Lara Hanson, LCSW is a recent San Diego to Los Angeles transplant, who has been re-building her private practice over the last year in a new city. In this Spotlight, we talk about the importance of adapting to a new culture and utilizing flexibility, self-care, and resiliency on the path to your goals.
Hi Lara. Tell us a little bit about your private practice.
I actually moved up [to Los Angeles] from San Diego about a year and a half ago. I decided to make some great changes and I’ve been re-building my practice up here.
Who do you work with and what is your focus?
I worked with child welfare services for 13 years. Working with the medical, governmental, and educational systems really helped me discover my passion and niche, which is working with abuse and trauma. Later, I went on to receive additional training in play therapy and art therapy, in addition to EMDR.
In my practice, I adapt to clients’ needs, age range, and level of development. I’m using a lot of CBT and DBT. Many of my clients are insight oriented and are deeply processing what’s going on in their lives. With children, I incorporate mindfulness practices and emphasize the mind-body connection, which is such an important component for children and adults alike.
Right now my practice consists primarily of adult clients, many of whom I’m seeing through EAP’s. While my niche is children, it has taken me a while to understand how insurance panels are run up here in LA. So I’ve had to rework my business strategy. Ultimately, my intention is to continue to develop a younger clientele (aka children) up here.
What is it like to start fresh in a new city?
Despite only moving a few hours north, it has taken a little bit of time to understand LA culture. In LA, traffic and geographic proximity really seem to play a role in your practice and clientele!
I chose to set up my new practice in Glendale, in part because of the prices and commute, and also because it was really important to me to feel like I was in the right setting. I really like the energy here! My previous office in Carlsbad was a couple blocks from the beach, and during sessions it was really nice to get outdoors, walk to the beach and utilize that as part of my setting. As you can imagine, coming to LA was a big change in lifestyle.
Since I was in San Diego for so many years, I had developed a lot of connections within social services, the school system, and through doctors and hospitals, which provided a steady stream of referrals. In LA, I’ve been working to establish relationships with therapists as a way to understand what they do and to market my own services. Social networking with different geographic groups seems to be really important here.
What are you goals for your practice?
Ideally, my practice will consist of about 20-25 hours of client contact, and I’m about halfway there. Beyond that, there are the many aspects of running a business, which have been greatly enhanced by using SimplePractice. I had that moment of fear of going back to what I knew before I started using SimplePractice, but it is so liberating and empowering to move forward with technology. I feel inspired to keep with the times.
You mentioned using mindfulness in your practice. What is a good mindfulness exercise you like to use with kids?
When kids come in, they are often fidgety. My office has a lot of interesting things to look at, so sometimes I might have them look around the room and identify what they are seeing. Then I’ll translate that to body sensations they are experiencing, and I’ll have them move their awareness from head-to-toe, for example asking them what it’s like to relax their eyebrows or smile/frown, or have them talk about what they’re seeing, smelling, or hearing.
I also tend to bring the parents into the room and playfully help them engage. I want them to understand what I’m doing so they can use what we’re doing in the home or in public.
I love feeling free and creative with my kids, but I also use a psycho-educational component to draw the parents in. Parents are essential in helping their children progress. It’s funny when the children start playing with their parents and support their parents with their own mindfulness practices.
What are your own strategies for self-care?
I’ve always enjoyed yoga and spending time outdoors. I also find that taking some time between leaving work and going home supports my own sense of calm. I’ll use a combination of music that I enjoy and positive thoughts to help me transition to my home life after taking care of people all day long. I’m getting used to traffic in LA, and I’m actually using it as a means to consciously remind myself to breathe and relax. I also use that time in the car to call my friends. Checking in with them for a few minutes is a great way to stay connected.
Ok, on to the fun stuff. Tell us something unique about you.
Well, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! It was such an amazing experience. With something like that, you have to be prepared with both your mind and body and have a desire to do something in life with an element of surprise. You just don’t know what might happen.
This relates to the passion I have in my business. I realize it’s ok to have the desire to be successful and keep working to develop it, whatever comes. I feel fortunate that my place in life has allowed me to have this changeover. Of course, it’s difficult to develop a practice and manage everything going on in life, but for me, it has been an exciting new chapter.
You can find Lara at: