Families First And Foremost
- photos by Sadie Thibodeaux
It all started with a desire to serve families in the Mid-Missouri area.
Having worked for a few companies and organizations in Columbia as a speech pathologist, Laura Powell knew she wanted to see something different happen in Columbia. She wanted to see a therapeutic service business focused on the family, not just on the individual in need of therapy services. So she started Therapy Unlimited in the fall of 2014.
“I started Therapy Unlimited just to give families more options for care in the middle of the state,” Powell explains. “My goal was to be very family-centered, to look at the family as a whole instead of just the individual.”
When Powell and the other therapists see patients, they involve the patient’s family by letting them know what went on in the therapy room, what exercises were taught, and what skill the patient is trying to achieve. This enables the family to feel more confident in and knowledgeable about how to help the patient develop their skills and practice their exercises the correct way at home.
“Our goal is to guide the family and try to facilitate carrying over those skills at home so that therapy isn’t just an isolated event because, really, the family is the one that lives with them and helps them be who they are and strive to be every day,” says Powell.
Almost five years after opening, and after identifying more community needs, their services have moved beyond the traditional speech and language therapies.
Listening to the Community
Powell explains that the services she offers are created based on the needs of families. The services aren’t created on a whim or because of a trend in the industry; they’re practical and solutions-oriented. Sometimes these needs are witnessed by Powell firsthand, but often, families will come to her with ideas of what they would like to see or have access to. If there are services people wish were available, she does her best to make that wish a reality through new services and joint partnerships at Therapy Unlimited.
“I try to meet the needs of the community by listening,” she says. “The services are really a response from things that I hear that families wish were available in Columbia. For example, I had some families that were wanting to have some diagnostic testing for an IQ test or for achievement testing.” Therapy Unlimited didn’t offer that service, so Powell created a work around.
“I recruited some people to administer IQ testing for me, and then Therapy Unlimited did language testing and achievement testing so that we were able to create a kind of diagnostic team for families that were seeking that outside of the school district,” she says.
That service is now a permanent part of what Therapy Unlimited offers, thanks to an ask from the community last year.
Their diagnostic testing service is housed underneath the umbrella of academic services, one of eight umbrella focus areas.
“We provide evaluations for speech concerns or any concerns that might have to do with daily life skills that may require occupational therapy,” says Powell. For example, the occupational therapists work with patients to help them with daily functions like putting on a coat and zipping it up and handwriting.
In regards to speech concerns, Therapy Unlimited specializes in early childhood language services. Parents utilize this service when they want to know how to communicate with their small children who aren’t meeting communication milestones, explains Powell. The therapist helps train parents on how to facilitate better communication with their child.
They also work with patients on alternative and augmentative communication. This service helps children who don’t have a wide vocabulary or who aren’t verbal by giving them a device to help communicate their wants and needs.
When families aren’t sure what services their loved ones might need, Therapy Unlimited will evaluate the patient to find any areas that may be weak or that could be enhanced with therapy. The goal is to help the patient improve so that they can have better function.
For one family, the difference they have seen in their son over a nine-month period is drastic.
“We enrolled our son, Finley, in preschool because of severe separation anxiety, and the school quickly noticed that he was behind in his speech and eating habits. His teacher recommended Therapy Unlimited,” say Mark and Tiffany McLemore. “Corey, Finley’s therapist, has been a godsend and has tremendously helped Finley with his self-esteem, speech, and eating habits. In nine months, he has caught up to where a 3-year-old should be with his speech. Corey has taken a personal interest in Finley and worked so hard to help Finley be where he needs to be and helped us as parents to better understand what we can do to help him in all aspects of his personal growth.”
A Look Ahead
When asked what her business goals are for this year, Powell says that she hopes to continue meeting the needs of the community. “There are other things on the horizon, but they’re all in response to people asking for them,” she says.
Powell says her business was created to serve the community. That’s why she was purposeful in choosing the name for her company.
“Unlimited” is part of the name because she is not an inside-of-the-box thinker. If she has an open mind to other ideas, then she can adapt to what the families need.
And she credits her employees for being able to serve and support families well.
“We have a really awesome team of people,” she says. “Our team is strong, and we work cohesively. That’s important because as families walk through our office, they’re going to find that our environment here is not just family-centered in serving the families. My team, we all view ourselves as family together.”
4200 Merchant St.