Executive Director – Newport Academy, Virginia
Leigh McInnis, LPC
As Executive Director at Newport Academy’s Virginia location, Leigh McInnis, LPC, plays an integral role, supporting team cohesion and the management and training of all staff. She oversees the clinical team and supports collaboration among departments. Before finding her professional home at Newport Academy, Leigh worked in many public mental health arenas, including nonprofit crisis prevention and response for adults, intensive in-home care for children and adolescents, and residential treatment facilities. In 2016, she developed the clinical milieu for a non-suicidal self-injury unit in a Virginia residential treatment facility. Leigh is passionate about partnering with families and communities, and sees them as the foundation that supports teens as they develop and succeed.
My Five Fundamental Beliefs
1. Emotions are essential to survival.
Emotions are natural, instinctive, and useful tools for us to better understand ourselves within our environments. They motivate us to act, they support our efforts to communicate and to be understood by others, and they allow us to trust our gut. So often throughout our lives, we are taught to classify emotions as “good” versus “bad” and to dismiss or ignore those that are less than desirable; in doing so, we disable our survival instincts and struggle to understand, communicate, and achieve our wants and needs. By allowing ourselves access to our internal, emotional cues, we often find that we feel more aware of our environment, more comfortable in our own skin, and increasingly able to maintain close, meaningful relationships.
2. Behaviors are external cues to our wants and needs.
This is essential to understand when working with teens. It can be so easy to judge, dismiss, criticize, or otherwise react to certain behaviors, but reacting often complicates the interaction and does little to meet either person’s need. Reminding myself that behaviors often serve a function for that individual (i.e., escape/avoidance, seeking attention/support, seeking access to materials, sensory stimulation) allows me to focus on their needs in that moment. It is a key component of the therapeutic process to support the client and family to understand the function of their current behaviors and to explore potentially safer or more effective means of meeting their wants and needs.
3. Therapy is an active partnership.
I do not work harder than my clients and their families; that being said, I distribute my energy, attention, and support so that it is heavy in the beginning of the treatment process, and gradually wanes as my clients and their families learn, practice, and master new skills to support themselves. I also hold my clients accountable to being an active part of the process—the more energy they invest, the more rewarding the outcome will be!
4. Caring for our physical body is essential for emotional well-being.
Physical health and wellness are necessary components to achieve mental health and emotional well-being. Not only do I keep my clients informed about recent research related to this connection, I also help them to explore their relationship with their body, food, physical exercise, sexuality, and sleep.
5. We are all doing the best that we can with what we have AND we can do better, be better, live and love better.
This is a foundational dialectical belief. Therapy is not intended to induce shame about ourselves or our experiences. If presented with the same internal and external circumstances, many of us would respond to situations similarly. What we choose to do is based on what we know. This simple understanding allows people to be themselves freely and to discuss their thoughts, fears, and decisions without concern for possible ramifications. At the same time, we must believe that we have the power to change our current circumstances—and that the impetus for change is within us. We, as humans, do not function in isolation: When we change, we impact change in the people around us and in our environment; when we remain stagnant, so do our circumstances. The change that we often seek outside ourselves is within us. What greater sense of empowerment is there?
Newport Academy…in her own words
“The Newport Academy experience means partnering with clients, families, and communities for the betterment of the family as a whole unit; treating the underlying function of behaviors; and supporting clients and families holistically by joining with them to enhance self-care in all areas of their life. At Newport Academy, we have the opportunity to treat clients within a community-based, home-like setting, with the ultimate goal of reintegrating them back into their own homes and communities.”–Leigh McInnis