Emily Ballard Licensed Therapist | Thread Spun Blog

After Hours Disc 14: Keeping it Really Real with Emily Ballard

After Hours 10.17.22

Discussion 14: Keeping it Really Real with Emily Ballard

During the year of intense emotional overwhelm that was 2020, I was introduced to Emily Ballard (via the official connector of 2020, the Internet) - a certified transformation coach, trained group facilitator, published writer, and LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) with a M.A. in Psychology. Emily describes herself as being "near obsessive about feeling feelings, speaking truth to bullshit, and supporting people in reaching their internal-meets-external emotional goals", and I am near obsessive about her. As I stumbled around my home with a new baby on my breast trying to navigate the racial reckoning and (just and long overdue) societal upheaval and my place as a privileged white woman within a broken and racist society, motherhood, and the global pandemic, I found solace and motivation in Emily's words.

Emily views emotional healing work through a lens of collective healing, aka the idea that individual internal work and aligned living will lead to real social change -- "the kind that tells the truth even when it’s hard, and supports, protects, and values all people". Emily is extremely open about the privilege she holds as an able-bodied, educated white woman from New England. She is confronting the damage whiteness causes head on, and inspiring us all to do the same. She is a hero of mine that is helping me to get comfortable being uncomfortable, to heal from generational and family trauma and to face and utilize my own privilege in building a truly equitable society. Read on for more with Emily Ballard, we think you'll be inspired.


Emily Ballard Licensed Therapist | Thread Spun After Hours Blog

Emily Ballard is a transformation coach based in Massachusetts

Emily, your work is so important - can you tell us more about it?

I support people in reclaiming themselves. I often find myself saying something like, “I hear you saying that you want to rediscover and accept who you really are, and that you then want to develop the skills to be that person, everywhere…” to my clients. Almost across the board, that’s met with, “YES. THAT. I WANT THAT.” And then we dig in. The digging in is rooted in inquiry and curiosity, and on speaking directly to what is – not what we wish was, but what is. We then sit together in the physical discomfort that the truth of what is typically reveals, and when we discover that the discomfort didn’t kill us, things move quickly forward from there.

While I do have my Master’s in Counseling and am technically a licensed mental health counselor, I’m very, very disinterested in the systems we’ve created to put mental health and healing into buckets that make them easily billable and diagnosable. Instead, I use relational equity as the framework for my work. What this means to me is that I do not perceive myself as an expert on my clients or on their experiences, and I do not believe I hold any power over them. Instead, I believe that healing our deepest and most impactful wounds happens most easily– and most effectively – when we’re in healthy relationship to one other. 

I call my work “coaching” because of the highly collaborative and quick way in which I work with my clients. Most of my clients do a Six-Week, which is a package of six 90-minute sessions. These sessions are highly dynamic, and are designed to cater to each individual client; I am the anti-one-size-fits-most coach. Ultimately, my goal is to make myself obsolete to my clients by supporting them in integrating the skills they need to take the work we do into their lives, implementing it largely on their own. (Conversely, traditional therapy often sets up a system of implied need, helping clients to feel disempowered to do their own work without the aid of the therapist.)

While I do run a small private therapy practice for Massachusetts clients (my home state), my aim in that practice is to support more inexperienced therapy seekers in gaining the skills they need to move deeply into their own self-discovery. (I’ll be talking more about the clear differences I see between therapy and coaching on my Instagram feed in the coming weeks.)


Emily Ballard's Stack of Self Love Books | Thread Spun Blog

 "Body Talk" by Katie Sturino and "Feelings" by Manjit Thapp

How did you end up in the field of mental health and coaching? 

Like many people who end up in this work, I spent years burdened by my own pain. After I became a mother, I realized I was either going to re-create the childhood I had had at them, or I was going to have to become completely new. I don’t know why it became so clear so quickly to me, but I knew I had to strip myself all the way down and become new. 

After a couple of false starts with bad therapists (There is so much bad therapy out there! Be discerning if you can!) I found myself in the office of the therapist who would take me through decades of healing work. A few times during our years of work together, she told me she thought I’d be a good therapist. I think I laughed out loud at first. And yet after years and years of plodding along in discovering why I was the way I was, it became clear that this work was my life; there wasn’t much else I ever thought about or wanted to do but talk about feeling and healing. So after fighting off imposter syndrome with a sword, I enrolled in a master’s program. Part of me felt like I needed the degree to prove that I knew what I thought I knew from doing my own therapy, and part of me wanted the degree because of the job opportunities I knew it would offer me; I wasn’t going to be able to get into the kinds of places and communities I wanted to get into without it. I’ve been able to support largely underserved communities with those letters after my name, and so that’s made it feel worth it to me.


Emily Ballard at Home | Thread Spun Blog
At home with Emily and candlesticks by The Great Escape Studio
How would you define "doing the work"? 

