Lauren Presutti, founder of River Oaks Psychology, is a licensed psychotherapist, disability activist, speaker, educator, and community leader. Diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at age two, Lauren has been using a power wheelchair since she was five years old. Her firsthand experiences revealed that traditional mental health professionals rarely have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to work effectively and truly connect deeply with those affected by medical conditions, chronic illnesses, and disabilities. This inspired Lauren to become a mental health therapist specializing in this area, but she also has developed herself as a clinician passionate about working with those of all backgrounds and identities. She provides a wide variety of online psychotherapy services for kids, teens, adults, families, and couples anywhere in Michigan.Lauren holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Central Michigan University and three graduate degrees from Grand Valley State University: Master of Education (M.Ed.), Educational Specialist degree (Ed.S.), and Master of Social Work (MSW). She has worked extensively with people of all ages in educational settings, public agencies, and nonprofits. Combining her multidisciplinary expertise in sociology, education, and social work, Lauren operates as a professional grounded in theories of self-development and empowerment.
Humanizing Disability: Identity Development, Mental Health, and Empowerment
Stigmas and misconceptions that position disability as an inferior status are widespread. Nondisabled individuals often shy away from truly connecting and deeply understanding others with disabilities simply due to discomfort, inconvenience, or failure to see how inclusivity benefits everyone regardless of ability level. As a result, those with disabilities are subject to feeling different, socially excluded, and alone. Universal design is rarely a part of creating community spaces, businesses, and other entities. Advocating for accessibility is often met with opposition as leaders are afraid of expending costs, time, or resources. But perhaps the greatest consequence of societal oppression is the mental health impacts on individuals with disabilities, as many people develop feelings of inadequacy, shame, and internalized ableism. Many also minimize their disabled identities for the sake of social approval, which results in identity confusion, problems with self-acceptance, and unmet emotional needs. This presentation will explore concepts of disability as a marginalized group, identity development, mental health impacts, and paths toward empowerment. In order for individuals with disabilities to thrive in their communities, they must be heard, supported, and valued as equal citizens. Join us to explore how this can be achieved and leave with tangible tips and strategies to self-reflect on your own perceptions of disability.