Owner, private mental health practice
Down-to-earth clinician and social worker Dr. Darcy Smith bases her counseling philosophy on the same principles that characterize the advice she gives: sincerity and respect, with no strings attached. “I can’t pretend to be a suit,” says the casually dressed Smith. “And it would be unproductive [to wear a suit] based on my clients’ personalities.”
Smith made an early commitment to troubled youth after her own stultifying experience seeing a therapist in high school. “He looked like he was from another universe and I can't imagine someone less approachable,” says Smith. “I basically decided at the age of 14 that the field of mental health was overburdened with adults.” Dr. Smith would dedicate another two years to servicing adolescents at the Charter Behavioral Health System of New Jersey before started her own agency, Alternatives Adolescent Counseling Center, and 10 years later forming her own private practice, free of the “corporate suits” and “hierarchal props” that pervaded her working life.
“I have a hard time with bureaucracy and being limited in my autonomy,” says Smith. “It didn't take long for me to realize that there was a shelf-life on my ability to 'listen to the man,' so to speak, so when I found myself between jobs, I decided that I really wanted to work for myself. So, with a little help from unemployment, off I went.”
Dr. Smith has since retained long-term clie-nts who have all voluntarily committed to therapy with defined goal paths. She con-
tinues academic work, staying involved in
research initiatives and exploring eating disorders, and LGBT and women’s issues.
“I try to be the therapist that I’d look for—motivating, positive, and pragmatic,” she says. “I want to show [my clients] I’m a real human being as opposed to some flat person with no affect.”