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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Lowering Overhead, Customizing Care: Karen L. Smith Reimagines the Therapy Model

Industry disrupters like Uber and Airbnb have changed the way customers shop for lodging or for a lift by matching services to potential clients through crowdsourcing. A similar concept is behind Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, founded and directed by Karen L. Smith, MSS, LCSW. Smith is setting her own trend by building a local network of personally selected and supervised experts in mental health that are then carefully matched with potential clients.

What makes your business model unique to the mental health care space? The brilliance of businesses working in this “sharing economy” is their innovative use of people’s pre-existing resources. We took that idea and decided to apply it to therapy. We identified a large number of clinicians in the Philadelphia area that had an existing resource they were up for sharing—namely their own practices. These professionals have existing practices, with their own offices, their own malpractice insurance and clinical supervision. What they lacked was simply an adequate number of referrals to keep their practices full. Like Airbnb and Uber, however, it is not merely a referral service. The client continues to be a Full Living client, but under the care of the individual therapist. Nor is this a traditional fee-for-service system, since, given our low overhead due to shareable resources, the bulk of the client fee goes to the therapist.

How did Full Living come about? As a national educator on issues of gender/sexuality/orientation/family constellations and, more recently, educating other therapists on enriching their work with analytic theory, I have always secured more referrals than my 20-year private practice could absorb. Rather than simply referring them out to other clinicians, I decided to create a group practice that relies exclusively on seasoned clinicians throughout the city and surrounding areas that I have hand-selected for excellence. This offers a reliable network of psychotherapy services.

What kinds of services does Full Living provide? Full Living offers a full range of modalities, including individual, couples, family and group therapies from experienced therapists with very different backgrounds, educations, specialties, personalities and styles. These differences, along with my personal initial consult with the client seeking therapy, allow me to make a meaningful match. We assist in coordinating psychiatric services, psychological testing and referral services for other needs, including nutritional counseling and EMDR treatment.

What is Full Living’s approach to treatment? We know the difference between counseling and therapy. Counseling has its goals to support and validate; to provide advice, suggestions, resources; and to offer motivation for change. Those tactics are great; however, they are not therapy. The terms “therapy” or “psychotherapy” should be reserved for a more complex intervention. Our therapists are trained and attuned to noticing many things that can alert us to information our unconscious might have about what ails us. A good therapist is one who knows the value, from personal history, of facing whatever truths must be faced, with boldness; the Full Living therapists are those kinds of professionals.

Location: Offices located across the Greater Philadelphia area. For more information or to schedule a free, initial consultation, call 215-494-7818, email [email protected] or visit

November 2016