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Life & Work with Laura Fish

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

Hi Laura, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I currently run two businesses: I am a therapist in private practice and a consultant.  As a therapist I provide counseling services for individuals, couples, children, and families. With my consulting business I offer a wide array of services in support of mental and behavioral health: both for children and adults. 

Following graduation from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in psychology, I became a preschool teacher. While I truly loved teaching, I longed to provide more targeted support for children and families who were struggling with mental health challenges. To do so, I earned my master’s in counseling, then obtained my licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist. 

With this additional training, I began my twenty plus year career as both a therapist and consultant. I enjoy the challenge of providing leading therapies for people at all stages of life, while simultaneously delivering cutting-edge trainings for adults to help them “Teach and Parent with the Brain in Mind.” 

For my work as a therapist, I draw from the field of interpersonal neurobiology: focusing on developing the mind and brain in the context of relationships to promote healing for lasting change. As a consultant, I leverage my therapeutic knowledge coupled with my teaching experience to deliver evidence-based strategies to help adults work smarter, not harder, when it comes to children.

I’m passionate about equity, social justice, full inclusion, and precision practices when it comes to working with children. My goal is to help adults “update their software” as an opportunity to explore what they think, perceive, and believe about children’s behavior to align it with 21st Century learnings. To teach and parent based on science, not habit. 

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The biggest challenge I face is the fixed beliefs of many adults about children’s behavior and outdated methods of intervening when challenging behaviors arise. Cross-culturally, trans-gender, adults tend to believe that punishment changes behavior. 

Knowing what I do about the mind and brain I hold a different belief: teaching changes behavior, not punishment. Punishment can stop the behavior in the short term, but did you ever notice it doesn’t seem to have a long-lasting effect? 

That’s because when a child is giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Instead of punishing, I show adults how to help the child feel seen, soothed, safe, and secure. From there we can teach them what to do “instead.” To learn the social, emotional, and relational skills needed to engage with the world.

In the wise words of Jane Nelsen, “Where did we get the crazy idea that children need to feel bad in order to do good?” 

It is often challenging for adults to update their beliefs to align with this 21st-Century brain science informed approach, which makes sense because change is hard. I offer a compassionate and gentle approach.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
For my work as a consultant, my experience as both a teacher and a therapist give me “street cred.” I’ve walked in the teachers’ shoes, grappled with similar challenges. Educators say they like that I am not just a mental health person coming in with no idea what it is like for teachers. 

I bring stories, experiences, and practical strategies to my trainings that engage the teachers, inspire them to grow and motivate them to try something new. Participants say I create a safe and encouraging environment for learning and reflection through my open and receptive approach. I respect and believe that all teachers and parents are doing the best they can, they have good intentions, and I trust them to take in the updates I offer on their own timeline. No judgments! 

In my private practice, I am unique in my use of Interpersonal Neurobiology: focusing on the mind and brain in the context of relationships to promote healing for lasting change. My approach is very current, relevant, and I combine this work with other trauma-informed practices, such as EMDR, to enhance client outcomes. 

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up.
My Dad always turned off the lawnmower for me. 

Let me explain. 

Growing up, we had a large amount of grass to mow around my childhood home. The grass spread out amongst rolling hills, so the task took a lot of time and effort. In upstate NY, this meant mowing in extreme heat and humidity much of the time. My dad was the sole person responsible for mowing the lawn and he did so by hand (not a riding mower). 

I vividly recall countless examples of me bounding up to my dad amid his mowing, and he always, not sometimes, turned the mower off and attuned to me. He never told me he was too busy. 

As an adult, I think of how easy and understandable it might be for him to just shout, “Not now, Laura, I have to finish this.” But he never did. Nor did he dismiss me after he heard what I was bringing to him to share which, I see now, could have waited. With this my dad sent the message that what I had to say mattered. I mattered. What a gift!

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