MO: Hi, there. Today we’re talking with Laura Edington. Laura is a life and relationship coach who started her private practice, An Open Mind, in March 2012. Welcome, Laura. Nice to have you here. Tell me how you came up with the name An Open Mind for your business, your profession.
LE: Hi, Marlene. Well, I wanted to serve the most wide range of individuals and being in East Tennessee a lot of times there are a lot of stigmas, stereotypes, lots of things, you know, surrounding certain populations, be it the gay and lesbian community or divorced couples or couples that just live together for years that are never married, and so I wanted people to know right off the bat by just the company name that I am not going to judge them for who they are, that I am open-minded and I want them to feel comfortable with me.
MO: That’s great. I didn’t realize that, but you’re right, it does give a good feeling for anybody, feeling they’re not going to be judged, coming in here totally accepted. Now you have been with us since May of 2012. What is your particular role with An Open Mind?
LE: I am An Open Mind! I have one employee now who has worked for me since last June, but for the first year or so it was just me, doing my thing and I was taking care of everything so I am the secretary, I am the life and relationship coach, I wear all the hats.
MO: How does a life and relationship coach differ from a therapist?
LE: OK, traditional counseling and therapy, they tend to focus on the past and really trying to come to terms with the past today. What I focus on is more of the dysfunctional behaviors that are occurring right now. Why are those occurring and how do we fix them for the future? So it’s not focused on all of the things that have happened to you since you were three- or four-years-old, it’s really more so what’s happening now and the reason I do that, and the reason I chose to do that over traditional counseling which is my background, is because it’s a lot easier to treat people and faster progress is made than with traditional counseling.
MO: Which I’m sure is what many, many people are wanting.
LE: Yes. In 2014, everyone wants fast results. They want to see things happen quickly, but especially in relationships. When your relationship is having trouble you don’t have time to wait six months to talk about all of your past issues to then come finally six months later to today and how are we going to fix the relationship. By then most people have filed for divorce or broken up and moved on so you want quick results. I’m not saying that we don’t ever address those things from the past because many times I have to understand why they are here in my office and what brought them here, but it’s not about rehashing every argument and every trauma that has occurred over the past, you know, five, ten years.
MO: Like, “What happened to you when you were three-years-old?” and things like that? You talk about relationships. Are they only boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parent/child relationships?
LE: Right. OK, we work with tons of different types of relationships. I have probably just as many unmarried couples as I do married. I also have several families that we work with. Now, Kelsey Ogle is who I hired over a year ago to take over families, simply because I was getting to the point where I had too many clients to deal with and I wanted to focus on the adults and couples more so and let her focus on the kids and families. So she does that and a lot of times we meet with the kids by themselves and then the families come in at the end or it might be a relationship where it is a mom and daughter just having lots of problems due to puberty or whatever. But then I also work with a lot of gay and lesbian couples, so there’s a totally different dynamic there. I have quite a bit of experience with that now and enjoy that just as much.
MO: That’s a good problem to have. And probably, are there issues still with gay and lesbian couples with their families?
LE: Oh, yes. Acceptance and being able to function inside of that family. Also dealing with adoption and wanting to have children of their own and things like that, so there’s a lot of different topics that come up in a same-sex relationship vs. husband and wife or man and woman.
MO: How long have you been doing this? I know you’ve been here since May of 2012.
LE: I got my bachelor’s degree in 2002 and that was in psychology, but during college I worked at a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children and got tons of experience there. Experience that I could have never gained anywhere else, the amount of experience I gained there. So I did that and I went to work for a community mental health agency and also worked with emotionally disturbed children and their families in that program for about three years, then went on to work with adolescent males that had alcohol and drug problems for three years in a residential treatment facility and worked with their families as well. During that time is when I actually finished my master’s degree and started doing more therapy and I left that community mental health agency and went to a private mental health agency, did a whole lot of management style work while I was there instead of so much therapy, which I really, it was like I woke up one day and realized I had kind of lost my focus, because I had always wanted to do therapy.
