Heather Allen is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Ohio specializing in eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. We asked Heather more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.
Heather’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
I decided to become a therapist after a long career in the field of child development. I have wanted to work with children all of my life and have worked with them in every capacity, from daycare to casework home visits, to being a behavioral intervention aide for children on the autism spectrum. Through this journey and a persons life experience with a family member who went through mental health issues, I knew my calling was to become a therapist. I had always said graduate school wasn’t for me, but life was showing me otherwise and I went for it!
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
I worked in partial hospitalization ("PHP") levels of care at adolescent eating disorder clinics, both hospital run and private facilities.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy taking my dog on walks through my neighbor and stopping for an iced coffee, no matter the season. I love to go to concerts and to travel. I recently got back from Italy and it was amazing! I’m already planning my next trip. I also love to go antiquing with my mom!
Heather’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
I work from guiding principles of best outcomes for my clients, even if it means they don’t like me (which often happens in working with children with severe eating disorders). I want my clients to recover and go on to live full, healthy lives and that often means I am the person making things more difficult and stressful for them in the short term. I do what’s best for them, not what they want. And usually by following that philosophy I gain their respect.
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
I work mostly with adolescents, teens and young adults with eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa. My preference is to work with families using the FBT model, but I also work with individuals when appropriate. I am drawn to the eating disorder population because of the intricacies of mental health and society that contribute to the prevalence of eating disorders.
Can you tell us more about your specialties in anxiety and depression?
Anxiety is often co-morbid with eating disorders and will be focused on as part of our ED treatment. Depression is also co-morbid with eating disorders frequently, and especially shows up when things with the eating disorder are becoming more under control.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I find it most rewarding to discharge a client who has moved on to another grade, another phase of life. They are able to be back to their hobbies, travel, go on field trips. I see children get the lives their eating disorder took away from them back and I see their families come back together, often times stronger than before the eating disorder.
Therapy sessions with Heather
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
Our first session will be a 90 minute assessment. I will ask on parent to be present with the adolescent or teen in the assessment. If you are in college, I will still request a parent be present to help me get the background information I need. It’s a lot of questions- but I try to make it not painful!
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
I recommend Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison to anyone I meet! It was a life-changing book for me.
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
Yes! I always ask if you are willing to have homework and if you are it is typically a short assignment. It can be anything from journaling to a worksheet to a more in depth body image assessment.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
I ensure you are making progress by referring back to your goals frequently. I do this on my own, but I also review goals with you to make sure we are working towards the goals you set initially. I also ask you if you feel you are making progress- and help you to see the progress you’ve made if that’s a challenge for you.
How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?
You cannot live the life you want to live because of your eating disorder. Your thoughts are consumed for a major part of your day.
How can I prepare for our first session?
You can prepare by allowing yourself to be open and honest. Do something before to help you relax, like taking a bath, lighting a candle, and grabbing a cozy blanket for our session.
How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?
We will discuss this when we evaluate your progress towards goals. When there is less and less to talk about in session that is a good indicator we can space things out.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
Friends and loved ones are a great support and you will need them during therapy. They are part of the puzzle, but the aren’t the only piece. Only a trained professional can help you recover from an eating disorder.
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
You will always wish you started sooner. Not making a choice to begin therapy, or putting it off for now, is making a choice to not get the help you deserve.
Visit Heather’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and book an initial call!