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Meet Laura Wood of Benavieri Counseling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Wood.

Hi Laura, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I chose to become a counselor a little over ten years ago when I began my life as a single mom. I always knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t always know how I would do that. Growing up, I had several experiences that resulted in complex trauma, depression, anxiety, and dissociation. I had my first child in high school and got married before turning 18. Trauma absolutely changes your perspective on everything, especially yourself – who you are and what you’re capable of can be quite unclear and positive feelings, healthy relationships, and a sense of self-worth feel extremely out of reach. I used to think those things didn’t apply to me – just weren’t in the cards. After six or so years of marriage, three baby boys, living in two different countries and three different states; all before turning 22, I knew I needed to get out. My old friends were graduating college, and I hadn’t even been able to start. The relationship was not a healthy one, and I felt like it was now or never, so I left.

I enrolled in school, University of Phoenix, so that I could attend online and used military family education benefits to start my education. My parents drove to North Carolina to help me and my boys get back here to Arizona safely. We made it. I worked three jobs and slept on my mom’s couch for about six months before landing something stable. I was still in school, and while working full time, I got my Bachelors of Science in Human Services, I took 75 credits in my final year just to finish a little sooner. By then, I knew that I would be going on to get my Masters in Counseling so that I could help teens, many of whom had similar experiences to me, find their value before they have to find it the hard way. I was pretty successful at my day job, I was promoted three times while I was earning my college education, and I bought my first house. It turned out that the counseling skills I was learning really helped me to be successful in marketing, and my marketing skills I learned at work have helped me tremendously as a business owner. Big take-away – no path is linear, it’s never what you thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I kept my day job after earning my license and board certification and spent a couple of years working part-time with adults in and out of the correctional system.

I enjoyed helping people turn their lives around, and I learned more than I ever thought I could about how similar we all are and how complex trauma does it’s very best to take hold of our lives, and it has a very strong grip. This experience also helped me realize what life-skills were consistently missing among that population. I realized that if we could focus on proactive intervention and give kids an opportunity to learn how to become internally motivated, build a personal value system, manage their emotions, and gain insight into their triggers before they start to spiral, we can get in front of the systemic cycles of abuse that cause young people to get caught up in the criminal justice system, unhealthy relationships, and even general discontentment. That’s when I knew exactly how I was going to make an impact on the world that I’d seen as so unfair and dangerous for so long. I completed EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training, which is one of the leading trauma interventions, and obtained continual consultation to ensure my skills stay sharp. As a Licensed Associate Counselor I also work with a supervisor who helps guide me in my practice. I learned about dissociative disorders and Structural Dissociation Theory, and quickly realized that it was the key to my unlocking my own doors to healing, so I immediately signed up to be trained in that theory. That’s when it all came together.

In 2019, I decided to leave my day job and start a private practice, Benavieri Counseling. Benavieri is a hybrid of my mother’s maiden name and my paternal family name. It seemed to fit, although my marketing instincts told me to find something easier to say, spell, and remember. Shortly after that, I got a job offer to do what I’d always wanted in the corporate world, and I wasn’t ready to give up that opportunity, so I took it. Now I’m doing both. I work nights and weekends in my counseling practice, which works out for the clients since they’re in school during the day, and I work as a director of client experience full time. Maybe one day, I’ll be ready to pick one or the other, but not yet. I love working with individual clients and leading groups for teens. I’m also focusing on building online courses for anyone to learn skills outside of the therapeutic environment. My courses will be available this spring.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road, if it were, I don’t think I would have learned a thing. The biggest challenge for me has been my own growth – growth is painful, sometimes discouraging, and pretty messy. Having my kids when I was a kid means we really grew up together. When I think about the sacrifices, they’ve had to make I can start to feel a little bummed out. None of us get out of childhood unscathed, but it was a hard lesson for me to learn that I didn’t have to be perfect. It was okay if I made a mistake because I could make different choices the next time. I beat myself up for a long time about all the things I “should” have done differently, and that takes a toll. If I had one thing to do over again, it would be to spend less time thinking about how it should have been and have been present in the reality that was actually pretty good. Another struggle is time. I can’t make or even buy, more of it. I have such passion for what I’m doing that I can get lost in it. I can let myself work day and night, which isn’t always consistent with a well-rounded life. I can be impatient, thinking about things I’ve missed out on, and that’s distracting. I’m always reminding myself to get present and then make a decision. I sometimes forget that everything doesn’t have to be done right now, urgency is an internal construct to distract us from our own distress – no one is dying on the table if it takes me one more week to get the next project out the door. I use my grounding skills to get present at least a billion times per day. Then I make a decision-based in reality and put down the laptop, get off my phone, and I relax to watch a movie with the kids.

We’ve been impressed with Benavieri Counseling, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Benavieri Counseling is a private counseling practice and will soon offer online courses for those who want to start acting intentionally and building a foundation for themselves to find a sense of ownership over their internal experiences. I specifically work with teens and young adults on an individual level, and I offer groups for teens. I’m working on building several online courses with self-care content for anyone to use outside of therapy. My lens is really focused on complex trauma and dissociative disorders, I’ve completed a several trainings and consultations in these areas.

My skill is my ability to relate – to understand and acknowledge another person’s experience, and to be genuine in every interaction. Better or worse, what you see is what you get with me, I’m as transparent as it gets. I want everyone to see what I see in them, I catch myself getting too excited when clients find insights or make realizations! I know that everyone has innate value, and our circumstances as kids doesn’t have to predict the rest of our lives. I believe that there is a win-win in nearly every situation and that we are capable of so much more than we realize. I want to help everyone get connected with their internal system and resolve conflicts to switch off fears and strategies that we don’t need anymore. I’m proud of my reality, I love my passion, my brand is my honesty, and my willingness to be real. I want people to feel validated, capable, and at least a little hopeful that they can find peace internally and that it’s most definitely in the cards for them.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that I have value. I have something to offer, and I don’t need to apologize for it. As a young girl, I picked up some beliefs that weren’t based in truth, I think a lot of us do. We learn as young women that our value comes from serving others, it is selfish to focus on yourself, ambition is intimidating and unattractive, no one wants to hear what you have to say, take up less space, leave the room as if you were never there, don’t be too much, too loud, to emotional, too negative, too proud, etc. I lived with those beliefs for a long time, and that perspective was my reality. Not until I did my own personal work did I realize that my perspective wasn’t based in truth, it was based in abuse, manipulation and control. It turns out that healing allowed me to shift my perspective, to re-learn what is true, and that changed everything.

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