Who am I? (Leslie LaRo Hayes)
If you have landed on my website, you may be curious about who I am. Well, that’s a fairly layered topic so I have to start somewhere.
I am a proud Texan. Even before Texas was a state, generations of my family called Texas home and built a legacy of strength, sacrifice, faith, and hard work. I currently live in Medina County with my husband and some wild, but contented cats.
I am passionate about building strong connections between people, using understanding and acceptance of self/other, and motivation to grow closer to those important enough to keep pushing through difficult times.
I am a committed follower of Christ, believing religion symbolizes Man’s flawed effort to reach God, but relationship is God’s flawless plan to reach us. These two are not the same.
I believe without Relationship, Religion feels empty and can bring doubt, resentment, and a sense of being lost.
People are responsible for which of these they develop, as they are responsible for how this plays out in the tapestry of life. We cannot ‘borrow’ the faith of another person. It is something we develop alone with God.
Born in the mid-1960s, I grew up the youngest of 3 girls in San Antonio, Texas, in a ‘traditional’ intact family. At various times in my life I have acted in less-than “traditional” ways, meaning I did not always behave as was expected in my community—this has been a source of both blessing and heartache throughout my life.
I recognize not all families reflect my own experience but this does not make them less valid than my own.
You may not share my beliefs or values but I will offer you the best I have and will respect and treat you with the dignity all persons deserve. The values and standards I was taught (and have challenged) are a part of the filter through which I view life and I think it important for all potential clients to understand how I view them and the world we inhabit together. I will not try to be “all things to all people” so if my skills, training, or personality don’t offer what you need to assist you in your struggle, I will offer referrals to you for someone who may be a better fit for you.
I am a 20+year veteran public school educator and have been working with individuals, couples, and families educationally and therapeutically all of my professional life. I taught individuals with “disabilities”, aged birth to 22 years in the public school environment. I worked primarily with children who struggled every day to accomplish things most of their peers took for granted. I helped families focus on what their children COULD do, rather than on what they could not yet do.
Later, as a teacher of students with visual impairments, I spent time developing and applying professional knowledge and skills in the areas of sensory development and integration, particularly vision, hearing and touch. This led to a fascination with the concept of infant mental health and development. (a fancy way to say developing a secure attachment style)—this continues to be an area of interest for me—strong identities develop from secure attachments and stable childhood relationships.
In 2001, I realized the world was changing around me and that I was not involved in the profession which provided the most spark to my passion. I simply needed to take a hard look in the mirror and DO what I knew I was born to do: being a professional “busybody.” My insatiable curiosity about people drove my decision to pursue both a masters and a doctoral degree in Marriage and Family Therapy so I could mutually teach and learn about the struggles of others. Finally, as I pursue professional goals that pull all of these elements together, I love what I do! I find it humbling and invigorating to come alongside others as they try to overcome things they have found overwhelming to tackle alone.
A little on the quirky side, I tend to laugh and cry with equal ease.
I delight in the ways people learn to love, while I am saddened when meeting someone who has forgotten how to love, or, more tragically, how to BE loved. Isolated people are frequently untrusting souls who may be unaware they are the only ones who can open the door for connection to bring back the light. Often it is fear of rejection or abandonment which leads one to close doors and reject outstretched hands of hope. Isolation is a silent killer of people all over the world. It has serious neurological impact on our lives.
I believe there are reasons for everything we think, feel, believe and do.
In order to be a fully functional and healthy human adult, we must learn to be more curious about ourselves and others, particularly those with whom we share our lives. If we pay close enough attention, behavior communicates volumes, much of it worthy of receiving, because it informs how we respond.
Our brains offer a fascinating map of who we have been, are now, and can become, given proper nurturing and development of new habits. Our minds have a primitive facet and a more complex “evolved” identity. Both have roles but sometimes need a “reboot.”
It is the brain and all its mysteries which defines our human potential and drives our behavior. Most of this happens without our giving it even a passing thought. I try to share with clients and others with whom I interact, the role our brains play in human function every moment of every day.
I believe all individuals can learn, grow, and connect to others in beneficial ways.