To me, “doing the work” is about taking all of the information we’ve gathered from the books and the Instagram posts and the therapy sessions and then actually making that information actionable in our actual, real, 3-D lives. Doing the work is not reading about healing. Doing the work is learning to sit in discomfort, being willing to actively practice having difficult conversations over and over again and trying to make them a little bit healthier and more clear each time. It’s taking a deep breath before you feel yourself about to yell at your kid so you can actually be the parent you say you want to be. Doing the work is hard and uncomfortable most of the time, and it’s also pretty lonely because so few people actually do it.


Emily Ballard at Home | Thread Spun Blog 

Why is doing the work beneficial? (to yourself, to others, to the planet?)
I believe doing this work is the only thing that is going to save humanity. I know that sounds hyperbolic, and I want to be clear: I actually literally completely believe that. 

Everything problematic we see around us – racial inequity, war, poverty, sexual assault, runaway capitalism, child abuse – every collective ail we see is a result of some person’s unmet need that has been magnified or joined together with someone else’s unmet need; we like to think of ourselves as individuals, and then we also really like to blame society for the way things are, failing to accept that “society” is just a bunch of individual people. 

We have to ask ourselves – every day, and in every system in which we find ourselves: who is benefitting from this silence, power imbalance, or injustice? A society that values power is a culture rooted in fear of not having power. A culture that values some people not having enough is also a culture that values some people having more than they need. Taking responsibility for our individual healing – and then rippling that healing out as far as we possibly can in every area of our lives – is not just something we do to make our individual lives better, but something we do because it’s our responsibility, as human beings who have had the veil lifted, to support others in seeing, too.


Emily Ballard at home her dog | Thread Spun Sustainable Blog

 Staying cozy with the Momo Blanket

Do you have an experience with a specific person or a group of people that holds a special place in your heart?

Definitely. I have a few answers for this, actually. I really like working with the people lots of other people have given up on, or the people who think they’re too resistant to help or too afraid of help to actually benefit from it. Even though I don’t believe in jails or prisons, I really loved the work I did with incarcerated folks; working to support them in trying to never come back felt significant. 

I also really, really love working with people who have traumatic relationships with their mothers. That’s my area of specialty, as it mirrors my own lived experience. I think parenthood is such an important thing – it’s such a huge opportunity to break harmful cycles – and consciously working to do it well has the potential to significantly shift the emotional health and overall wellbeing of the collective. Being a mom is the role I personally hold with the most gravitas.


At Home With Emily Ballard | Thread Spun Sustainable Goods Blog

What are your favorite items in the home to make it feel like a safe space both for you and others?

I really work to make my whole home feel like me. I remember reading a quote from Gloria Steinem years ago where she said something like, “I don’t have a decorating style. If I like it, I put it in my house and even if those things don’t seem like they match, they end up looking good together because it all feels like me.” That’s my decorating style. My 14-year-old daughter recently told me that a friend of hers offhandedly mentioned that being in our home and with our family felt “comforting”, and that for me was the best styling or decorating compliment I’ve ever received. 

In terms of how I actually do this, I have stuff hanging all over my walls that speaks to who we are, both literally and figuratively: art that says “Resist, dammit” “Our one family rule: keep showing up”, You are seen”, “You can cry here”, “Gender is a social construct” and then just lots of handmade knickknacks that the kids have brought home or that I’ve found while thrifting. I really just use my gut when decorating, and try to have lots of seating all over the place in unexpected places to encourage gathering. I even have two arm chairs in my kitchen instead of a kitchen table because that’s simply how we use the space more, and creating a space that works well for connection – instead of creating a space that looks like society tells us it’s supposed to look – is what I value.

That’s the long winded answer. The short winded answer is: comfortable seating, interesting things to look at and touch, lots of throw blankets, a few very carefully selected candles, and lots of places to put your feet up.


Emily Ballard | Thread Spun Sustainable Blog

 Emily in handmade jewelry by Dea Dia

How can people connect with you and support your endeavors? 

People can head to my website (www.EmilyBallard.com), or they can find me on Instagram (@EmilyRVBallard). 

People can learn about my coaching and therapy work, as well as what it would look like to work with me, on my site. And they can hear me rant and rave about my joys and my frustrations over on my Instagram feed. 

Top 5 Favorite Songs at the moment?

Okay, so I’m fully and completely devoted to three musicians: Taylor Swift, Brandi Carlile, and Marcus Mumford. Marcus is the one with the most recent release, so he’s currently on on a loop as I learn every word to his (VERY IMPORTANT) album self-titled. I’m glad he’s getting a shot before Taylor’s new album comes out later this month. And Brandi has been my gal since I was in college and I saw her opening for Ray Lamontagne in Keene, NH. She’s holy, that one. 

Okay but anyway, here goes:
1). Better Off High (Marcus Mumford)
2). Dangerous Game (Marcus Mumford feat. Clairo)
3). You & Me On The Rock (Brandi Carlile feat. Lucius)
4). Go In Light (Marcus Mumford feat. Monica Martin)
5). All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (Taylor Swift)

Learn More About Emily Ballard | Thread Spun

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