All Things Private Practice Podcast for Therapists

Episode 127: Failure isn't Final: Failure is a Data Point [featuring Leah Riddell]

Show Notes

Failure isn't Final. Failure is a data point.

During this episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast, I talk with Leah Riddell, the owner of Origins Counseling & Wellness.

Here are some key takeaways from this episode:

1. Burnout and Monotony in Private Practice:

If you are a therapist or mental health professional, you may be experiencing burnout or finding yourself stuck in the monotony of clinical hours. This episode addresses the need for diversifying professional activities to maintain excitement and passion in mental health professionals' careers. Leah's approach to expanding income and professional development through a group practice offers viable solutions for therapists seeking to revitalize their practice and prevent burnout.

2. Challenges in Serving Marginalized Communities:

Therapists who work in areas with limited representation and support often struggle to provide adequate services to marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQIA+ and Neurodivergent populations. Leah's expertise and experiences in creating a practice that specifically caters to these groups provide valuable insights and strategies for other mental health professionals who aim to better serve and support such communities within their own practices.

3. Overcoming Personal and Professional Setbacks:

Many listeners may relate to the fear of failure and challenges associated with stepping out of their comfort zones in both personal and professional landscapes. This episode dives into conversations about resilience, the transient nature of struggles, and viewing failure as a data point rather than a devastating event.

More about Leah:

Leah is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, a group practice owner, entrepreneur, coach, CE provider, educator, retreat host, speaker, and empowerment generator.  

Leah proudly co-owns the Therapist Learning Center, LLC, a comprehensive practice support company. Offering services from virtual assistants and continuing education to retreats and coaching, the center is dedicated to empowering clinicians to elevate their businesses, revolutionize their practices, and achieve enduring success in the field.

Whether she's sharing her knowledge in a classroom, on a stage via voice, song, interpretive dance, or coaching a client one-on-one, Leah's mission is to generate empowerment and inspire others around her.

In her spare time, you'll find Leah immersing herself in the world of video games, where she continues to master the art of the "pew-pew."


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PATRICK CASALE: Hey, everyone. You are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice podcast. I'm your host, Patrick Casale. I'm joined today by friend and colleague, Leah Riddell, who is out in Eastern North Carolina. And the owner of Origins Counseling and Wellness. I think I may have said that incorrectly. And I did. So, she'll correct me once she introduces herself. I get everyone's introductions wrong.

I'm trying to also make Leah feel a little bit, you know, less nervous than she was before we hit the record button.

So, Leah, thanks for coming on. We're going to share some of your story. I know you're a bit anxious about it. And I just want to give you credit for being anxious about it. And being here, anyway.

And please properly introduce yourself since I butchered that even asking you before we hit record what the hell that name of your business was?

LEAH RIDDELL: Oh, it's fine. So, yes, Leah Riddell, Origins Counseling and Wellness.

PATRICK CASALE: I butchered your last name and your business name. Oh, shit.

LEAH RIDDELL: It's okay. No, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: People butcher my last name all the time. And I've just, like, learned to just be like, "Yeah, whatever, it's fine."

LEAH RIDDELL: We roll with it. That's good.

PATRICK CASALE: We roll with it.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, it's been consistent since I was a kid. My family doesn't even know how to say my last name. They say it two and a half different ways. So…

PATRICK CASALE: Well, I feel lucky to be included in that group, then.


PATRICK CASALE: And so you own a group practice in Eastern North Carolina. You specialize in the queer LGBTQIA+ communities, the neurodivergent communities. You're really doing a wonderful job in the state, in a part of the state, especially, where there's not a lot of representation and there's not a lot of support and affirmative care.

So, I have had the pleasure of getting to know you in how many different retreats now? Three, four? I don't know, I can't count.

LEAH RIDDELL: [PH 00:02:42] Almost right there, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: A lot of them. And you know, the first one you came to was Asheville, last year. You were very quiet and very introverted, I'd say. And I was like, "Huh, this is different than the person who's been DMing me for the last year." And then, like, getting to know you in Ireland and getting to know you, in general, in New Orleans, starting to see the personality come out.

So, I want to just really highlight your story here. And you shared a little bit about it, which kind of piqued my interest when you shared on Facebook a couple of months ago about wanting to be more vulnerable, wanting to show up more in these spaces. So, tell us a little bit about who you are and how this all came to happen. Origin story.

LEAH RIDDELL: [CROSSTALK 00:03:22]. Exactly, right? It's so good. Yeah. So essentially, where to start? So, I shared on Facebook after my business coach was like, "Hey, you know, you should try connecting vulnerably with folks online, because it's really easy, I think, to get in our shell and just kind of come home and not do anything."

