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Meet Loree Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Loree Johnson.

Loree, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over twenty years of experience in the mental health field. I started my career in working at an agency before leaping into private practice over a decade ago at the height of a recession. Initially, my colleagues were concerned, especially facing economic uncertainty, but I was determined to practice on my own terms. My work as a clinician has been incredibly rewarding as I sit with people as they heal and grow. Being entrusted with the most vulnerable of stories is an incredible privilege.

Throughout my career, I have often heard that since I am a therapist, I should be “fine” when dealing with any challenging situation, because I have the tools. Naively, I bought into that narrative and thought my training could shield me from the depths of my pain.

But a grief journey that has now spanned six years, filled with four pregnancies and just as many losses – including one in the second trimester – and a year and a half of IVF treatments, left me reeling.

Looking back, those were some pretty dark times, and I sought comfort in my work and my tribe.

I had always prided myself on being pretty resilient. I came from a family of strong, powerful Southern women and didn’t have a choice.

I grew up in Richmond, VA – the heart of the Confederacy during a time when the city clung desperately to its complicated past. My mother battles a derivative of Sickle Cell Anemia that was a defining element in our family. And my grandmother, who was one of the hardest working women I know, was a life-long learner and saw that education was stressed in my family.

So when it came to learning how to grieve, I took a page out of my family’s playbook. I “worked” through the process, both literally and figuratively. Focusing on my client’s needs gave me a brief reprieve from the depths of my pain, but when a session was over, I was left alone with my intense sadness.

A few months after our IVF treatments ended with another loss, I decided we needed a break from the emotional stress. I had to reclaim my body and spirit and step away from the narrative of failure that often comes with a complicated fertility and grief journey.

So I made my way back to something I always loved but was neglecting: travel.

Traveling became a different form of therapy. It helped me disconnect from the struggle I’d been going through so I could experience the joy of exploring other cultures.

There were no longer any doctor appointments, medications, or procedures running my life.

I started planning, and it worked. It’s hard to be sad while you’re researching a travel itinerary for Cuba.

If you think the ruins in Rome are impressive, wait until you see the ones in Greece.

Plan a trip if you’re feeling sad. When all else fails, plan some more!

Planning trips became my new (and expensive) antidote to pain. I was honoring my need for freedom from the weight of my emotions. Traveling was my way of doing just that.

Getting some space from the narrative of “failure” that became synonymous with trying to have a baby allowed me to regroup.

Somewhere along the way in my grieving process, I started seeing other women who were going through fertility treatments and suffering from the grief associated with it. I could identify with their struggles and help them figure out ways for them to advocate for themselves in a process that takes its toll on one’s mental health.

Being part of the grief club was not a membership I signed up for, but I try to channel what I’ve learned so that other women and couples don’t feel so alone.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road to private practice was pretty smooth for me. Ironically, I decided to leap into private practice in 2008 when the country was in the midst of a recession. Many of my colleagues were fearful about my change, but I was focused on venturing out on my own. I worked with a mentor who had been established in private practice for 30 years and simply followed his model.

My practice was running smoothly, even with my business revamp.

My fertility journey is another story.

I never felt self-conscious about my age, or my husband’s, until we started talking about having children shortly after we got married. With my husband being significantly older than me, most people assumed I didn’t want children. Hearing the judgment or perceived judgment about our decision made me selective about who we could talk to, especially when we started experiencing the pregnancies and subsequent losses. Hearing some friends say, “You’re going to do that again” didn’t make me feel supported. Luckily members of my tribe came through with the support, reminding me that my path was my path and honored my decision.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
After turning a corner in a complicated grief journey, I launched my coaching business as an extension of my practice last year, where I basically offer personalized services to help women stay sane while going through fertility treatments or their grief process. Coaching is an excellent resource in the fertility community. You help clients manage their emotional, nutritional, and physical health while their fertility doctors handle the science. However, there are times when an individual or couple needs the services of a licensed mental health provider for deeper level work, and I can point them in that direction.

Being a licensed therapist sets me apart from coaches. My techniques and approaches are informed by my clinical background and personalized to the individual (or couple) for what is appropriate in a non-therapeutic setting. Since I also have expertise in working in the mental health field, I can refer clients to therapy when needed.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I can’t say that luck has played much of a role in my life or business.

I come from a family of woman who have a strong work ethic, so I tend to keep my nose to the ground and grind things out.

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Image Credit:

Courtney Paige Ray

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