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Meet Abby Hartman of Therapy With Abby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abby Hartman.  

Hi Abby, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I have always had an interesting relationship with the world and its people. From a very young age, I knew I had some kind of connection, whether that be intellectual, spiritual, or emotional… I just connected to people on a different level. I have always been a highly sensitive person, meaning I become easily overwhelmed by a lot of social stimulation, it’s easy for me to read a room or pick up on someone else’s emotions, I feel what other people are feeling around me. I knew I wanted to use this connected to people somehow, put I couldn’t put my finger on what that was when I was little. I saw my first therapist around the age of 14. My family was going through a lot and I needed a space to just be. I needed a place to feel safe, and that’s exactly the space my therapist provided me. I continued with therapy via my school counselor in middle school and high school. I was very fortunate to have school counselors who truly cared and had the time and resources to invest in me and my mental health, not just my class schedules or making sure I was preparing for college. Again, they provided me with a safe space where I could be whatever I needed to be in that moment. I went off to college and got my undergraduate degree in Psychology. I remember talking to one of my professors one day about the idea of going into the mental health field. She pointed me in the direction of applying to master’s programs and that was that. There was really nothing else I wanted to do or be. I think my soul had decided long before this moment that I wanted to be a therapist. I attended Southern Methodist University’s Master of Science in Counseling program and my whole world changed. I went into the program engaged, soon to be married, and so sure of what my life looked like ahead of me. Well. life said, “lol, nope.” In grad school, we did a lot of self-introspection and exploration of our own identities. I was growing every single day and learning new things about myself which was so exciting. I felt like I was finally “finding myself.” To make a long story short, by the end of my master’s program I was no longer married, and basically felt like I had a clean slate, a fresh start if you will, but this was terrifying. I began my career working with addictions in an intensive outpatient program. Seeing clients in this setting is a lot different than where I am now in private practice. People are really in the thick of it during this time as they’re freshly detoxed off of their security blanket which was drugs or alcohol. This is an incredibly vulnerable place for people to be at and it requires a lot of support, accountability, and reassurance. It can feel like a balancing act as a therapist because I see this person who has been hiding behind their substance use for so long, and I really want to help them get to the root of their problem while also keeping in mind that they might not be ready yet, and that is 100% okay. In addictions, we see A LOT of trauma once you take off that top layer of drugs and alcohol. I began feeling very intrigued and energized when I did have the opportunity to work with individuals who were in a place to truly begin addressing their trauma. I guess you could call it a light bulb moment, but I just knew this was for me. I felt honored to be able to provide a space where people could feel safe enough to share about some of their deepest and darkest moments in life. Exploring past trauma can be painful and scary, and I truly believe the key element to doing so is having a strong, trusting relationship with a therapist. I became trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as this approach can be extremely beneficial for those with trauma as well as other things. Learning about EMDR further assured my passion for doing trauma work with clients. It’s amazing to watch someone go from feeling crippled by their past experiences to then being able to say “yes, this happened to me, but I am okay now and I will always be okay.” I moved out of the addictions field and into a group practice where I was able to become more focused in trauma work. In this setting I also noticed myself feeling drawn toward clients who were essentially having an identity crisis. This can show up through relationship issues, career issues, trauma re-surfacing, or just an overall feeling of “what am I doing and what do I want to be doing?” I had dreams early on of opening up my own private practice. I had built it up in my head to be this huge and incredibly difficult process. I kept imagining that there would be an exact moment when it felt like the right time. With all the personal changes I have experienced throughout the last few years I finally realized that there is never going to be a “right time.” I just had to go with my intuition. So, in July of 2021, I started my practice, Therapy with Abby. I am a therapist with absolutely zero experience in owning a business so every day has felt like a learning curve, but for the first time since starting this entire journey, no matter how hard the day is, I can say that this is right for me. I am here, doing what I am meant to do. I often work with clients on cultivating a sense of congruency in their lives, and this is where I feel the most authentic and congruent. I consider myself a trauma-focused therapist with little sparkles of passion in working with the LGBTQ+ population, highly sensitive people, and adult children of alcoholics/addicts. Over the last few months, I have become more and more niched in treating sexual trauma and women with sexual issues, whether that be painful sex with their partner, anxiety around sex, deconstructing cultural or religious beliefs around sex, and expanding in their own identify as a beautiful, healthy, sexual being. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road has had bumps, dead ends, u-turns, hills, and just about any obstacle you could imagine. Throughout my journey, I have often had to remind myself that I too am a normal human being with normal human being issues. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). In working with clients, a lot of my own “stuff” shows up, whether that be past relationships, my own family dynamics, being an adult child of an alcoholic, and my own identify crisis. I see my own therapist at least every other week as I too need a space to process difficult emotions and experiences. Imposter syndrome is something I am actively working through. Often in life our brain likes to trick us into thinking we are not “smart, good, talented, beautiful, capable, you name it” enough. I try my best to give myself the compassion that I encourage clients to give themselves. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
I am a trauma-focused therapist with specialized training in working with the LGBTQ+ community. I am trained in EMDR therapy which helps individuals address past trauma that can show up in the present. People I Work Well With: 

Highly Sensitive People

Adult children of alcoholics/addicts

Adult children of emotionally unavailable or abusive parents

People experiencing general life dissatisfaction, depression, or anxiety

Teens above age 15 or adult children who experiencing the divorce of their parents

People who are struggling to connect to their partner romantically or sexually

People who have a history of “failed relationships”

People who feel like the “black sheep” or “oddball” in their families

People who feel like a burden or have been told they are “too much”

People who enjoy self-reflection and are wanting some help to take a deeper dive

People who feel like they don’t have an identity, or are wanting to further explore their changing identity

LGBTQ+ people who are struggling to connect with others around them or need support that may not be provided by family

People who have experienced negative reactions from others as a result of their coming out as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender

People who are wanting to explore their life stories, or who may have questions about how events from their childhood impact their current life. 

I am what’s called a “humanistic oriented therapist” meaning I see a person as more than their symptoms. Yes, people come into therapy struggling with anxiety, depression, or past trauma, but I take a deeper dive than what’s on the surface and really try to understand my clients in terms of their entire life span, not just what is sitting across from me in the room at that specific moment in time. 

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I have felt very lucky to be connected to a wonderful network of other professionals in the Dallas area. Coming from the SMU Counseling program you have a built-in network of other therapists and resources to use whether that be in the form of referrals, finding trainings or more information about a specific modality of therapy, and also just staying connected as people. Being in private practice can be isolating at times because it really is just me and my clients. I find so much value in having a network of other professionals who I can go to or lean on when I am struggling. 

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Tanner Beason

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