So, that was my attempt at doing that. And it was a really wonderful response in a way that I wasn't expecting, and, you know, that kind of led me here. So, that's wonderful. But essentially, you know, I hope that my story can bring that resilience and hope to some folks that may have had the same experience, or you know, parallel to mine or something like that.

So, I left my parent's home when I was a teenager. And essentially, couch surfed. And I didn't want anyone to know that I wasn't at home. So, I kind of kept it all in and you know, my trauma response is very much like information, education, which still continues, I think, to show up, but…

So, I grew up in a very small town, pretty small-minded, and it wasn't me. I didn't fit in much there, didn't get along with my parents. I had some, you know, two, three really close friends that really just assisted me in that time period. And that was my community, you know, these two people.

And then, yeah, just lots of couch surfing and spending a weekend here a couple days here. And I had part-time jobs. I had bought my own car. For whatever reason, you know, my parents had continued to pay for car insurance, thank goodness. But everything else, you know, kind of, was mine at the time.

And then yeah, I did that for about a year. And then, you know, a friend of mine's mother, took me in, and then I was able to stay there for a couple months. Turned 18, got a one-bedroom apartment with multiple people. Turned the living room into my bedroom. I had no door. You know, waitressing the whole time. That was a mess.

And then, you know, trying to put myself through college, taking one community college class at a time, just kind of, like, trying to claw my way out of something. You know, my family did not have much. So, I was really living the life even at 18 and 19, having a place, and being able to create anything. It was, you know, absolutely wild. But, yeah.

And then kind of made my way through that, used library computers, and borrowed my friend's computer to do my homework. And then with waitressing, I had a lot of access to food, you know, lots of hand washing clothes in the sink, and a lot of that. So, that was, you know, teenage, to early 20s.

And then, you know, I met my partner, actually, around that time, now that I think about it. And, yeah, because I was living in that one bedroom. And, you know, he was skipping meals to feed his whole children, you know, cans of rice and beans. And we've really just like turned the whole ship, which is wild, now that I reflect on it. But, yeah.

And then working two jobs, and going back to school. And I was always waitressing. I don't know why, but I always sat back on there. And that feels like a little bit of a rant, steer me.

PATRICK CASALE: No, that's good, because it, you know, gives us a foundation. And I think, you know, going from homelessness and not having consistent secure housing as an adolescent young adult has to be really trying. And there's got to be a lot of traumatic experience wrapped up in that, too. And not necessarily feeling safe and secure all the time in your situation. But it sounds like there's always been this resolve to figure it out, to be innovative, to make things happen, and to just push yourself.

And so what kind of turns the page to becoming a mental health professional? Like, has that been something you've always wanted to do? Or did that just kind of come at a certain period of time?

LEAH RIDDELL: Great question. So, I like this origin story. I used to stay up way too late. And whatever time this came on, it was like Sue Johansson or Sue Johnson. She was, you know, the 90s and early 2000s version of like, you know, television sex education. And I was maybe 14 at the time, maybe younger.

And I saw this woman, I was like, "I want to be her. That's what I want to do. I'm going to be this old lady waving around dildos on TV. Like, this is what I wanted to do." So, I was like, "All right, sex therapy, that's what I'm going to do."

And, you know, going back to information being the way out for me and education being the way out of my reality, at the time, even as a teenager, all of my friends would come to me for like, "Oh, my period's late. And I'm 15 and I haven't had sex. Am I pregnant?" And I'm like, "Oh, no. Like, I can help you. I know the answer to this."

And so, you know, like, using that education to inform my friends. That's a terrible example. But yeah, we would, you know, kind of use that as a way to connect. So, that was always my plan, was to be a sex educator, a sex therapist.

And then, once I finally got into college, and I started volunteering at the National Suicide Hotline, kind of randomly, I just kind of like stumbled upon it. We had an answering center like right across the street from our campus.

And I started answering for the National Suicide Hotline and fell in love with trauma work. And I did really well at it. And I could handle things under a crisis, right? Because when you're houseless, and you know, living in your car, at a moment's notice somebody can ask you to move and you have to do it. There isn't an option of not sleeping. One, there is. But you know, there's not an option of just kind of like, not doing something.

So, kind of having to just figure it out was my life. And I was able to kind of bring that into, I don't want to call it clinical work, but the aspect of what I was doing at the suicide hotline. So, then I started answering for the Veterans Crisis Line before they opened up their bigger center in New York. So, this was 2014 through 2016. And then I fell in love with doing like, work with veterans and crisis.

