Dr. Laura Harbeson began her educational journey at Stanly Community College (SCC) nearly a decade ago, and knows first-hand the difficult and arduous struggles that life can throw at you. Her life experiences have shaped her into one of the area’s most unique and remarkable therapists, especially when it comes to children. “When I was a child I grew up with significant challenges and endured various traumatic experiences. Not being able to focus on my schoolwork because of being preoccupied with worries of what might happen when I got home, resulted in high school grades that were not very impressive,” she explained. “My school counselor told me that I wasn’t smart enough for college and that I should instead seek employment directly out of high school and that is what I did. It wasn't until 2002, eleven years and three children later when I walked into my first class at Stanly Community College.”
Laura’s classes at SCC allowed her to transfer to Pfeiffer University’s Psychology program where she double majored in Psychology and Human Services. She continued her education and earned her Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). In addition, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in 2018 from Northcentral University in the Philosophy of Psychology.
Dr. Harbeson always knew she wanted to help people and had a special place in her heart for helping children. “I have a passion for helping people, yet did not believe I was good enough to be able to have a career that would allow me to do the kind of work I felt called to do. While attending SCC I stayed on the dean’s list every semester and received a scholarship for good grades that allowed me to continue taking the courses that would then transfer to Pfeiffer University in Psychology. From there I went to UNCG to earn a Master’s degree in Counseling with specialization in childhood trauma and sexual abuse. While at UNCG, I began teaching Psychology classes at SCC as a part time adjunct professor. I wanted to give back to SCC and be a part of an academic program that would allow me to inspire others,” she explained.
In 2013, Dr. Harbeson opened her own private group counseling practice in Albemarle - Creative Counseling and Learning Solutions. She currently works with an incredible team of professionals that share the same passion of helping others. Dr. Harbeson has obtained certifications in equine-assisted therapy, parent-child interaction therapy, and has extended her expertise in working with people that have experienced complex trauma, including human trafficking and high profile trauma cases. Her two therapy horses, Sage and Saffron, are an intricate part of her counseling practice. Dr. Harbeson rescued both horses from the damages of abuse. “Sage and Saffron assist me in helping many of my clients, with diverse needs, in various ways,” she said. Dr. Harbeson explained it is important to offer diversity in mental health programming because what helps one person may not help someone else. “I like to offer a variety of treatment options to meet the needs of each person and in a way that makes counseling an enjoyable process as one works through things that are often not enjoyable.”
Dr. Harbeson also practices canine-assisted therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT), a therapy recognized as far back as the late 1800s. According to CRC Health at www.crchealth.com, “Canine therapy can be immensely healing. Children and teens respond particularly well to canine therapy, developing trust and strong bonds with the animals. Many find it easier to open up and talk when the focus is on the dog. The therapist working with the patient can gain valuable insights by observing the interactions between patients and their canine companions.”
Dr. Harbeson wants to encourage students to believe in their limitless potential and to know that the mind is capable of extraordinary things. “Do not limit yourself in your process. Follow your passions, listen to yourself, listen to God and know that you are capable of great things,” she said.
When Dr. Harbeson is not busy at her group counseling practice, she enjoys traveling to new places, listening to live music, hiking, kayaking, and spending time with her family.
To learn more about Creative Counseling & Learning Solutions, please visit their website at www.creativecounselingandlearningsolutions.com. For more information about the Human Services programs at Stanly Community College, visit our website at www.stanly.edu.
Laura Harbeson, PhD, MS, NCC, NCSC, LPCS, and Director/Lead Therapist for Creative Counseling & Learning Solutions in Albemarle, enjoys sitting with Lilly, her canine-assisted therapy dog.