Phind out Phriday: Lunden Abelson, The Art of Maximizing Potential

I walked the three blocks to the Green Line Café on Baltimore Avenue in the beloved West Philly to meet with Lunden Abelson, a local psycho therapist and a dance movement therapist who I first met almost two years ago where she used to work and I was then an intern. I walked in and there she was with a cute skirt that I immediately recognized as I have the same one, and a nice cold glass of iced tea. We spent a few minutes talking about office activity and politics, as well as her nephew who recently visited the city, and new opportunities and ventures she has had since starting her practice, Seeds of Potential about a year ago. In having gotten to know Lunden, not only was I acutely aware that she was good at what she does, but that she had a steady passion for what she did and a steady know how for creative solutions to helping people achieve their potential to live whole abundant lives. Who wouldn’t want phind out a little something about a woman who has worked with sexually abused trauma survivors for 12 years, been in the field for 8 years, worked with individuals with autism for 4 years, uses art not only in writing or drawing but in dancing and moving, and has some pretty trendy closet items?
Phreedum: So Lunden, who are you in five words?
She pauses and starts to say who she is using her fingers to make sure she uses the right amount of words and that it all makes sense.
LA: Okay, got it. I am a creative arts therapist.
Phreedum: What is most fulfilling about the work you do?
LA: Seeing people grow and remind people they have the resources to create the change they want.
Phreedum: What has been the most challenging aspect of your work?
LA: Well regarding therapy, I think it’s really challenging when the work comes home with me or I get attached to a client who isn’t quite ready for client. So you have to wait for them you know. Sometimes they leave and you hope they come back when they are ready bit that’s not always the case.
Now as far as the business of doing therapy, I think the isolation initially was challenging. I work by myself. There is no administrative person or several private practitioners in one shared space. So I have to be more intentional about my interactions with my colleagues. Also there is the bureaucracy of insurance. With insurance if you are not accepted as a provider it means people have to pay out of pocket and can limit the access people have to care. I applied to b a provider to a couple of insurance companies and was told there were too many providers in my geographical location providing services so I was not accepted to be a provider that was covered by certain insurances for clients. One company’s provider list has been closed for 5 years.
Phreedum: Is there a way to get around it? What if you have a specialization? Can you provide in a geographical location that has a lot of therapists but don’t specialize in the same area as you?
LA: Well I’m not sure but I am going to apply again and try to figure that out.
Phreedum: How have you evolved as a person and as a professional?
LA: As a therapist I felt pretty sound when I decided to start a private practice. And I think that’s really important. But I’ve had to really grow in terms of the business aspect of starting a business. In particular I think I’ve had to grow in terms of the client/therapist relationship and accepting money directly for my services. When I worked for an agency I received a check from that agency. My client and I never talked about money for my services. It wasn’t necessary. As a private practitioner I’ve had to become more comfortable around having dialog directly about clients about money. These conversations have also pushed me to think about the value of the work that I do. I offer a sliding scale so that people can access the help they need but also so I feel like I am getting the value that I deserve for the services I provide. As I have had more of these conversations I think I’ve just grown in terms of seeing the value of the skills I have and there services I offer but also my personal beliefs about people having access to the resources they need have been challenged and strengthened.
Phreedum: Who has been influential in allowing you to phreely pursue your dreams?
LA: Well, I think my own therapist that I used to see was helpful just in my own personal growth. I would also say one of my old professors, Dr. Penny Lewis. She is deceased. But, the way he talked about her practice really made me want to have my own some day.
Phreedum: You talked about a professor from your past. What about you in your past? What’s one piece of advice you would give the you of ten years ago?
LA: The first thing that comes to mind is not to rush back.
I look at her slightly puzzled.
LA: I traveled abroad in college to Ghana. And I didn’t really venture out and I would go out with a group of people to a specific destination and then o right back to where we were staying. Other people either would come before the course started and spend time somewhere else or after the course people had plans to go to other countries, but not me. I would go and come back.
And, I think the other thing is I would tell the e of ten years ago to practice my own art more. So one of my skills is that I am a dance movement therapist. But I didn’t really practice dance and movement as much as I learned about how to use it in the context of therapy. It’s like the music teacher who teacher who teaches but doesn’t just pick up and play their instrument for fun and enjoyment. I’d definitely tell myself to do more if the dance and movement
Phreedum: How does the work you do change the lives of others?
LA: It empowers them and it allows them to be seen and witnessed in a space that they can’t always have with others. I think sometimes we underestimate the need to be seen and acknowledged and especially free of judgment.
Phreedum: What’s been your proudest moment thus far?
LA: I think for me it’s been being able to work with a really challenging client recently and being able to see them and not their behavior. I think I’ve always known that I have had that ability and in working with this client it re confirms my ability to do that and I think shows clinical maturity. It’s also me having hope with my client and not just for them.
Phreedum: What’s one thing about you most people don’t know?
LA: hmmmmmm.
She takes a moment to think about it.
LA: Can we come back to that one?
Phreedum: Sure!
LA: Oh wait. I have one.
Phreedum: Okay. Go for it.
LA: In college I volunteered for a rape hotline. That’s probably the surprising part given the work I now do. But what I don’t think people know is what that experience is like and what it means to be in the cafeteria with friends eating and laughing and get a call and step out and talk with someone about a life changing event.
Phreedum: Usually I like to ask people how their business partners or tea members would describe them in one word. However we talked earlier about you not working with a network of people or having a team at this point. So, how do you think your clients would describe you in one word?
LA: Compassionate and helpful. I know that’s two.
Phreedum: It’s cool. So what’s your favorite thing to do when you’re stressed out?
LA: Dancing, yoga, and going on walks with my partner and my dog.
Phreedum: what kind of dog do you have?
LA: A German shepherd sheltie mix. But lately my way to des stress has been tv and sugar.
Phreedum: I see. So what’s been your sugar fix?
She smiles as if she is about to share a delicious sinfully sweet secret.
LA: These lemon poppy cookies. They are so good. I get them from Milk and Honey or the Co-op. Now, I did actually buy some poppy seeds so I could make my own, but I haven’t gotten there just yet.
Phreedum: Those do sound good and I’ve heard good things about Milk and Honey.
As I sat and recalled that Milk and Honey is a cute little grocery/café shop three blocks away from the café where we were meeting I remembered thinking Lunden was not from her place about five blocks from the cafe. She wasn't a native Philadelphian.
Phreedum: You’re not from around here right?
LA: Nope.
Phreedum: I didn’t think so. So here are you from?
LA: I grew up in eastern Massachusetts and southern Maine. I lived in Southern Massachusetts before I came to Philly.
Phreedum: What bought you to Philly?
LA: I came here for an internship for graduate school. My brother lived her so I came down and interned at the Center for Autism and then I worked there for 4 years.
Phreedum: If Seeds of Potential was a sport, what sport would it be?
LA: Swimming. I do this work by myself and you swim by yourself. But it’s fun and it feels good. It’s hard but it can be refreshing.
Phreedum: So what’s the best advice you have been given since starting this hard refreshing work by yourself?
LA: That it takes time. I’ve been fortunate to talk with other therapist that I admire and what I like about their practice is things they took time to develop. So I think it’s been helpful to be forewarned and I guess encouraged about the reality of time and having expectations that reflect that.

For more information about Lunden’s practice, Seeds of Potential , please visit or send her an email at

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