I had the pleasure of meeting Laurie when she came to The Blue Buddha for a bodywork treatment. She was laid back and her energy was light, warm and inviting. During our conversation prior to the treatment I was excited to learn that she is a private practice MFT which stands for Marriage & Family Therapist. I’m currently a graduate student at The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) and in about four years I will be eligible to become a licensed MFT like Laurie. Our post treatment conversation was even more engaging once I shared that I was on her path. She spoke about her work with such a joy and I was just about to begin my first semester at CIIS. It was one of those moments that felt “meant to be”. There I was about to start my adventure and I was able to speak with an experienced therapist who, and most importantly, clearly loved what she does. Some would call those moments coincidence. I call it synchronicity. I reached out to Laurie for this interview many months ago but we wanted to wait for the interview until her beautiful new website was launched and ready to share with the public. Please do take a moment and visit her site after reading her thoughtful and truly inspiring replies to my 10 questions to learn more about Laurie and her mission to help you activate your potential and unfold from within.
-Erik Everts, Founder/Bodyworker, The Blue Buddha
You’re a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. What does that mean exactly and does your scope of practice include counseling for individuals? Yes, it can be confusing knowing what all the different titles mean! A Marriage & Family Therapist – commonly referred to as an “MFT” – is specifically trained to conduct therapy with individuals, couples, families, children and adolescents, as well as lead groups and workshops. Psychologists and psychiatrists can also conduct therapy, but MFT’s are the relationship specialists! Our primary coursework and training is focused on understanding relationships of all kinds, including a healthy relationship with your self. MFT’s are also well-trained in the art of doing therapy – how to help you explore your interior world of thoughts, feelings and experiences to create positive growth in your life.
MFT’s help individuals, families and couples learn about family dynamics, attachment and intimacy, communication, positive behaviors and good self-esteem. Put all of that knowledge together with awareness, insight and education and you have a way to heal pain, actualize your dreams, create healthy relationships and develop an enduring sense of well-being.
MFT’s are governed by the state of California and must pass a written and oral exam to become licensed to conduct therapy, as well as maintain our license by taking continuing education classes to keep our knowledge current. California has some of the strictest laws for MFT’s, which helps protect clients and therapists from unethical, exploitive behaviors and creates a legal and ethical professional standard for the field.
Visitors to the home page of your website www.laurieagee.com see the words RADICAL TRANSFORMATION. What is the significance of this phrase in your practice? When I began building my website, I found myself unable to simply market myself as a couples therapist. Even though I became a therapist in order to specialize in couples work, I realized that an even higher and more central value infusing my work was a deeply spiritual belief that it is our own transformation we seek, and must seek. Committing to ourselves and our own evolution is the only way towards experiencing the happiness, love, creative fulfillment, peace, joy, contentment and connection we desire. There really is no other way. Seeing this, committing to this is a radical transformation in perspective that leads to a radically transformed experience.
On another note, I think we are seeing a collective growth in consciousness. As a species, we are continually evolving. Our brains are wired for survival and self-protection, constantly scanning for threat, a fear based state. Love and trust are the antithesis of this. Intimacy is based on trust, vulnerability and open heartedness. Instinctive wiring (attack-defend) often kills the love between two people over time.
To commit to our own awakening means working to stay open-hearted and connected in love, even when expressing hurt, disappointment, anger, sadness and fear. Learning to stay open when expressing or receiving these emotions means living freely in an (almost) constant state of love, where nothing is resisted because nothing is feared. Our compassion unites us and allows us to understand and care for each other. Having these realizations and being able to achieve an open-hearted state as the dominant state is a radical transformation for our species. Every time we succeed in transforming fear into love, we are evolving our brains and ultimately, potentially, our species. I think that’s radical!
I am a therapist because…I genuinely love being in service to other people’s healing, growth and happiness. It’s who I am. I found the job title long after I had the job.
“Happiness does not depend on external things but on the way we see them.”
You refer to the concept of happiness: “I help clients learn how to enter a state of happiness by clearing away clutter to get at the beautiful, radiant and whole spirit within.” What have you found to be the largest block to happiness for your clients? Ask yourself: do you believe the following statements? Notice how your body feels and the thoughts that pass through your mind as you read the following statements:
“Happiness is my natural state and birthright.”