But yeah, after that, I got into my grad school program while I was working full-time in the university after I graduated from my undergrad, which helped me pay for it. Still in debt, but also helped me pay for it, some. And then yeah, I fell into substance use, because that was the program I got into is substance use.

So, I've done a little bit of all of these different things that have kind of just informed me in the work that I do now, which is trauma dissociation. Yeah, so that's how I got into therapy. And yeah, that resilience piece kind of comes back. It's like, it's fucked that we have to be resilient, but here we are.

PATRICK CASALE: Did you say just before we started recording resilience is stupid-

LEAH RIDDELL: Resilience is stupid.

PATRICK CASALE: …but we have to talk about it anyway?


PATRICK CASALE: It's true in a way. You know, like, it's really unfair that we have to use that terminology for so many people who have to go through things that they shouldn't have to, and have to face adversity and challenges, and bounce back.

But I do think that term is really applicable when we start talking, especially, in terms of entrepreneurialship and owning a business. And I think there's a lot of association between like, facing adversity, facing challenge, facing trauma, facing struggle, but never giving up. And I think that is applicable in both. And it's like, the personal and clinical side, and also the business ownership side. Like, they really do go hand in hand in a lot of ways.

And for those who own a small business, who have been tested through their time, on earth, I mean, which is most of us, it really does help you shape and formulate, and it also allows you to get really creative in terms of your approaches, and what you want to put out into this world, and how you want to kind of give back.

So, you're really passionate about supporting the populations we've mentioned before, why is that? In a part of the state where a lot of people are not.

LEAH RIDDELL: I saw many of my friends growing up bullied. Many people in this area are just shit. They can come too… I mean, I don't want to put people, you know, in a box. But shit with accepting people who aren't the norm. And, you know, part of this communities is myself, and I love people in those communities, and it's just so natural for me to be accepting, you know?

And I grew up in a very low socio-economic area. We had a lot of diversity, not only in like, neuro type, but race, sexuality, gender. And it I don't know, it doesn't make sense to me not to just to [INDISCERNIBLE 00:13:27]. I'll get too heated, if at all. Yeah. But essentially, I mean, why like mm-hmm (affirmative).

PATRICK CASALE: So, striving to be inclusive and affirmative is something that a lot of people preach, you know, in business ownership and maybe they throw up some verbiage on their website or maybe they're like, "Oh, we work with this population." Or whatever the case may be. But in reality, to be affirmative really means to be consistently and constantly intentional about your actions, and who you support, and who you hire, and the values of your business, and the values of you as a human.

And I think that you certainly embody all of those things, because I see the way that you show up, and you're really passionate about the people you care about, and try to protect and support. And it shows up in who you hire too, right?

So, like, you have a group practice here. It started with you just DMing me asking me questions. And now how many clinicians do you have?


PATRICK CASALE: 12 and growing. And also finding new and creative ways to bring in revenue for them and for the business. So, tell us a little bit about how your practice is different, and what you're trying to kind of start incorporating, because you have all of these ideas, which I love. And it's probably from your own neurodivergence, and a lot of ways of saying like, your brain is thinking way outside the box in terms of what can we offer here to not only make accessibility a little bit easier, but also how can we ensure that all of our staff are making more money, too?

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, so all of that. I am big on longevity and planning. So, that's kind of where a lot of this took off from, because I don't want this to ever just be a thing like, "Oh, I tried it, now it's done."

So, that's kind of where some of the other avenues of the business have kind of taken over and I've ran with. So, I've started the virtual assistant company, which is Therapist Learning Center. And, well, it's more than just virtual assistants. It's virtual assistants, it's CE courses once we're approved, and VCC don't come at me, but it will be. And then also retreats as well.

And then my team will also be able to be a part of that. So, if they want to do virtual assistant work, they're more than welcome to contract with that. They can host CEs or do, you know, just trainings on the platform, and make money from that. They can go on these retreats. And, you know, either just attend as a person, or they can profit from that as well as a presenter or, you know, someone who helps me coordinate with this. So, we've got that going for us.

And, yeah, so that's kind of what we're doing there. We're more trained in assessments for autism and ADHD in adults. So, that's another way that kind of we've diversified a little bit of that income to bring in some money for the team. Because in North Carolina, and in many other states, now we have full power to diagnose and complete these assessments for folks in a way that is not gatekeeping and is affirming of the whole person. Yeah, so I've got a lot of stuff going on with that.

