Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Ward.
Nicole, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I usually say I have always had an interest in people and decided I wanted to pursue a career in psychology while in high school. However, when I think about it, my interest in people started earlier than that through the influence of my mom. At age 5, she taught me how to “people watch,” which was observing others from a curious space. That grew from a fun way to stay occupied as a child to a part of my current profession.
I have an interesting path. I entered undergraduate at UCLA as a psychology major but decided to become an attorney instead of becoming a psychologist during my second quarter of my freshman year. I kept my psychology major because attorneys work with people and having that base foundation made sense to me. As an attorney, I worked for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee. One of my duties was to review the bankruptcy plans with persons who were filing prior to going to court. A lot of people wanted to discuss the non-financial reasons why they were filing for bankruptcy. This was a solid reminder of my passion for wanting help others with the emotional and relational aspects of life over the financial and legal ones. I developed the plan to return to school to earn a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology.
Once I started graduate school, it confirmed that working in mental health and with relationships are my passions. I have not looked back since that first day of school. I treated my years as an intern as a way to gain experience in a variety of areas of mental health. I spent that time working in private practice, on college campuses, and in community mental health. I worked in office settings and in field-based settings. The community mental health aspect of my career was spent at Children’s Institute, Inc. While there, I promoted up into management and leadership positions. These positions gave me invaluable experience in clinical supervision, program management, and program development. I took those skills with me when I made the decision to go out on my own. Now sixteen years later, I am right where I want to be, in private practice.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not always been a smooth road. Struggles are part of the human condition but we do not have to be wed to them. I adopted this mindset to be able to address some of the ones that I have faced. Taking the leap from a stable and secure job was a struggle. I have always wanted to own a private practice but things inevitably came up that pushed that goal back. Running a small business presents with its own challenges of being able to pace in a way that you are not always working. I keep these five things in mind to help keep me grounded and share with others: (1) Use your fears as fuel (2)Engage experts. There are several things that I can do but I am not an expert in everything. It has been extremely helpful to have someone else prepare my taxes as well as to continue to be the best version of me at the moment by having my own therapist. (3) Have multiple streams of income. As a solo practitioner, there are only so many hours that I can work so including workshops and consulting has been important. (4) Take care of yourself and (5) Create a community. Solo private practice can be isolating. I have made an effort to talk to others who are on their own as well as creating spaces like mixers for people to gather and share business tips.
We’d love to hear more about your practice.
My practice is centered around relationships, mental health, and wellness. Be Love Be Well Be Whole is the practice motto. My practice consists of two components (1) therapeutic services and (2) destigmatizing mental health. As part of the therapeutic side, I provide a space to heal and grow for adult individuals and couples. I utilize an active client-centered approach and serve as a guide during the process. I specialize in relationships in all stages and phases, mental health and working with those in the helping professions, including nurses, doctors, fellow clinicians, and attorneys. I also work a lot with creatives and those who are navigating entrepreneurial ventures. This aspect of my practice developed over the years based upon the needs of the clients who were seeking services.
The other half of my practice is centered around removing the stigma and myth around mental health. Being visible and having the conversations is important. Mental health is no different than physical health and does not need to be shrouded in mystery. This is accomplished by community engagement through various platforms including podcasts, speaking engagements, training, workshops and consulting with businesses/organizations to develop and maintain employee wellness programs.
I have a few proud moments, including whenever I hear from former interns letting me know that they passed their licensure exam. As a company, I am most proud of client growth and retention.
What sets me apart from others is my work with all stages of relationship and offering workshops to provide skills-building opportunities. Therapy is not just for when one is in distress, yet it may seem daunting to have to attend a one on one session. By providing groups and workshops, wellness can be addressed in another forum.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I have an amazing village that consists of my boyfriend, dad, family, and friends (especially the Great 8) who have served in all of those roles. I truly appreciate all of them. They have given pep talks, provided examples of tools to help organize and have been there to vent to when needed. Even though my mom passed away almost 20 years ago, she also deserves credit for encouraging me to find my happiness and live life as an adventure.
- Private pay rates for individuals and couples $140-$170 per session
- Pre-Marital Counseling $160 per session
- Groups $40 per session / Workshops $30 – $150
- Website: www.nicolemwardlmft.com
- Phone: (626) 788-2121
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @NicoleLMFT12
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicoleLMFT12/
- Twitter: @NicoleLMFT12
Purple Sweater on Steps – Camille Stemmons