Marketplace: The Dell Center for Therapy is open to all
March 20, 2018
As a child, Jessica Dell grew accustomed to hearing her social worker mother answering calls in the middle of the night to help others. She saw how taxing it was on her mother, a single parent, but she also recognized how meaningful the work appeared to be.
"I had a ton of respect for her when I would hear her on the phone with these people," she said. "She was really helping them when they were in crisis."
Fast forward to today and Dell at a first private therapy practice of her own. And yes, she is taking calls in the middle of the night.
Dell, who is originally from Baltimore, opened the Dell Center for Therapy at the end of 2016. Despite her early insight into a future career, Dell did not take a straight path to get there.
"When I got to college, I pretty much did the opposite of all that," she said.
She heard about the financial struggles therapists often faced when dealing with insurance companies — which eventually convinced her mother to leave her practice — and was turned off.
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Dell spent her first few post-grad years working in sales until realizing that she dreaded the work, which she found unfulfilling.
"I kept trying to figure out what would give me a greater sense of meaning and purpose in my life," she said. "I felt like I didn't have a real passion for anything at the time."
With her young dream of helping people in mind, she applied to graduate school to study social work. She was surprised to see herself paying attention and remembering the information on her first day of class, something she had struggled with throughout her former school years.
Her passion for the information and work only grew as she progressed through the program.
"Every hour was so different, every minute was so different," she said. "I thought, 'This is so fun. This is what I am meant to be doing — something that is exciting.'"
She developed a special interest in working with individuals with eating disorders while working at a treatment center in Florida. Having a personal history of eating disorders herself, it was difficult at times to be surrounded by triggers that could have pushed her to revert to old behaviors.
"It forced me to do a lot of growing on my own in terms of using all the tools that I tried to help other people gain, for myself," she said. "It was an amazing experience."
After years of training and supervision, she landed her first job as a therapist at a newly formed drug and alcohol treatment center in Florida. During her two years there, she learned the ins and outs of running a business.
Dell said that the work was stressful, but the variability of her work days helped her find joy. Plus, she could see changes happening in people. But it was not every day, or even every week, that she had those experiences. When they came, she treasured them.
"By seeing somebody's behavior change, seeing somebody's thought process change and seeing them actually start to enjoy life, it gives you everything you need for the year," she said.
At that point, she knew she was in the right career, but not necessarily in the right location. She and her husband decided that North Miami was not the best place to start raising a family, so they chose their favorite vacation spot, Park City.
They moved in 2016 and Dell started her business several months later. She said that appointments have been filling up faster than she expected, since she welcomes patients with all types of concerns.
She came to focus on her specialty of treating those with eating disorders and addictions, but learned that there was also a need for couples counseling and life coaching. She said she has enjoyed the process of expanding her offerings.
While she works toward her aspiration of creating a treatment center that encompasses mental, physical and emotional health, there is one goal that guides her work — to reduce the stigma of visiting a therapist.
"It's not something to be scared of, it's not something to be afraid to talk about," she said. "We all have issues and we all have problems."
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