Laura Ladd Curtis describes herself as a lifelong learner.
She’s always had a desire to be in the classroom, from when she was a teacher to her many years of continued education to become a certified therapist.
Before she focused on mental health care, Curtis taught elementary students, as well as various music classes in schools across Missouri. She realized her desire to become a counselor when she was a high school vocal teacher.
“There were two or three of my students who became very special to me, and they were having personal problems. I didn’t feel like I knew enough to help them, and that’s what spurred me to get my master’s in counseling,” Curtis says.
That led her to become a middle and high school guidance counselor, which was followed by a 13-year career as owner of Curtis Counseling LLC. After an attempted retirement, she joined Touchstone Counseling LLC in Ozark, where she is now a licensed professional counselor.
Her desire to continue her education has allowed her to stay up-to-date with current counseling techniques, she says. She’s currently a certified trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapist, a clinical anxiety treatment professional and a facilitator for Trauma Smart, which is a curriculum developed by Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City’s Crittenton Children’s Center.
These certifications allow her to provide solutions for children bullied at school, clients who have experienced abuse, and adolescents and adults who self-harm or have suicidal ideation, she says.
“The reward for me comes when I hear a client say, ‘I appreciate that this is now a part of who I am. I have the scar to remind me that I am healed. These scars cannot hurt me anymore,’” Curtis says.
When she started her counseling career in 1997, she says the most prominent mental health issues that she helped students with were generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and self-harm. Today, she says there’s myriad of issues, like cyberbullying, gender dysphoria, autism spectrum disorder, internet gaming disorder and suicidal ideation in children and adolescents.
“These are diagnoses that require more extensive and specific continuing education,” she says.
Curtis says it’s also important to her to help remove a negative stigma surrounding mental health in the community. She says a person’s mental health is vital to their overall emotional and social well-being from childhood through adulthood.
“I see my role as vital to the healing of beyond skin deep wounds,” Curtis says. “Other health professionals have experience in fixing the physical ailments obvious to the human eye. My role includes identifying invisible pain, wounds in the heart, scars of the soul.”
One of Curtis’ greatest accomplishments was counseling two clients who had been rescued from sex trafficking. She says she watched them become confident and secure women.
“These women had endured abuse that most people could never imagine,” Curtis says. “It took two years of consistent therapy for them to process their past … while realizing that it did not define their future.”
One of the girls is working toward a degree in nursing with a 4.0 GPA; the other has started a business. Curtis says she feels blessed to see healthy outcomes like these.
“I provided the tools, but they chose to pick them up and use them,” she says.
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