My name is Michelle Lesher, LCSW, LCADC and I am a clinician and the Substance Abuse Program Director for Specialized Therapy Associates.
I was born and raised in California, lived in Hawaii for one year and have traveled throughout Europe and Israel.
When I lost my father at the age of 15, I began a deep search for the meaning of life. I volunteered for the Center of Well Being in Los Angeles, California where I participated in workshops for and with terminally ill people. At that time, I was privileged to assist in the center’s functions hosting Ram Dass (Richard Alpert, Ph.D.), Stephen Levine and Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross. Afterwards, I attended the School for Transformational Arts in Redlands, California, focusing on the healing arts of counseling including creative movement, meditation, energy work and family systems.
I have participated in many effective workshops, including work with Virginia Satir, the mother of family therapy and the Virginia Satir Change process model, as well as John Bradshaw, the author of Homecoming and Healing the Shame that Binds You.
Just as I believe in the spiritual dimension of existence and purpose, I am also drawn to acting and humor. I was a member of an improvisational theatre group in North Hollywood, California and have done some stand-up comedy.
I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University at Northridge. I worked as a teacher at levels from nursery school through 8th grade and have always appreciated the innocence, simplicity and splendor of children. I use art and play as a vehicle to connect to children in therapy.
My first internship was at Passaic Beth Israel Hospital. Shortly thereafter, I worked at Spring House, a residential group home for women in Paramus, New Jersey. It was there I fell in love with leading groups; I conducted weekly goals and step groups, and facilitated a weekly family meeting. I am certified with the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) as a group leader. The next position I held was at Evergreens Intensive Outpatient Program at Bergen Regional Medical Center, where I managed a caseload and facilitated men and women’s groups in Psychodrama, Spirituality and Meditation.
After my two children reached their teens, I returned to Rutgers University to obtain my Masters in Social Work. I was a senior counselor at High Focus Center’s Intensive Outpatient Program in Paramus, New Jersey. After almost three years of case management, drug screening, group leading and family interventions, I went into private practice as a licensed clinical social worker. I am also a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor and a certified substance abuse coordinator in New Jersey.
My view of wellness is a holistic approach incorporating the balance of the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of life. In my practice I blend traditional Psychodynamic, Transpersonal theory with a strengths-based approach. In family sessions with more than one client, I use the model of structured family systems established by Salvador Minuchin. I help all members of the family to become more sensitive to each other and to relate to one another in more productive ways while also appreciating the rewards that being part of a family provides – that is, love and acceptance.
For individuals in recovery, the road does get narrower. One needs a therapist with a good flashlight and a strong heart who can shed light on one’s temporary darkness. Although I am educated in psychodynamic therapy and structured family systems, I am familiar with the trailblazing founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Bill W. and Dr. Bob. In the language of recovery, we can discuss letting go (of control), surrendering (to a higher power) and working the steps. I work toward the strengthening of spiritual life and embracing the promises of the program.