“I consciously intend to experience joy and happiness in every aspect of my life.”
“I create my experience of happiness (or un-happiness) every moment with my actions, choices, thoughts and where I focus my attention.”
“I have the power to create joy and well-being even when I feel challenged, stressed, scared, fearful and in pain.”
“I take responsibility for my life and realize that I create my experience by my choices, what I participate in, what I say yes to, what I don’t say no to, what I put in my body, what I accept and tolerate, what I keep silent about, what I ask for.”
“I see the silver lining when bad things happen to me.”
“I savor my accomplishments, strengths and moments when things are going right. “
“I feel grateful a lot of the time, for many reasons.”
How did your body and mind react? Tension, tightening, resistance are signs of blocks and resistance. Basically, a disbelief that you have power, are whole and beautiful within and can exert your mind and thoughts, focus and attention on behaviors and beliefs that create an experience of happiness. I believe this is the greatest obstacle to happiness.
Expansion, release, relaxation and a surge of energy, alertness, clarity are evidence of how quickly positive thoughts, stating intentions, taking action and taking responsibility creates an experience of happiness. How much time do you spend working your mind muscle and training it’s formidable power to shape a positive experience? Out of shape thinking equals a heavy mind-set. It’s not enough to agree with the statements above – it’s important to be able to access and apply these beliefs when you need to get back your feeling of well-being. Use your reactions, both positive and negative, to each of the statements above as feedback about where some of your blocks to happiness might be.
Sneak preview: imagine how you might experience a radical transformation if your body, mind, heart and soul lived and breathed the beliefs and feelings listed above.
The book that I recommend the most to clients is…One book? Unheard of for a Gemini! Check out my website under GET STARTED NOW/SELF HELP BOOKS for the many books I routinely recommend. However, my FAVORITE book is Kindred Spirit by Matthew & Terces Englehart. I also recommend anything written by John Gottman, including his most recent book on trust titled What Makes Love Last?
What’s the biggest misconception about being in therapy that you would like to clear up?
Myth #1: Fix me, Dr!
Being in therapy requires effort, time and commitment! My motto is: Change happens at home, not just on the couch! One hour a week at the gym is not going to help you lose weight or tone up very quickly. One hour of therapy without any thought, reflection or effort in between sessions will not amount to much benefit. It will make some difference, but not enough to see a “radical transformation”. (That was another sneak preview!)
Myth #2: People will think I’m crazy! (Maybe I am!)
Release any shame, stoicism and embarrassment about being in therapy and learning something new. Therapy is for people who care about themselves, their relationships and where they going are in life. They aren’t weak—they’re just smart enough to do something to make their lives better.
“If we all did the things we were capable of,
we would literally astound ourselves!”
As a certified Gottman Therapist (www.gottman.com) you have received additional, specialized training to “strengthen and restore marriages and relationships.” In your eyes, what is the most important element in creating and/or sustaining healthy relationships? Have a generous heart! Clear the air often, quickly and lovingly. Make your partner feel special every day. Cultivate the ability to say I’m sorry and mean it! Admit your role in problems. Take your partner’s dreams into your heart as if they were your own and never make a decision that doesn’t include both of your core needs equally. Bring lightness, laughter and tenderness to each other’s imperfections, as well as to the inevitable misunderstandings and disagreements.
Working with a therapist/being in therapy is not about…maintaining the status quo of your life.
What makes an individual or couple ready for therapy? Being in so much pain – or sick and tired of what is stuck and repetitive that you are willing to surrender your ego to break through your suffering. Being willing to see your own role in causing the problems you want therapy to fix. Being willing to be vulnerable, even if it’s going to take some time to get there. Leave your ego on the couch (that’s what needs therapy!) and take your heart home with you instead.
If you ended every session with the same words/message/quote to inspire your clients, what would it be? Come back next week and tell me one thing you did differently to make your life, your health, your relationship and your experience better. Then let’s celebrate your success at trying something new and taking action to put your path on a different course.
What can you do today to increase your capacity for happiness?
Visit Laurie’s website at www.laurieagee.com.