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Meet Dr. Julia Harper of TheraPeeds Family Center in Davie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Julia Harper.

Over 20 years ago, TheraPeeds’ founder, Dr. Julia Harper was in her New York office doing traditional therapy. Despite the financial gains, Julia was quickly losing her love and passion for therapy. Julia was sure that this was NOT what she was meant to do when she was told as a child that she was saved from almost certain death to ‘change the world.’ At the time, although Julia was doing what she was trained to do, it just didn’t feel right. So, she did what any (not) normal person would do – she closed her thriving practice. In search of a way to satisfy her heart’s mission to change the lives of children and their families, Julia moved to Florida to contemplate her next move.

She rented a tiny office for a few hours, twice per week to ‘keep her feet wet,’ stay relevant, offer consultations and keep her clinical skills active. As she hunted for another way to make a change, Julia bumped into the word neuroplasticity. It was love at first sight! That was it. Neuro-plasticity said, the possibility of brain change existed, and that was all Julia needed to hear. She went on an obsessive search around the world. Any and everyone who uttered the words neuro-plasticity, brain and change got her attention. Although she was introduced to this science in her training as a therapist, it was conceptional, not functional and it didn’t mean anything for her practice. What Julia wanted was to hack into a way to make REAL change, for REAL people.

After developing a comprehensive understanding of how she could apply the science of neural-plasticity to her work, she created a new model to use her therapy tools and went against the grain to make a complete shift from the typical therapy practice. She took a huge risk, one that many warned would be the end of her business. Even so, she pressed on. This was the only way she was going to be able to make a real difference and more than anything, that’s what she wanted.  TheraPeeds’ new direction, anchored by Dr. Harper’s creation of a new therapy model, marked a shift from the traditional practice-based therapy program, which focused on symptoms, to an all-new brain-based model. This was the birth of the H.O.P.E. model.

The HOPE Model, as named by the clients who learned and experienced it, goes after the brain with an intensive program, focused on rewiring the brain to gain function. After using this model successfully, Dr. Harper moved the practice to ‘strictly-intensive’ based, which no other therapy practice had done. Years of proven success has set TheraPeeds Family Center apart, as the premier center in the world for brain-change. The center has grown from just Julia in her one-person practice to over 62 employees in the new, state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot facility in Davie, Florida. It is the only one of its kind, dedicated solely to therapy for children and families around the world.

Has it been a smooth road?
My business began with me alone in a room financing myself. There was no bank involved, no investor, no father that left me money. When we moved to the United States, we lived on food stamps, in a roach-infested apartment with gunshots swirling around outside our door. I was able to go to school with some government grants and struggled to put myself through school while working two jobs and sustaining a full-time course load. I have always financed myself. When it came to creating and growing my business, I figured I would either go for broke or go back to traditional therapy. I come from very humble beginnings, and every part of my business was me trusting, believing and investing in myself, my dream and my life. When we sought to expand in 2008 when the market was crashing, and at that time absolutely no one was lending money and once again it came down to – go for it and hope for the best.

A quick snapshot of my company’s growth rate:
– 2005, with me alone in a therapy room
– In 2008, with 13 employees in 3000, we expanded to 26 and moved from 3,000 sq ft to 6,000sq ft
– 2019 we now have 62 employees and have been able to attract financing to complete our new ground-up customized, state-of-the-art 30,000 sq ft headquarter building

The most challenging thing that I faced was that what I was doing was new and unknown. My colleagues told me that the new therapy model I wanted to introduce, was crazy. I was told many times that it wouldn’t work. This new model broke the mold, and it was not the way that therapy was done. I was introducing a cash-based practice, that required more time from clients, more money and energy, which was different than a traditional much easier and less effective model. This model was bucking the system. I also refused to take insurance (making it cash based) to do this crazy thing. I didn’t want the restriction; I wanted the freedom to create and explore so that I could continue to devise the best approaches to intervention for my clients. Every step of the way there was resistance externally, while I was fighting with my internal self-doubt. Although I wanted to introduce my vision, that I knew would make a difference in people’s lives, I was scared, Fear and self-doubt were my biggest enemies. The naysayers in the outside world made the voice in the inside even louder.

A lot of times I almost believed what they told me. I thought, I must be crazy, that I would fail and that this didn’t make sense. My biggest demon was the voice inside me that said, “You’re this little immigrant from Trinidad & Tobago, you’re not from here – you think you can show up and change their system? That’s not what we do.” Immigrants are the new back of the bus people. We are told to get in line, get in your place and get in the back of the bus.

The external forces were always there to remind me, to question me about who I was and tell me that I don’t get to change the world or be innovative. And then there were internal voices that trained me that this isn’t what I, as an immigrant, did. Those inner voices, which were created by the external environment, told me I should just be grateful to be here and have a job.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Dr. Harper’s H.O.P.E. model created a paradigm shift in the application of therapy and how brains are treated. The center sets the standard for what infants, adolescents, and adults can achieve when the mind is stimulated correctly in the right way, in the correct order, and with the right interventions. TheraPeeds sets measurable goals for each client that walks in the door, and protocolized treatment is followed rigorously until those goals are met. TheraPeeds creates REAL change for REAL People!

TheraPeeds also created the research-based WAY (What About You) Coaching Method. This partner model used at our center is also based on the science of neuroplasticity. It focuses on CHANGING the psychology or environment of the mind, which supports the physiological changes made in the brain with the HOPE Method. By changing the psychological and social-cognitive environment of the client, new neurological patterns can flourish and stabilize. W.A.Y provides a practical, step by step, mechanism to identify and change behavior. It offers a path to more effective and lasting intervention.

TheraPeeds Family Center is internationally acclaimed, with clients traveling from across the country and the world including places like the Caribbean, Latin America, China, Dubai, Europe, and South Africa. TheraPeeds attracts these clients based solely on word-of-mouth from other families because they have seen how their own lives have changed for the better as a result of the work done at TheraPeeds. As one parent puts it, “I want the world to know, this place changes people’s lives. Not just children, or people with special needs, but all people’s lives.”

What is your favorite childhood memory?
I’ve always been someone who loves to share. I love figuring out what people need and giving it to them. One day my aunts were all working together in a hot room sewing clothes, the family business. I watched them all sweaty and miserable and needing a break. I walked into the room, my 4-year-old self and decided to put on a show. I pretended to be a teacher and showed them all my ‘big words,’ I sang, I danced and in the end, they were laughing so hard, they experienced a moment of relief from the boredom and stress of their day. I remember seeing the sparkle in their eyes when I was done, and it brought me such joy to know that I was a part of that. It lit me up! I love serving.

Contact Info:

  • Address: TheraPeeds Family Center
    5951 Orange Drive
    Davie, FL 33314
  • Phone: 1 (800) 899-8832
  • Email: info@therapeeds.com
  • Instagram: juliaharper_phd
  • Facebook: Juliaharper,PHD

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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