series highlights the successful private practitioners' journey in private practice so you can learn from their successes and missteps. One of the unexpected benefits of writing this blog is that I've been able to meet and connect with practitioners around the globe. The therapist featured today actually is not on the other side of the world, but is in the same city, and practices only a few blocks away from my practice. Michelle Lewis, LCSW and I worked together for one consultation and since then, I've been able to watch her really dig in, focus on her niche, and develop a successful practice. She is not only a great practice owner, but is a compassionate person and passionate about her work. Get to know Michelle.

Tell me about your practice…   

I own a group practice called Salt Lake Weight Counseling. We specialize in helping clients identify and overcome emotional barriers to weight management. We specifically target emotional eating, food addiction, body image, and patterns of self-sabotage. Working with these issues, we also treat a significant amount of trauma. By addressing the trauma, we are able to help  clients heal their relationship with food and end the war with their body.

Why did you decide to open a private practice?

I worked in a residential treatment with adolescents for many years, and the stress really started burning me out, so I took a job in a corporate wellness program through an insurance company. They hired me to work with members to identify emotional barriers related to their health goals. I worked with a lot of clients who struggled with self-sabotage in weight loss. They would yo-yo up and down with the same 10, 20, or 50 pounds over and over again and could not figure out why this happened. I started using my training as an addictions counselor and helped those clients experience success that they had never seen prior. During this time, I had started building a part-time private practice. I wasn't sure if full-time private practice was for me, but as I developed my specialty, I found myself more and more drawn to the idea. Once I took the leap, I really looked forward to my time in my own office and loved the passion that came with my work. I also loved having total control over my schedule and the clients I was working with. Since moving from my full-time corporate job to full-time private practice, the passion and excitement around my work has continued to grow. I love the energy that comes with developing an expertise and working with your ideal client every day!

Clients that therapists find to be the most “difficult” are sometimes the ones who can teach them the most. What have you learned from your toughest clients?

My toughest clients challenge me to be a better therapist. It is easy to get stuck in a rut when you find a formula that works well. When I find clients who struggle to heal, it forces me to try new methods and educate myself on new skills. It actually revives the passion I feel about this work!

What’s your biggest pet peeve about private practice?

Handling money. I think the cliché about therapists being allergic to money is so true! The greatest thing about working for someone else is not having to ask anyone for money. I hate having to follow up with people who have overdue bills, so we started keeping a credit card to avoid the hassle. That has made life so much easier!

How did you discover or develop your practice “niche”?

I am passionate about health and wellness in general. I am an avid cyclist and hiker, so when I found my job through the insurance company's wellness program, I jumped at the chance. It felt like it was what I was made to do. For the first time, I really felt connected to my work in a meaningful way.

What resource (book, website, person) helped you the most when setting up your private practice?

Honestly, you helped me the most, Julie. I set up one consultation session, and you helped me clarify my goals and direct my marketing to my ideal client. My practice really took off after that session.

What has surprised you most about being in private practice?

How rewarding it is! I have had jobs that felt rewarding, but this has taken my work to a whole new level. When I started thinking about private practice, I saw it as a way to work less and make more. This is true, but it goes beyond the financial benefits. This isn't just my career, it is my calling. I think having control over what I do and how I do it has helped me expand my horizons beyond what I thought was possible.

Has your private practice helped you grow professionally?

It forces me to stay on top of my game by constantly exploring new skills and techniques. I am always reading and attending trainings beyond the required number of CEUs. I love learning as much as possible to help my clients heal.

Has it helped you grow personally, too?

It helps me live the life I want. It gives me flexibility to travel, hike, bike, and engage in other activities that keep me balanced and energized.

Being a therapist can be emotionally exhausting. What do you do to care for your own emotions and psychological health?

Spending time with friends, my husband, and my dog are key. When I am having a stressful day, my favorite activity is walking my dog while I listen to an audiobook.

How do you cope with the inevitable stressors involved with being your own boss?

Self-care is key. By taking care of my physical and emotional health consistently, the stressors aren't as powerful. I try to be solution-minded. Instead of getting caught up in the stress, I try to come up with a game plan and then identify potential pitfalls in the future.

What personal strengths have helped you succeed in private practice?

Organizational skills are key! You have to know who's on first at all times! Also, dedication and determination are so important. I feel a dedication to my clients and work tirelessly to help them achieve their goals. I am also determined when it comes to my business. I am consistently looking for ways to improve the work we do.

