Awesome Women in Philly: Launching an Online Therapy Practice

She Steps Up
She Steps Up
Published in
7 min readJul 6, 2020


Dr. Holly Sawyer, PhD, MS, LPC, NCC, CAADC is the founder of Life First Therapy and a loving and perceptive therapist who helps professional Black women. Dr. Holly works collaboratively with clients to build their self-confidence, identifying tools that are needed to build a career and live a life worth living! She helps clients navigate depression, anxiety and/or stress without using substances to cope.

Dr. Holly has launched an online group practice, The Therapy Loft Collective and is currently hiring for Pennsylvania Licensed Therapists who are looking to practice therapy online. Anyone interested in applying must be licensed, have a Masters degree with 2 or more years of clinical experience. Resumes can be sent to

What is Life First Therapy?

Life First Therapy is a private practice where I provide psychotherapy to professional Black women to help them navigate their life and career without using substances to cope with depressions and/or anxiety when experiencing microaggressions in the workplace. I also provide supervision to new graduates seeking licensure and professional consultation to licensed professionals working in the field.

Life First Therapy was created with the intent to help professional black women navigate through their career and life when feeling anxious, depressed or stressed without using substances to cope. Life First Therapy is a safe space where you can go to therapy without fear of being judged for being yourself!

You launched The Therapy Loft Collective, an online group practice. How is online therapy still beneficial compared to seeing a therapist in person?

I want people to not compare the two as if they are in competition. They are both great ways to deliver therapy. It boils down to preference between the therapist and client. Some therapists only do online therapy while others offer both, online and face to face. Some clients only prefer face to face while I have clients who travel for work and can only do online majority of the time. So, it really depends on the person and therapist. These days, due to COVID, most people do not have a choice and have to do online therapy if they want to continue seeing their therapist.

Here’s what I will say about online therapy, it is available to almost anyone as long as you have access to a computer/phone. Online therapy allows people to heal from the comfort of their own home without having to worry about transportation issues (parking, gas, traffic, etc.) or childcare. Online therapy can also help clients keep their appointments and minimize no-shows at face-to-face sessions. Online therapy is so flexible in that, you can have a late-night session for whatever reason you could attend therapy during 9 to 5 hours.

If you are in a crisis, online therapy is not the best option. Calling 9–1–1 or going to your nearest crisis center is going to best. Online therapy is not for everyone and that is totally fine. As long as you are getting the help you need, the delivery method does not matter. Only you can decide if online therapy works best for you and your situation.

You’re a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC); what’s the difference?

The LPC is a counseling license that comes from the state of Pennsylvania. The NCC is a national certification that recognizes I have met the high national standards for the practice of counseling. When someone is suffering from substance abuse, they should seek out a CAADC.

Why is it important for Black women to access mental health services and/or work with a perceptive therapist?

I think that is more subjective. Meaning, I cannot speak for all black women. Some Black women go to therapy because they have experienced some trauma or are depressed, while others go to process life in general when it just seems to be too overwhelming. Therapy in general is important. I believe Black women no longer have to suffer in silence because there are so many Black therapists available right now to help! I think all therapists should be perceptive and my hope is that they are.

In the past, you’ve spoken about stress management. What stress management tips you could share with us?

  • Practice time management skills and set a specific goal or goals for the day. Achieving them definitely will improve your mood.
  • Avoid procrastination.
  • Pace yourself throughout the day and take breaks. Also, realize your limits and stick to them by being aware of yourself, being good to yourself, and managing yourself.

If someone is searching for a therapist, what should they look for? How will they know if it’s a ‘good fit’?