PATRICK CASALE: And it sounds like really trying to be creative. And I think that longevity in this career is hard to come by. And the way to do that is to diversify what you're doing, your interests as well, because monotony is a pathway to burnout. And also just ensuring that your staff have some diversification, not just an income, but in professional development, and the ability to not just have to do clinical hour after clinical hour after clinical hour, which is exhausting.

And I think that the ability, like you said, to plan, and to be strategic, I imagine has come from just your own experiences of having to plan and be strategic. So, a lot of things that may not have felt useful growing up or in early adulthood are probably serving you really well at this point in time, in terms of how you move through the world and own a business as well.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, yeah. We call it the power of the pivot.

PATRICK CASALE: Power of the pivot, that can be a good episode title. Maybe not resilience is stupid, but we have to talk about it anyway.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, yeah. I like it. Yes. And that comes up a lot, not, you know, in coaching session, or in conversations with my team, or just with friends, too. It's just, you know, like, we just have to figure it out, because there is no other option.

And there was a conversation that I had in 2020 with a friend of mine. We were both working at an inpatient psych unit, which is [INDISCERNIBLE 00:19:58] which is state-funded, mostly for folks who don't have insurance, or homeless or houseless in North Carolina. And, you know, I had started my practice, I was growing, and I was about to leave. And I was saying, "Oh, it's so easy. You just have to follow the red tape. There's a checklist online. Like, why isn't everybody doing this?"

And she looked at me and was like, "Because it's hard, and it's scary." And I'm like, "What are you talking about? You just do the thing. And you know, it'll work out or it won't."

And, you know, she's kind of looking at me dumbfounded, because I was so blind by my own experiences of like, you know, I've hit, I don't want to call it rock bottom. But, you know, I've hit the point of like, you have to figure something out or shit is going to hit the fan, you know?

So, I'm kind of coming at this, like, "Oh, yeah, I'll make 100 bucks a week, I can make that work. Like, I know that. We'll be fine." And she looks at me and she's like, "You've had experiences, that… You know, you're confident in yourself. You know that you can make it happen. My parents, like, they babied me. I don't know failure. I don't know how to fail. I wouldn't know what to do. I don't know how to make my life work on that."

And I'm like, "Shit, failure is Tuesday afternoon here. Like, that's two o'clock. I got it scheduled for tomorrow. You know, it's an everyday occurrence."

So, I think, you know, that really helped me kind of change and pivot how I thought about, you know, people building practices, building businesses, and just how they move about the world. And I think that's a lot of what comes up when we have impostor syndrome, most things like that is, "Oh, like, what happens if I fail? Like, I could fail?" Like, fuck, yeah, I could. Okay, we'll figure it out.

And sometimes you just need somebody to tell you that. like, you're going to figure it out. And it's, yeah. And I know you don't want to hear it, it'll be okay. And I know that it can also be really dismissive for some people. But in this instance, in the resilience is stupid it's not.

PATRICK CASALE: I think if, you know, when we're talking about failure, and someone's saying, like, I don't know, failure, it's almost like I've never tried anything risky, or I've never tried anything out of my comfort zone, right? Because I don't think we fail in places where we feel 100% confident, and secure, and safe. I think we fail when we step out of our comfort zone, and take risks, and do things that are unfamiliar to us.

And, again, another example of like, as an entrepreneur, small business owner, you're going to fail, you're going to make mistakes. Like, there's going to be roadblocks. And it really is about how do you approach those hard times, not how do you handle the really good, exciting moments, because those moments will be there too. And that's a lot easier to be like, "Oh, yeah, this is a breeze."

But in reality, like, if you can't handle the dips, and the ebbs and flows of owning a small business, and the heartache, and the struggle, and the self-doubt, and the questioning, I don't know how you can move through this in a way that feels really comfortable.

And I think that you should be uncomfortable when you're trying something new. And when we're thinking outside of the box, that's where it brings up a lot of these feelings, a lot of these emotions when we're like, "I have this idea, but it's really big or it feels like something that I don't know how to put into place." But it sounds like for you, information seeking, and knowledge seeking, and doing a lot of diligence, and like really figuring out your processes is really important for you.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, yeah, I spend a lot of time before I do a thing, because the knowledge of the thing is important. So, like being [INDISCERNIBLE 00:23:57].

PATRICK CASALE: And, you know, I think that's useful for some people. And I think that can also be paralyzing for people. So, it's really important for everyone listening, like, everyone has their own process in terms of how you get comfortable with making some of these decisions and putting these things into action.