To learn more about Michelle's practice, visit

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A Day In The Life: Meet Body-Centered Therapist Ashley Eder, LPC

Ashley Eder, LPC Meet Ashley Eder, LPC and her therapy dog "Angel." While I know therapists who've brought their dog into the therapy office occasionally (it wasn't necessarily "therapeutic" for colleagues or clients), Ashley is the first therapist I've met who uses a therapy dog as a purposeful tool in clinical practice.

It makes sense that certain clients would feel at ease and find contact with a dog to be calming during therapy sessions. In her Boulder, CO private practice, Ashley specializes in body-centered psychotherapy and mindfulness interventions to treat somatic complaints, such as body image, self-harm, chronic pain, abuse recovery, and eating disorders in young adults in their teens and twenties.

In addition to her clinical practice Ashley provides counselor education, training, community building and supervises other counselors toward licensure. See how Ashley spends her day balancing family (she's a mom of one) and her clinical practice.

A Day In The Life

January 23, 2012


Wake up to the sound of my 15 month old son chattering to himself in his bedroom. He is currently my alarm clock, and this is an excellent arrangement when he sleeps past 6AM. I listen to him babble and do a quick first check of email to see if there is anything I need to know heading into my day.

7:00AM - 8:30AM

This is a whirlwind of play, feeding, diapering, getting dressed, and chasing a toddler around the house. My son decides today is the day he wants to learn how to climb the stairs. My husband makes us some coffee and I eat my own breakfast. We divide and conquer morning tasks like feeding our pets and unloading the dishwasher. I check email again and see I have one cancellation for this evening, and one client in crisis and requesting a phone consult today (no safety concerns). I’ll get back to both of them as soon as my son heads to daycare.

8:30AM - 9:00AM

Check in with my client in crisis over the phone. Return email to the client who needed to cancel confirming our regular appointment time next week.

9:00AM - 9:45AM

Shower and get dressed. Get my therapy dog Angel ready for work and in the car, then we head to the office. I have a short phone conversation with a colleague whose caseload I’ll be covering the next two weeks while she is out of town. I also call my son’s pediatrician to let them know that he still has the cough I brought him in for last week.

10:00AM - 10:30AM

I get settled in to see clients. This includes tidying up my office, making sure there is water in Angel’s bowl, and pulling charts for the clients I’ll see today. I have recently switched to electronic record keeping and have a personal goal of all case notes completed for the day before I leave the office. This keeps me from getting behind. I take a few minutes to sit quietly.

10:30AM - 3:00PM

I have four consecutive sessions with a half-hour break mid-way through. It’s the beginning of the school semester and my roster today reflects that students’ schedules are in flux, which means mine is too. This time flies. It is so rewarding that it’s energizing and I feel grateful for this work.

3:00PM - 4:30PM

A break. Angel and I go for a walk to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We eat lunch by the pond outside my office where a pair of ducks is over-wintering. Angel loves to watch the ducks. Back in the office I check in with friends over Facebook and email. I return phone calls and schedule appointments with the two prospective clients who left messages this morning, and I schedule a supervision session with one of the licensure candidates I am supervising. I send a quick note to a colleague who has been a regular referral source for me lately.

4:30PM - 5:00PM

I participate in a half-hour informational interview over Skype with a college graduate from my alma mater. She contacted me via LinkedIn for advice on applying to graduate school and pursuing a career in counseling. I’m impressed by her initiative and preparation, and it feels good to help her out.

5:00PM - 6:00PM

My last session of the day. Because I have been charting all day I finish this final case note and log out of the electronic health record system by 6:00 PM sharp.


Pack my bag, draw the shades, lock my filing cabinet, vacuum dog hair from the carpet, leash up Angel, and head home.

6:30PM - 7:00PM

I come home where my husband and son have finished their dinners. Angel and I eat with their company and we talk about everyone’s day. My husband asks if Angel was a good therapy dog and I answer “of course.” I enjoy watching my toddler roam around the kitchen and family room. His curiosity is delightful and tomorrow we will spend the entire day together.

7:00PM - 7:30PM

Baby bedtime. We all go upstairs for the diaper change, pajamas, teeth brushing, and bedtime story.

7:30PM - 9:00PM

I finally make a dent in the pile of receipts from last year’s business expenses--time to get ready for taxes. Write a rough draft of a letter of recommendation for a client. Put the finishing touches on my resume and cover letter for an affiliate faculty teaching job I’d love to have.

9:00PM - 10:00PM

Hang out with my husband, who has also been catching up on some work that was left over from the day.


In bed, I skim through email and Facebook once more before going to sleep.

To learn more about Ashley Eder, LPC and her therapy dog angel, visit

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