We are all “differently-abled” in some aspect or when asked to accomplish tasks in areas unknown to us. We all have something of value to bring to the garden. Not everything which is planted and sprouts is helpful and sometimes we need help weeding out the unhealthy and obstructive so the necessary and vital has room for growth and exposure. Good things sometimes wither and die because the light of attention and love never reaches them.
What we shine a light upon, grows.
Some of my philosophical influences have been the bible, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Elisabeth Elliot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A. W. Tozer, J. I. Packer, Phillip Yancey, Ravi Zacharias, Mother Teresa, R. C. Sproul, and Billy Graham. These sources have been instrumental in helping me answer my own life’s questions. I include a wealth of references in the RESOURCES section of this website for anyone interested in learning more about the nature of people in community with self and others.
Clinically, I offer primarily a relational & developmental approach to therapy, believing relationships are the building blocks of our lives. Therapeutic ties I build with clients may unearth aspects of both positive and negative experiences the client may have had in the past. I help clients examine filters, expectations, assumptions, and choices in an effort to see the “THEN” and “NOW” differently and form a new relationship with both to build a future free of unwanted ‘baggage.’ I cannot promise change to anyone—there are no magic wands for success, but I rarely give up on a client unless the client has decided that change is more difficult than they’d anticipated. A small percentage of clients begin the process with unrealistic expectations of what therapy can accomplish. I do all can do to help facilitate client-created change, from the inside-out.
Therapeutic and Personal Worldview
The external world may not reflect my internal state. The only thing I have ANY control over is my response to what life brings to me. It may be beautiful or it may be scary and horrifying: over this, I have NO control. It’s “out of my column” of control. However, what I believe about me, the world, and the One who created space for both, necessarily provides the template for how I respond (inside and outside) to the place I find myself to be. This rests squarely within “my column.”
I believe there is no piece of life not tied to the quality of our relationships.
Since our relationships all have a common denominator (US), this is where our work begins.
My therapeutic approach includes Attachment-based Emotionally Focused Therapy, psycho-education, and experiential modes to address the “A-B-C”s of life (Affect— emotion, Behavior— the things we do, & Cognition— the things we think about and believe). An integration of all these areas of our lives represents our answers to the “big 4” questions .
Understanding anyone…ourselves or others… is much easier and far more complete the more you know about the context of their (or our) earliest years of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development.
You may notice that I have included images on this site of myself at tender ages because I realize that photographic evidence of my earnest intention toward tasks back then is an excellent window into that same quality today. I am an ‘odd child’, focused, intentional, hopeful, observant, slightly disheveled, and can remain so engrossed on a task that hours fly by and I am unaware. What you see is what you will find in me yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I don’t fool myself when I look in a mirror. The imperfections are part of the journey; this is a truth I try to share with clients. Some things matter, some don’t. People always matter more than things, and safety is a key to growth at all stages of our lives.
Safety + Openness = Intimacy
This is true in ALL relationships, including with ourselves. [perhaps, especially so]
We are still that infant, 5-year-old, 12-year-old, high school senior, 24-year-old starting a new job, and every other transitional role to follow— simultaneously. Just as we experience conflicting emotions, so do we carry messages that contradict assumptions we apply in finding meaning in our daily lives. The application is not the problem, but it is the fact that much of this is buried so deeply, when it seeps out (and it always does), we are not even aware of the damage. This is what drives my work—detecting the odorless gas making us sick, the sucking clay quagmire that prevents forward movement, the obstacles we continually encounter without really looking closely at them because we are too afraid of what they might be.
Getting to know about a client’s earliest years, [first 3-5 years] is absolutely the key to finding meaning within the client’s relationship with their past and availability to their current lives. These formative years are the prime time for developing attachments to those who are supposed to not only love us without condition, but also teach us to LOVE OURSELVES, to find something to like about ourselves, so that we have something to offer others in our lives—throughout our lives. The level of security, the depths of fear, and our approach to any new element life introduces completely colors how we view change.
Our relationship with ourselves is planted in the first 3-5 years of our existence. Therapy can help clean out the weeds, roots, and overgrowth so that we can actually see what is there and what is needed. It’s what I do and it’s always a privilege to be invited into the life garden of others.