Rachel Stewart, 29

3 Posted by - October 13, 2016 - 2016, Lee-Collier, Lee-Collier 2016

Co-founder, licensed mental health counselor, registered play therapist supervisor, Thrive Therapy

No one had to convince Rachel Stewart there was a gap in Florida for childhood mental health and behavioral services, particularly through the niche of play therapy interventions.

Stewart saw that firsthand in several jobs and internships after she graduated from the University of Central Florida. But trying to fill that gap by launching her own business, with a like-minded therapist, took a little more convincing. “It was really scary at first,” says Stewart, “but we just went for it.”

Stewart and her partner, Elizabeth Alegre, opened Thrive Therapy with one client in 2012. The pair did everything themselves at first to save money, from cleaning windows to building furniture to creating the website.  Stewart recalls a landmark moment early on, when she and Alegre thought they had arrived as entrepreneurs, not just caseworkers. It was when they got their first water cooler.

Thrive Therapy has since grown into one of the most recognized play therapy centers in Southwest Florida. Stewart both sees clients and handles many back-office tasks. The latter includes negotiating contracts and health care reimbursement rates; researching and meeting with pediatricians and other potential referral sources; and learning to set up and manage the business’s books.

Stewart’s confidence in doing the back of the business work has grown in the last four years. But it won’t replace the joy she has in helping children and families overcome what seems like insurmountable challenges. She loves it, for example, when a child client goes from hiding in the car, afraid to come into the office, to growing through therapy to then not wanting to leave when an appointment ends. “My passion,” says Stewart, “is really seeing the growth of children.”

— Mark Gordon

Q&A

Name: Rachel Stewart

Age: 29

City of residence: Fort Myers

Twitter handle: thrivetherapy13

Employer: Thrive Therapy, LLC

Title: Co-Founder, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, Author-Zack and Zoie Safe Zones

Birthplace: Fort Myers

Years on the Gulf Coast: 29

Marital status/children: Married 6 years Casey Stewart, 1 year old son Zane

Alma mater: University of Central Florida

Best place to network: schools, doctors offices, and attorneys offices

Coolest business experience: Watching children grow, heal, and thrive

Messy desk or clean workspace: Spotless work space, minus the play dough :)

Best business lesson ever learned: Put yourself in the designer rack, not in the clearance bin

A website that makes your job easier: therapy notes.com

Community group you’re most involved with: Association for Play Therapy

Favorite off-hours activity: DIY home decor

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Carl Rogers (father of play therapy) and JoAnna Gaines (interior designer)

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Orthodontist

Top item on your bucket list: Open an ice cream shop

Skill you’d like to learn: speak fluent Spanish

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Jessica Alba

If I had a magic wand I’d: Prevent the abuse of animals

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