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Hidden Gems: Meet Tammy Holcomb of Stargazer Counseling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tammy Holcomb.

Hi Tammy, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
When I was a child, I loved books. They offered an escape when life was hard. When I was 7, I discovered “Andrew Henry’s Meadow,” a book about a little boy who runs away and creates a safe haven for other children to escape to when things at home were hard. I began to fantasize about being able to leave home and create a home for other children. That fantasy grew into the idea of becoming a therapist and working with abused children. That motivated me to study hard in school, and I earned a scholarship that allowed me to pursue a higher degree after high school.

While I was working on my master’s degree in counseling, I worked at a psychiatric hospital in Smyrna, Georgia. Part of my job was working in the eating-disorder unit. I fell in love with the work. I took on additional responsibilities such as running a community support group and creating a patient handbook. It felt a bit like being Andrew Henry and building a community to protect people from the very real threat of an eating disorder. I came into the field to work with abuse survivors, but I shifted to eating disorders because I saw it was all connected, that abuse survivors were vulnerable to developing eating disorders.

I didn’t know it then, but I had found my life work. I have felt blessed and privileged to be able to spend the last 35 years working in the eating disorder community. I’ve been given so many opportunities to learn and grow as a specialist in this area. I have been able to build and develop several programs over the years in Georgia and North Carolina. While I love being a therapist, I think this connection to the community and program development has been a very special part of my work.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Early in my career, the hardest struggle was financial. I was working full-time while in my master’s program and sometimes worked multiple jobs at a time. I can remember falling asleep in class one night, and my professor took me to his office, gave me a blanket, and pointed to his sofa. I slept while he returned to teach the class. I feel like so many people did things for me during that time to help me along the way.

Over the past few years, the struggle has been the growing number of clients presenting with eating disorders and the lack of resources available to them. Due to COVID and the stress and uncertainty, this has caused, we have seen a huge rise in clients needing help. At times, the eating disorder treatment centers have been full and had to turn people away. This has made it more important than ever to train and prepare other therapists to assist with this much-needed work.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Stargazer Counseling PLLC?
I see individuals, couples, and families presenting with a variety of issues, but about 85% of my practice is made up of people coming for help for an eating disorder. I supervise young therapists who are working toward full licensure and want to learn more about eating disorders. I accept interns, who provide free resources to the community. I sponsor a weekly free support group for people with eating disorders.

Private practice can feel isolating at times. To stay in touch with my peers, I volunteer with the local chapter of IAEPD (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) as the education chair and with the LPCANC (Licensed Professional Counselor Association of North Carolina) as a supervisor group community facilitator and presenter. These volunteer positions allow me to continue to learn and grow as I help others develop professionally.

Over the past few years, I’ve added therapists to my practice who share similar values and goals. Slowly, we are forming our own small community of eating disorder professionals. In Apex, the population has grown to more than 63,000 people. According to National Eating Disorder statistics, one in 11 people have eating disorders, so there’s a large need out there, but I am the only certified eating disorder specialist and supervisor in the town.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
It was my dream. If you’re passionate about something, you’re going to work hard at it. I had confidence that I could do it because I’d worked in so many different settings and got broad experience, and I learned from some great role models. And I believed I had the skills. It comes down to taking care of people, something I know how to do.

And I like to build things. I think it goes back to that little girl reading the books about Andrew Henry building the village. He built the houses for the children, and they just kept coming. He was a catalyst for change, and I try to be that too. I think that we can do better in raising our children to love and respect their bodies and to use their voices to set limits. My work isn’t just about healing this generation, but also helping the next generations.

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  1. Carolyn Felton

    October 4, 2022 at 2:24 am

    You are a gem, Tammy!

  2. Ellen Morrison

    October 6, 2022 at 7:07 pm

    Tammy, you are a valuable resource to our eating disorder community. I’m so glad you are being acknowledged for all you do for us. You have been a great teacher, colleague and friend.

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