MO: What did you mean by management style?
LE: I actually became the operations manager of the company and focused more on management and managing therapists and case managers instead of actually providing the service frontline.
MO: So you found out quickly that was not what you wanted to do?
LE: That is NOT what I want to do. I love helping people. That’s everything that I’ve ever wanted to do.
MO: My next question is what is the favorite part of what you do?
LE: Definitely just being able to help families, couples. There’s nothing more rewarding than to have a couple come in one week and be at each other’s throats and come in a week later saying, “We’re already seeing tons of progress! It’s been the best week we’ve had in years,” or whatever. But to be honest, when I get asked that question, my normal response is to be able to treat my clients the way they need to be treated instead of the way an insurance company says they have to be treated. That’s another reason that I chose to do coaching over traditional counseling and choosing that route made it hard for me because I don’t get funneled referrals through insurance companies, I have to gain every single referral by my therapy profiles online or by social media or whatever marketing I do to get their attention. Most people sit in an office in a practice and those referrals come to them through insurance companies. A client calls their insurance company and says, “Who does my insurance cover?” and they give them a list of names. That’s great for those people, however, once someone is covered under insurance, that therapist has to provide a certain type of treatment and certain service. If someone comes in and is presenting with symptoms of depression, they have to label them with a diagnosis and then treat them according to that diagnosis. With coaching, I don’t diagnose and I don’t have to treat along any certain guidelines. I go, I kind of go anywhere that client needs me to go.
MO: Did you make this decision at the very beginning of your practice? You knew exactly what you wanted or not wanted to do? I would think you would get a lot of referrals from clients.
LE: Yes. And I do. After the first six months or so I started getting a lot of referrals from my clients and that has never dropped off which has been great.
MO: I know even here people that have visited you. I think that’s great that they have that opportunity to just knock on the door and say, “Can I schedule an appointment?” How did you get started? You said you had your bachelor’s degree in psychology. Was this something that you thought of way back when?
LE: When I was about sixteen-years-old, my mom made my sister and I go to family therapy with her and we went to this guy and he ended up pointing the finger at me the whole session, saying that I was the root cause of all the problems, which, I know everyone says, “I wasn’t the problem,” but I really wasn’t the problem. I was actually a great kid, straight A student, athlete, I didn’t cause any problems, I had great friends and families around me, but it was the fact that he was listening to the adult in the room and tuning out the kids in the room and not listening to the fact that my sister and I were having the same problems, so I decided that day, my sister and I got into her car and I told her I wanted to be a therapist one day and I wanted to help people and try to let them feel heard and supported instead of the way I felt that day. That’s the actual story.
MO: That’s fascinating. That’s a great story. So you got started about the age of sixteen.
LE: Yes. I started working with children very early on because I knew that I wanted to help families. I’ve nannied over the years, done a lot of babysitting, then like I said in college I got into working with emotionally disturbed children.
MO: Is there any one particular case, obviously without giving names, any one case that you think wow, this is one of the best experiences or are there many of them?
LE: I guess one of my, there actually are a lot of stories and I have several testimonials on my website which I love reading every now and then just to go back and kind of give me a little bit of a boost, but one couple in particular came to me, they had been married for forty-five years and they came because he had started an online relationship with a woman in a whole different country. The wife found out about it and was devastated, of course. They came to me to figure out what they were going to do and that was about nine months ago probably that they started seeing me, maybe even closer to a year. I still see them quarterly. I saw them initially every week for about a month and then I went down to seeing them very few weeks then every couple of weeks then got it to a point where I see them quarterly just to kind of check in with them, but they’re doing great. They just figured out that all it really was was over the years they hadn’t spent enough time together and with her not getting any of the quality time from him that she needed, she had stopped kind of boosting his ego and he was going to this woman online to get his ego needs met. Once they figured that out, they’ve spent time together every week and they go on dates and stuff.
