Emily Rose Barr is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor licensed to provide therapy sessions to clients in Illinois and Washington state. Many of Emily’s clients identify as women navigating academic or career challenges, many of whom have a strong drive toward achievement and personal growth but may be struggling with high levels of stress, anxiety, or self-doubt.
In sessions, Emily supports such clients through the integration of her knowledge of traditional therapy approaches with her training in nutrition and integrative therapy. She is very interested in the mind-body connection and enjoys integrating teachings around diet, nutrition, exercise, and sleep into her work.
We asked Emily more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.
Emily’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
I knew I wanted to be a therapist when I was in college. As a psychology major, I loved learning about what motivates people's choices and behaviors. I've always had an innate curiosity about the world around me, so applying this on an individual level was a natural fit. I confess I also took a liking to the show "In Treatment", which was running on HBO at the time, about a therapist in private practice. I drew a lot of inspiration from it!
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
I worked in the Baltimore City School system and in a group private practice prior to launching A Soul Awake Psychotherapy.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy hiking, reading, running, learning new board games, making sweets, memorizing poems, and playing with my pup Lyla.
Emily’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
Creating a space where clients feel comfortable being their full authentic selves drives my work. I think there are limited spaces and relationships in which we can express ourselves without hesitation or fear of judgment. I strive to help clients believe that there are no "good" parts or "bad" parts within them, only parts that long to be heard. Approaching ourselves with a stance of curiosity rather than disdain makes a tremendous difference in how we treat ourselves and one another.
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
I work exclusively with women in their 20s to 40s. I find that identifying as a female, I readily relate to women's concerns and can provide them with the appropriate tools and strategies to navigate their difficulties. Being able to draw from my personal experience adds a layer of authenticity and understanding to the therapeutic relationship.
Additionally, I am a strong advocate for women's rights and am continually seeking ways to promote gender equality. Women who are high achievers often place tremendous pressure on themselves, and as a result, might struggle with perfectionism, self-image, fear of failure, self-doubt, and feelings of restlessness or dissatisfaction. Many times, such women were conditioned as children to believe that their performance (academic, social, etc.) was closely linked to how they were loved or valued. In other words, if they performed poorly, they might have felt worthless or inadequate.
It can be difficult to break this pattern in adulthood. I work with clients to understand how their early experience shaped their current self-expectations and develop a healthier way of relating to themselves, independent of their accomplishments. I also encourage them to value themselves the way they wish to be valued by others and challenge them to create conditions in which it's ok, desirable even, to fail.
Can you tell us more about your specialties in stress and anxiety?
Stress and anxiety can arise from a number of sources such as work, romantic relationships, and family dynamics. When seeking therapy to help manage stress and anxiety levels, they've often reached a point where they're interfering with an individual's day-to-day functioning. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, increased heart rate, appetite changes, sleep difficulties, and racing thoughts.
I work with clients to develop easy, accessible strategies that help them cope with anxiety in the moment (breathing practices, visualization exercises, etc.) as well as help them identify and challenge underlying thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to their experience.
Can you tell us more about your work with clients navigating major life transitions?
Some examples of life transitions include beginning or ending a relationship, getting a promotion at work, moving to a new city, or caring for aging parents or relatives. One of the most common difficulties associated with life transitions is the uncertainty that they present. When we don't know how something is going to turn out, it's easy for our imaginations to run wild and conjure up the worst possible outcomes.
Additionally, sometimes we forget that even positive transitions, like buying a new home, can be challenging. I work with clients to understand how our minds have evolved to respond to uncertainty, while focusing on how they can best prepare for an upcoming transition or adjust to a recent one. I also help clients learn to sit with and respond to some of the uncomfortable feelings that might arise as they navigate new territory.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
So many things! I love getting to witness clients "try on" different ways of being. It takes so much courage to address unhelpful patterns and imperfections, so when a client is able to do this and love herself through it, I feel a deep sense of reward. I also think about the ripple effect of a client's personal growth and imagine the difference it will make in the lives of those she cares about for years to come.
Therapy sessions with Emily
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
I like to consider our first 2 to 3 sessions an extension of our initial phone consultation. I value taking the time to get to know each of my clients in a way that goes beyond their presenting concerns and allows me to see them from a broader perspective. I help clients feel safe and comfortable in the therapeutic relationship by allowing the client to move at their preferred pace and follow their lead in terms of what gets covered over the course of a session.
Additionally, I invite clients to provide feedback about how therapy is progressing and voice any concerns they have along the way. In ongoing sessions, I'll usually start by asking the client to share updates from the past week. Depending on what is shared, we might spend the session duration focusing on a recent development.
Otherwise, we'll often pick up where we left off during the previous session and focus on the primary concerns that initially brought the client to therapy. This can include exploring thought and behavioral patterns, relationship dynamics, emotional expression, self-care, and more.
How long do clients typically see you for?
Typically I see clients for at least a year, often more, before transitioning to meeting every other week or monthly.
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
One of my go-to recommendations is Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab, as boundary-setting is a common struggle for many clients. I also recommend:
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk (as a trauma resource)
- Do What You Are by Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron, and Kelly Tieger (as a favorite for clients discerning their career direction)
- Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn (as a great mindfulness resource)
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
- Small Victories by Anne Lamott
... I could go on and on!
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
Yes! Homework can include mindfulness/meditation practices, spending time in nature, journaling, reading an article or book, trying out a new behavior, or monitoring thoughts, feelings, or routines using a tracking template. I never want homework to feel burdensome for a client and encourage clients to be creative in how they approach it.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
One of the most effective ways of measuring progress in therapy is evaluating your symptoms: are they getting better or worse? How can you tell? Another way is to see if your friends, family, or colleagues have noticed any positive changes in your mood or behavior. What have they picked up on? Being open and honest about how you're feeling and acting in different settings is key to ensuring that you're making progress through our work together.
How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?
I believe everyone can benefit from therapy at any time in their lives. If you're uncertain though, it might be time to start seeking therapy if your problems feel insurmountable or overwhelming; if you've recently gone through a significant life change; if you've tried various solutions to address your concerns but nothing seems to be working; or if you're simply looking to better your understanding of yourself and your experiences.
How can I prepare for our first session?
A lot of clients feel nervous before their first session, particularly if they've never been to therapy before. My only expectation is that you be yourself. If you're nervous, let's talk about it. If you don't know what to say, that's ok. I want clients to feel proud of themselves for investing in their mental and emotional well-being.
How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?
One of the best indicators that my past clients have used to identify when they're ready to end therapy is they're consistently using the strategies and tools we've developed together outside of therapy and finding them effective. In this way, they're serving as their own therapist, which is usually a sign that it's time for me to fade into the background. It can be scary to end the therapeutic relationship, but clients often feel confident in the progress they've made and excited to begin a new chapter.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
Therapists fill a unique role, one that shouldn't be filled by friends, family members, or other loved ones. Each of these individuals can support us and advise us, but it can create an imbalance in the relationship if we come to depend too heavily on them. Therapists are specially trained to help you navigate life's challenges and can provide insights that differ from those of your loved ones. Furthermore, therapy provides a safe space in which you may feel comfortable expressing yourself in ways you wouldn't in other settings.
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
Start now! If it ends up not being the right time or doesn't feel like a good fit, you can always stop. It's important to invest in your mental health just as much as your physical health. Do your research to find a provider that best aligns with what you're looking for in terms of approach, specialization, experience, cost, gender, availability, and any other criteria you consider important.
Visit Emily’s profile to read more about her and book an initial call!