And, you know, for me, I am almost the opposite, where I'm like, I have this idea, and I just have to pursue it, otherwise I will never pursue it. And I will block myself with knowledge-seeking by like having that be perfectionistic or go into expert mode of like I need to know every single thing before I can do the thing.

And I've been in that place as well as an entrepreneur where it prevented me from starting things significantly. But it's also important to acknowledge like, the way our brains work are different and we are going to adapt, and pivot, and change how we kind of come at certain ventures and projects too. So, it's really cool to hear that, you know, for what it's worth, your experiences have really shaped and molded and modeled into this really awesome business and just lots of cool ideas. I know about some of them, because you send them to me when you're really excited about them. And I think it's cool.

Like, it's really important to commit yourself to the things that light you up, that feel like you're really passionate about. I can't do the things that I feel bored or just like, this is just another task. Like, that doesn't work for me at all.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, yeah, I'm with you on that. If it feels too monotonous I can do it for a while. But then something's got to change.



PATRICK CASALE: That's when you shake things up, you know? That's when, like, the cool creative ideas come up as well is like when the something's got to change moment comes up. I think that can be a catalyst for transformation.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, yeah, that's my biggest thing in therapy for a while was like, okay, I need to be fine with enough. It is for a long time, especially, you know, for a lot of folks, at least, that I've known and was in my experience, too, when there was a pretty rocky start in adolescence or especially, early adulthood, enough is not a concept. You know, there is no finish line, there is no place to rest. So, I've really had to seek that out. For me, it's video games and re-couch, and travel, too.

PATRICK CASALE: And enough can be a scary place too, because when you get to that place after not having, 'enough' that can feel really scary to feel like now what do I need to do to be proactive, to ensure that this doesn't slip away? Or this doesn't all come crumbling down? Or whatever else comes up in our own trauma narratives and histories.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, because when there's transience, nothing's permanent.

PATRICK CASALE: That's true. That's very, very true. Any last-second, or last minute suggestions or points that you'd like to make to the audience to support anyone who might be experiencing any sort of struggle that feels similar to your own?

LEAH RIDDELL: I mean, as cliché as it sounds, you got this. Like, you know, failure is a data point. And if we treat it that way, I think it feels less scary, at least for me. You know, like, okay, this didn't work. Let's pivot, let's try it differently. There are steps out there. There are people out there who can support even from afar. Yeah, I think that's…

PATRICK CASALE: I like that.


PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, failure is a data point. I really like that a lot. So, I hope that was helpful for everyone.

And Leah, please tell the audience where they can find more of what you're doing in the mental health space, because you have a lot of cool stuff going on behind the scenes.

LEAH RIDDELL: Yeah, so I'm really excited about Therapist Learning Center, so I guess I'll just start there. So, I co-own, co-manage the Therapist Learning Center with Lindley Cherry. He's also a therapist here in North Carolina. And we're just super stoked on that.

So, right now, we're offering it's a full suite of virtual assistant services, credentialing, billing, social media, we do note transcriptions, we can help people get caught up on their notes. We can do, you know, client services, things like that. We're going to be having some trainings coming out soon. We're already doing autism and ADHD assessments for group practices. If you want to get your team trained, we're going to have some retreats coming out, ideally, next year so we're excited.

If anybody's interested in coaching, you can reach out to me directly. Honestly, Facebook's the easiest. I'm Leah Web on Facebook. Or you can reach out to me through the And I'm happy to chat.

PATRICK CASALE: Very cool. And that information will all be in the show notes that you all have easy access to reach out to Leah and contact her if you do have questions or have any more interest in the Therapists Learning Center, what she's got going on.

And I just want to check in on your anxiety now, because when we started it was a six. How are you feeling right now?


PATRICK CASALE: A four, all right. So, we can use the power of podcasting for stress reduction. That's good to know.

LEAH RIDDELL: Is it, yeah, part podcasting, a little exposure, [INDISCERNIBLE 00:29:31] I don't know.

PATRICK CASALE: A little bit of both.


PATRICK CASALE: But I appreciate you coming on, and sharing some of your story, and being vulnerable enough with the audience. We really appreciate that here at All Things Private Practice, and just looking forward to seeing you in… what's the next time I'm seeing you? Oh, I guess in two days at a conference in Maryland, so-


PATRICK CASALE: Yeah. Well, then, I will see you by then. And thanks for making the time today.

LEAH RIDDELL: Absolutely. Thank you.

PATRICK CASALE: To everyone listening to the All Things Private Practice podcast, new episodes are out every single Saturday on all major platforms and YouTube. Like, download, subscribe, and share. Doubt yourself, do it anyway. We'll see you next week.


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