MO: That’s good for all of us to remember that. Anything new and exciting happening in your profession?
LE: Right now I think the biggest thing I’m working on is trying to build up a lot of the social skills and relational skills stuff for teens. We have, Kelsey does a group that really focuses on social and relational skills with kids. There’s one that is set for ages seven to twelve and then another older one that is thirteen to seventeen, eighteen if they’re in school. That works with a lot of high-functioning autism, Asperger’s, kids that are dealing with some pretty severe ADHD or some behavioral disorders, stuff like that.
MO: You said social skills, with children that young, when you said seven, I thought, “Wow that’s really young,” but I think we do read things about there’s so much texting that there’s not as much personal interaction and talking to people.
LE: Not as much at all and they have a very hard time with that. Just relating to people, being able to be in a big group, even family functions are very hard for a lot of kids now because they want to be stimulated and entertained the whole time and if things get boring they often act out. Just understanding how to act in certain situations and how to cope with being bored and things like that.
MO: How to cope with being bored. Boy, I’ve heard my grandchildren say that and they still say that no matter what all you offer them.
LE: Right. That’s really what I’m working on at this point. Just trying to build that up as much as possible because so many people don’t know about it. A lot of families and parents don’t know about it. It’s gotten very big with the autism community and that’s been very helpful because they appreciate it and love it and there just aren’t as many resources for them as there are for a lot of other disorders.
MO: And ADD vs. ADHD. You could have attention deficit, but not be quite as hyperactive.
LE: Yes. ADHD can be either ADHD predominantly inattentive or it can be ADHD predominantly hyperactive or it can be ADHD combined type. You can be any of the combination of any of those.
MO: Kelsey is working with those?
LE: She is working with those, yes.
MO: Well, that brings me to how long you’ve been here with Knoxville Executive Suites and that was May of 2012. Almost two years!
LE: Almost my two year anniversary.
MO: How did you find us?
LE: I actually used to bring one of my clients, when I was a case manager, I brought one of my clients here to see one of the tenants who was a therapist and I liked it. Every time I came in here, I’d have to sit here for about an hour and wait on that kid. I liked it here, so when I went looking for office space I just Googled. I Googled “shared office space” and Knoxville Executive Suites was one of the first things that came up and I remembered coming here.
MO: I remember your first day when you came to look at office space. I remember that. Can you tell us how it might benefit your business? How being here is helpful?
LE: I think that there’s a few things that are great about it. Having Carol and Jan at the front desk, having someone at the front desk all the time is very nice so that my clients know that I’m there that I’m just with somebody and I’m not ignoring them or whatever, you know, I didn’t forget about them. Having somebody at the front desk is very helpful. Having a nice lobby for them to sit in and wait on me because sometimes I am running ten, fifteen minutes behind. Having clean restrooms all the time is so nice. The other big thing I think that’s so important for me is I work such untraditional hours, that being here, I typically work anywhere from 8am until 9pm, and being here after hours, there is a little bit of a safety concern, but being here I have the doors locked and no one can get in unless they have the access, the key fob, so that’s always been nice.
MO: We do have some tenants that do work later hours.
LE: I’m not always here by myself.
MO: Before we sign off, I want everybody to know how they can reach you. If it’s telephone, email your website. Give us all of that, please.
LE: I would say that the best way to reach me would be to go to anopenmindllc.com. All my links are on there. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest even. My phone number, my email, everything is linked to my website.
MO: OK, that’s anopenmindllc.com. Thank you very much Laura. I’ve really enjoyed it.
LE: Yes. Thank you, Marlene.
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Out: Thank you to our guest today from our Knoxville Executive Suites community for sharing with us their inspirational story. We look forward to bringing you another guest next month. Until our next visit, this is Marlene O’Hanlon with Knoxville Executive Suites.