One year ago this month, we opened the doors to Porch Light Counseling with the hope of creating a counseling practice that honored the experiences of all people involved in family-making, regardless of their definition of family. Ariel, Elizabeth and I combined our shared passions for supporting new and expectant parents, increasing resources for survivors of trauma, and promoting social justice values to serve a need we saw in our community. The response to our collective effort has been incredible, and we’re so grateful to the colleagues, clients, and community members who have supported us in our first year.

As we look forward to our second year of practice in a larger space surrounded by new neighbor/collaborators, we’re thrilled to be able to expand the services we offer to families through the addition of three new therapists to the Porch Light Counseling collective. Last week Elizabeth introduced you to Andrew Bednarzik, LPC, who specializes in supporting new dads, the transition to adulthood, and men’s issues. This week, I would like to introduce you to Julia Levine, LCSW, who specializes in recovery support, self harm behaviors, high conflict relationships, and parenting teens. Next week, Ariel will introduce the final member of our team.

When clients first reach out to a therapist, they’re often in the midst of a crisis. When stressors increase (pregnancy, a new baby, a break-up, the loss of a job, you name it), resources must also increase or crisis can ensue. Our nervous systems become overwhelmed. Functioning breaks down. Desperation pops up. Despair sets in. When we’re unable to find healthy ways to cope with anxiety, depression, or conflicts in our relationships (or if we never learned these skills), many of us turn to destructive “resources” just to survive. Substance abuse, self harm, isolating, lashing out, and withdrawing are all strategies we use to tolerate the intense feelings that can overwhelm us in times of crisis. When we begin to walk the path of self-destructive survival resources, sometimes we just need someone to remind us of the more life-supporting, creative resources we have access to. Other times we need a compassionate guide to direct us in the process of learning, practicing, and mastering new skills to help us regulate strong emotions and communicate effectively with others.

Julia Levine specializes in walking the path of recovery with those who desire a collaborator. Drawing on her own decades of recovery from addiction, Julia is in a unique position to offer guidance and perspective to those seeking their own way toward freedom from self-destructive behaviors. Understanding that these behaviors often have their roots in trauma, she has specialized training in a variety of methods to treat trauma and the havoc it can wreak on people’s lives and relationships.

Here’s a bit about Julia in her own words:

“I believe that recovery is possible for everyone. People can and do recover - from trauma, addiction, mental illness, loss and broken hearts. Some do it on their own and some may need a little help. I have been in recovery from addiction for almost twenty years - nearly half of my life. Recovery has shaped me; it guided me into this work. The knowledge that recovery is possible keeps me going in this work. Recovery is a process and I meet people where they are in the process. Sometimes 'where you are' is an uncomfortable place. You may feel scared and desperate. In an effort to cope with your feelings, you may be doing things that are making your situation worse. My substance use was driven by a desire for acceptance, safety and love. But my behavior as an addict was destructive, dangerous and left me profoundly lonely and alienated. What I was doing made sense on one level and was totally irrational on another.  In order for recovery to happen for me, I had to consider and weigh these seemingly opposing truths. I had to see the validity in both in order to find a way out. Effective therapy gives us skills and helps us to change problematic behavioral patterns but it also encourages compassionate self- acceptance. The art of therapy lies in acknowledging the paradox and finding a way of being in the world that feels balanced and authentic.”

Click here to read more about Julia's experience, training, and areas of expertise.

Heather Branham, LCSW, a therapist based in Asheville, NC, specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families navigate the complexities of gender, sexuality, and family-building.