Laurie Eldred has worked on child abuse cases, counseled mentally ill prisoners and assessed potential paroles before release. Now, after years of working through these tough cases, she is bringing her expertise to Lowell with the opening of Eldred’s Clinical Services.
The Lowell resident has set up her practice in an office adjoining the Lowell Methodist Church on Main Street. There, she offers services to adolescents and adults who are struggling with mental illness, substance abuse or parenting issues, among other things. For those who can’t make it to the office, online therapy sessions are offered as well.
Winding Path to Private Practice
Eldred never set out to become a social worker, let alone open a private practice. She entered Aquinas College with plans to become a forensic scientist although she would soon learn that was not for her. By the time she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she had dual majors in political science and community leadership and a minor in Spanish.
Her goal was to work within the non-profit sector and on community projects. “My first job out of college was at the Urban League,” she explains. There, she provided case management services for those in need of housing assistance. “That’s what got my interest piqued,” Eldred says of her pivot to social work. She decided she wanted to be able to do more to help people improve their lives and enrolled at Grand Valley State University to earn her master’s degree in social work.
After graduation, she worked in a jail diversion program before spending more than six years – “That’s like 20 years of regular time,” she notes – working with Child Protective Services. However, she missed working with people one-on-one and eventually took a job as a clinical social worker at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia.
For Eldred, her new practice marks a much needed change of pace. Working with CPS and within the prison system has allowed her to make a meaningful change in many people’s lives, but it has also meant spending a great deal of time dwelling on dark and negative situations. “I get tired of being the bad guy,” she says. So with her husband’s encouragement, Eldred’s Clinical Services was born.
Planting Seeds for Her Clients’ Success
Despite all the evidence pointing to the benefits of counseling, many people are still hesitant to seek help themselves. Eldred understands that; she’s received counseling herself in the past and knows firsthand how scary it can be to go into that first meeting.
“I understand that hesitation and stigma,” she says. However, she adds there is no reason for shame. “It’s ok to struggle and being able to get help with that struggle is part of the beauty of life.”
Eldred likens herself to a farmer. She works with her clients to plant the seeds of success. Rather than a one-time fix, she offers a set of skills and resources her clients can turn to again and again when they face difficult times. “My real desire is to help people,” she says. “To help people become their better selves is very exciting.”
When asked why she chose to open her practice in Lowell, Eldred says there is nowhere else she’d rather be. “There’s a huge need in Lowell. I grew up here, and I know the community,” she says. “Why not be in Lowell?”
Getting Mental Health Services in Lowell
Eldred’s Clinical Services currently has office hours on Monday and Thursday evenings as well as Saturday mornings. The practice participates with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Meridian and McLaren health plans and also takes cash payments.
In addition to personal counseling services, Eldred is available to provide training sessions, clinical supervision and consultations for CPS or Friend of the Court cases.