Inspiring Women Spotlight: Amanda Tuohy Fuller
We spotlight Amanda Tuohy Fuller, an intelligent, creative, courageous, and compassionate woman who defines what it means to be an empowered woman in 2021. Full disclosure, Amanda is our beloved cousin!
Growing up together, we were always close in ways we could not fully understand. Now as adults, we three share a special bond that makes us more like sisters than cousins. Stand us next to each other and you’ll see that our light hair and facial features are a dead give away to our kinship.
Amanda has always been on the right side of advocating for women and human rights, marching alongside Beth in the first Women's March in Chicago in 2017.
Professionally, Amanda is a professional dance instructor and choreographer at the Indiana Ballet Theatre. There she co-directs with the company’s founder (and her mom), Gloria Tuohy.
Amanda also works as a registered Dance/Movement Therapist and licensed Experiential Therapist and licensed mental health counselor. She helps people heal through art. How freakin' cool is that?! Oh yeah, did we mention that she is also a mom of three grown children? There's not a lot that this amazing woman can't handle!
As a child, I looked to Amanda's ballerina life with wonder and awe. Dresses embellished with sequins and extravagant costumes filled her house. It was romantic to my 10 year old self. Seeing how she has turned her love for dance into a life long career, I couldn't be more proud of her. I hope you enjoy reading about this woman who takes art and truly uses it for good.
And now... our interview with Amanda Tuohy Fuller.
Can you tell us a little more about your professional career?
I am a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT), Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), and Certified Dance Educator (CDE). Basically, while I utilize talk therapy in my work, I also engage more creative formats including movement, music, and art to provide additional modalities of expression within safe space for clients to engage in therapy. DMT is a somatic form of therapy, expressive in nature, and significantly effective for diverse populations as it offers not only the freedom to express, but also helps us to gain healthy awareness of self and to learn effective coping strategies and self-care, while working through mental health challenges. It also can help us to connect to our own selves and others, as well as increase our healthy relationship with our own bodies that we live in. I work with diverse ages, environments and diagnosis including acute inpatient, folks facing chronic mental health challenges, residential facilities, and in addictions group counseling. In dance, I teach pre-professional, professional, and community classes.
How and why did you get into this industry?
I began as a dancer that initially trained at my family’s dance studio, started by my mother when she moved here from the UK. After college, company dance work, and further training in principles of movement, I became a teacher and choreographer for our family business and other Chicagoland dance schools. I have always been interested in understanding the human condition, helping others, and being in a state of learning and application. Therefore years later, I decided to return to school for a bachelors in Psychology, and Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. After determining that talk therapy seemed to miss/ not work with the fact that we live and store emotions and experiences in our bodies, I felt the need to explore and learn to facilitate a healthier relationship with our body. I decided to return for another Masters in Dance/Movement Therapy in order to be able to facilitate further growth and awareness from a different lens. I still direct and teach at my family dance school, and we have created a beautiful dance company as well, putting on many dance concerts and full-length classical ballets, annually.
Can you describe/outline your typical day?
I do not work a typical 9-to-5 type of day, and oftentimes I slip in a dance class or rehearsal after my work as a therapist.
Generally, I first help my virtual-learner at home before heading to work…
Then, I visit our acute psychiatric inpatient unit to facilitate healthy movement groups and join a multi-programming treatment staffing. I facilitate various groups on our inpatient unit, at our community residential facilities, and in IOP (addictions) services. I check in with my Beyond Boundaries team at meetings and then head home to be with my family. (Occasionally, I teach a class on my way home.)
Before the pandemic, I also conducted team building initiatives for corporate, private, and school groups on our beautiful challenge course, which includes large-scale team building activities, similar to a ropes course. It includes many more options for team building. I loved this part of my job. Prior to the pandemic, we engaged in adventure-based therapeutic services and facilitated a yearly camping trip for our clients with chronic mental health challenges. The memories they build last a lifetime is beautiful.
This is VERY busy. On top of it, I fit in family time and rehearsals.
In the future, I hope to have a less busy schedule and am beginning plans to do just that.
How do you define success?
Success is generally being happy or content with where you are in life, what you are doing or goals, and who you are. I also feel successful when my family is happy.
Was getting into your career an easy journey or were there challenges that slowed the process down? Can you share a situation in which you overcame that obstacle?
Two challenges include (1) balancing work with passions and setting boundaries, and (2) putting my family first. I spent the majority of my waking hours that was not actually in a dance/college class or working, at home with my family, spending time with them or coaching their youth soccer teams. Thus, I spent many nights up late completing paperwork, class work, and studying…after my children were tucked in bed. I think I gained a few wrinkles, but it was worth it, as I was and am still very close with my children.
Women are oftentimes inspired by other successful women. Who inspires you? Why?
I was inspired by all of the prima ballerinas and professional dancers I learned about as a young dancer, including my mother who began a dance school. This also includes other strong women such as my Auntie Carol who began her own business, the original “Mini Menus.” Both my mom and aunt came over from England and did their own thing, as they envisioned it and on their own terms. I was a talented dancer, and instead of going straight into a company, I decided to go to college for dance. From there, I discovered that I loved the academic side of dance, and thus- academics. After years of dancing professionally and helping teach young dancers, I found a calling to help others, and returned to school again. Due to my mother and aunt having successfully starting businesses, and an art therapist friend who has started her own private practice, I decided that I will be starting my own private practice! I have faith I will be successful, and am excited to serve my clients in a more productive manner, run my own schedule, and set my own time/boundaries. Key elements are that I know the field well. Additionally, I have done my research, have referral sources, and understand the next processes. Currently, I am considering a few ideas for a name for my business.
What are some business / entrepreneurial tricks you have discovered that makes your day-to-day routines more focused and productive?
- Keep it simple.
- Do your best, whatever that is at the time.
- Believe in yourself, but also allow for new perspectives, shifts and mistakes, as these help us become more creative and develop something new!
- Practice healthy boundaries with yourself. Know boundaries that exist, decide what is attainable, but also don’t limit yourself unnecessarily.
- Practice self-care, drink water, exercise, and get sleep.
- Work to live.
- Gain skill in improvisation!
For my work-in-progress private practice? I will be starting simply, keeping the overhead down and asking my colleagues for help/mentorship when necessary. I will practice frugality and begin with my solid plan that I am currently developing with consultation from a successful colleague. I look forward to carving my own path and feel inspired by others in the process. I believe in holding one another up, as women-sisters supporting sisters.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business / your career so far?
In dance, knowing the quality of care I provide, in therapy, the same. I have an understanding that I take my time to provide quality of care. It is important when a client feels truly heard. I am proud when my students feel successful, bringing a team together, and when I stand on my own two feet and create something new.
If one of our readers is interested in doing what you do, what advice would you give her?
In DMT, consider the alternate route option. Practice from a place of love, and holistic connection. Embrace experiential work. Practice recuperation. If you consider going for a masters in talk therapy (LMHC, LCSW, LPCP) first, you can work with that, and gain licensure. Afterwards, add the expressive arts to it. Begin a business, after licensure, and work on your own schedule. In dance, start early with a dance education, or join as an adult! You can join a company, school that feeds into a company, or go to college for dance! Either way, these are great avenues to learn about yourself, disseminate some socialized ways of thinking and become more open to others and culturally aware, know your own movement. A CMHC or DMT program, or both, is well worth it.
If someone wants to connect with you, how can they find you?
I am on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/amanda.tuohy