  • Credentials: Credentials don’t automatically mean that someone is a great therapist, but it lets you know the therapist has at least met certain minimum standards to be a therapist.
  • Experience: Experience makes a tremendous difference, particularly those trained in specific mental health areas. There is no need to avoid newer therapists, they regularly consult with more experienced colleagues. It’s okay to ask questions about their background.
  • Therapeutic Relationship: A therapist should feel like a potential partner on your journey towards growth; someone that you can connect with. They should impart some sense of hope and you certainly should not walk away feeling looked down on, told off, judged, mocked or criticized.
  • Therapists’ Theoretical Orientation: You certainly don’t need to know about your therapist’s theoretical orientation to enjoy its benefits, but some people do resonate more with one approach than another.

Only the person seeking therapy would know if the therapist is a good fit for them or not based on the session and connection made or not with the therapist. I do believe a person should go to therapy at least 2–3 times before they decide to leave or stay with a therapist. It is totally okay to therapists shop.

You wrote a book, “2020 Vision: Action Planner”. What inspired you to write it?

In 2019, I wrote two books and am currently finalizing my third. I started writing “How to Talk About Trauma” in February 2018. I had to take a year and half break due to life as we know it. In July 2019, I finalized and self-published it. I created my own book tour starting in Philly that summer into the fall going to book stores in Brooklyn, Harlem, Baltimore and DC. I had no PR person, it was all me.

In December 2019, I started hosting monthly meet-ups for professional black women called P.O.W.E.R UP (professional outstanding women embracing rejuvenation) where I would bring 12 lovely ladies together, from a variety of professional backgrounds, to mastermind their exit strategy from their full-time job to full-time entrepreneurship. Some were already working in their business part-time while others were at the idea stage. I created the “2020 Vision: Action Planner” out of necessity. Simply meaning, every January so many people create vision boards without actions to see their vision through. For our January 2020 meet-up, I vowed to not have the same ‘ol vision board party so I wrote the book in 5 days. It was again self-published and ready for my ladies when we met again.

How is the Action Planner used?

The action planner is for the professional woman that is ready to create an actionable vision map for her life! This planner should be used monthly! These checkpoints include one’s spirit, body, physical environment, mental and emotional health. The planners helps to identify:

  1. Where you are and changes you need to make in order to take action!
  2. What you are ready and willing to do to rejuvenate your power.
  3. How to create your clear vision and have faith that it is yours.
  4. How to shed baggage and blockages that are holding you back.
  5. Action steps to reach your vision and goals!

This action planner challenges negative thoughts and how to reframe them for positive thoughts! You will also learn the importance of gratitude and self-love! And, 7 key steps to keep you in abundance, in flow! Lastly, this 2020 action planner discusses the narrative(s) you may have learned and adopted about money since you were a child, your beliefs around money and its availability. Like I said, vision boards are great, but not without an action plan! This action planner will take your vision into the next phase and beyond — if you are willing to do the work required!

The planner is on sale, 50% off until 7/31. Go here to purchase.

Any advice for someone considering writing a book?

Just write! Do not wait. Whatever you want to tell and share with the world, do it! My process is simply opening up my computer and typing my thoughts when they hit me. That eventually turns into a chapter and over time another chapter then another. I do not worry about anything. I just put it out there from my level of expertise and experience for those that need it most and move on.

You also have ten years of experience as an educator in higher education; do you have any words of wisdom for women looking to get into higher ed as a career?

I would suggest getting published early. It will help build your resume as it can be a requirement for a lot of institutions. Also, connect on LinkedIn with some other educators who teach for the university/college you would like to teach for and get to know them. Getting to know them can provide insight on their work environment and culture. If you do not have any teaching experience, start off as an adjunct at a local community college to also help build up your resume.

What media are you loving right now?

I love to read! The book I am enjoying right now is The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. Although I am not into podcasts, I am really loving Allison Street Live @allisonstreetlive on IG. Their podcast can be heard on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Awesome Women in Philly is a monthly Q&A series by She Steps Up, a Philadelphia, PA-based group aimed at empowering women, trans, and non-binary folks professionally and personally. We’re always looking for more awesome women to feature! Reach out to us via our website or our Instagram for details.