Growing up in Iowa City, Lauren Welter thought she wanted to be somewhere bigger and busier. She began her career in New York City working on Wall Street and quickly learned the grass really isn't always greener on the other side.
“Iowa certainly has a way of calling us back home,” Welter says. “I love the humility and authenticity of the people of Iowa.”
After receiving her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa College of Education, Welter opened her own clinic, Prairie Home Wellness and Counseling, in Monticello, Iowa, a small community of almost 4,000 people.
Before she opened the clinic in April 2018, she commuted 45 to 70 minutes each way, first to Iowa City and later to Dubuque. This made it hard for her to get involved in the community in addition to being a full-time psychologist and mom.
“Because of cultural and logistic barriers to mental health care, many of my current clients simply would not seek care if I did not have my practice here,” she says. “I am hopeful over the course of my career, I can contribute to reducing some of the cultural stigma against mental health care in our community.”
Throughout graduate school at the UI, she was heavily involved in volunteer work and local and international activism. Since opening her practice, she has joined the Monticello Rotary Club, a professional service organization that hosts fundraisers and projects that serve the local community.
“One of the core values of counseling psychology is social justice,” Welter says. “It has become very important for me to be involved in and give back to the communities I inhabit, not only professionally, but also personally.”
Welter says the UI's Counseling Psychology program has been instrumental in preparing her to succeed as a psychologist. In addition to outstanding coursework, research, and faculty interactions, the program has many high-quality practicum training sites.
“Over the course of my academic career, I had yearlong clinical rotations that allowed me to develop advanced clinical skills with diverse populations,” she says.
These clinical sites included the UI Hospitals and Clinics, the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Hospital, the Women's Resource and Action Center, and the University Counseling Services.
Her desire to open a rural psychology practice was based both on her family's needs and the dearth of mental health services in rural communities.
“As a farm wife, I am responsible for a significant proportion of domestic and child rearing duties, and with the birth of our second child, my husband and I decided that more autonomy and flexibility in my schedule was important,” Welter says.
Welter aspires to create a therapeutic space that is sacred and life-transforming.
“As I navigate my own multiple roles in the community, it is important for me to normalize my own imperfection and shared human struggles with others,” she says. “It is such an honor to have my own practice in the community where my children will grow up.”