by Lucy Hendricks
In a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia’s, there is no shortage of mental health professionals. But finding the right therapist, one that fits with an individual, couple or family’s unique issues and disposition, can often feel like finding a needle in a haystack, or worse yet, a crapshoot.
Philadelphia-based psychotherapist Karen L. Smith had this challenge in mind when she launched Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice last June. This unique psychotherapy practice utilizes a personal matchmaking process to partner people seeking therapy with seasoned, local professionals, and then provides ongoing supervision and support throughout the therapeutic experience.
A key part of the mission of Full Living is to recognize and value each client’s unique needs, taking into account not only demographics, like gender, age and sexual orientation, but clients’ own sense of what they will need from a therapist to make it work for them in terms of personality and disposition. “Often, people find a mental health professional like they find a plumber—by asking friends or family. But the person who is right for your Aunt Judy is unlikely to be right for you, for a variety of reasons,” observes Smith.
For Smith, a licensed clinical social worker with advanced clinical education in analytic theory, offering referrals for friends, family, neighbors and colleagues is something she’s done for as long as she can remember. “I have been a therapist in private practice for over 20 years. Whether I get a call from a potential client I am not a good match for, or a request from a colleague, friend, family member of one of my clients, whomever, rather than simply telling them no, I have always tried to spend a good 30 minutes on the phone with them, getting a sense of their issue and of their personality, so that I could recommend a therapist that I thought matched what they needed and who they were.”
Smith’s passion for bringing together clients and practitioners comes from observing how the quality of the relationship between the patient and the therapist impacts the quality of the therapeutic experience. “The match between the patient and the provider is very important—it can make or break things,” says Smith, who calls herself “a true believer” when it comes to her conviction that people can achieve great results from therapy when the conditions are right.
Smith is also motivated by the reality that when people are seeking therapy, they are in a vulnerable state, making it particularly challenging for them to know what they need and how to get it. “People are coming to therapy for a variety of reasons, from substance abuse and marital problems to whatever it is that keeps them up until the wee hours of the morning. At such critical times in people’s lives, a seasoned professional needs to be involved in the placement—not an insurance company and not an intake counselor.”
Full Living works exclusively with experienced clinicians, all of whom were hand-selected by Smith, the founder and director, to ensure the highest quality of care. The 13 practitioners in the practice intentionally represent a broad range of backgrounds, with varying belief systems and life experiences, with the common denominator of cultural competency and LGBTQI savvy. All Full Living clinicians offer relational psychodynamic therapies, and as a group offer services for individuals, couples, family, groups, adults, children and teens. Full Living is also able to assist in coordinating psychiatric services and psychological testing, and to offer referral services for nutritional counseling, EMDR treatment and other needs.
Full Living’s “virtual” practice offers a new paradigm for connecting clients and practitioners who might otherwise not have the chance to work together. “By using clinicians’ own offices, instead of having the one central office that is traditional for group practices, we are able to offer so much more variety in location, type of training, skills, approach, personality and education of clinicians. This breadth of options allows us to make a difference while honoring differences.”
For more information or a free initial consult, call 215-494-7818 or visit FullLiving.com. March 2016.