Innovative Lovett Center Emphasizes Community and Collaboration Among Therapists
For years, Houston therapist Robert Hilliker ran a successful private practice; treating patients for everything from psychiatric disorders to drug and alcohol abuse. Rewarding as it was, the work could be exhausting, and Hilliker often wished he weren’t so professionally isolated. There were other therapists in the office building where he worked, but there was no real sense of community. “I found myself sitting in my office all day talking about how important it was to be connected to other people,” he said. “And then in between seeing clients I was completely alone and disconnected.”
Hilliker’s dissatisfaction with the traditional model of therapy led him to help found the Lovett Center, an innovative co-working space that currently provides offices for 47 individual clinicians. In April 2014, working with real estate developer Will Davis, a co-founder of the F.E.E.D. TX restaurant group (Liberty Kitchen, BRC, Little Liberty), Hilliker purchased a handsome two-story building on Lovett Boulevard between Montrose and Stanford.
The first thing Hilliker and Davis did was renovate the building from top to bottom. They added original art purchased on Etsy, built an ornate, wood-paneled library stocked with books from the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, and created open spaces that could be used for anything from presentations to yoga sessions. “We really made it into a space that was conducive to the healing, restorative work that we do here,” Hilliker said. Some offices are available to rent by the hour, a boon to therapists just beginning their careers.
But the most innovative thing about the Lovett Center isn’t the building itself but the philosophy behind it. Unlike most professional office buildings, Lovett Center’s tenants are encouraged to interact and collaborate. There’s a community advisory board with subcommittees dedicated to tasks like planning social events and encouraging self-care among therapists. “A lot of time, helpers forgets to help themselves,” Hilliker explained, “so we really work at providing a sense of community.”
Perhaps the Lovett Center’s most ambitious initiative is the Center for Integrative Healing (CFIH), which draws upon the diverse strengths of the building’s therapists to provide comprehensive treatment for patients who need more than just one-on-one counseling. Patient programs can include everything from group therapy to substance abuse treatment to relaxation exercises. In some cases, this full-court, all-hands-on-deck approach may keep the most at-risk patients out of the hospital, avoiding the high cost of in-patient treatment.
To Hilliker, the advantages of collaboration over solo practice are obvious. “Look, people are already doing this in other industries,” he said. “The tech industry is a great example—they knew very early on that when you have true collaboration, everybody wins. The client gets a better product and the company gets more innovative solutions.” Hilliker said that the Lovett Center could provide a new model of how to deliver better psychological care nationwide. “We’re really excited about what we’ve been able to do here, and we think we can really change how private practice works.”