By Kaylor Jones
Photos by Claudia Johnstone
As a licensed professional counselor, doctor of clinical psychology and owner of Scottsdale Premier Counseling, Morgan Francis is dedicated to helping women improve their mental health and body image. It’s a passion that stems from her own journey of mental health and body awareness.
Francis, like many women, struggled with body distortion in the past. “I have picked apart, judged, compared and neglected my body,” she says. “I would go on diets only to end up bingeing on all the food I deprived myself of by the end of the week. Then I would feel ashamed that I couldn’t follow a diet program or get the results I thought I should be getting with my body.”
After seeing a licensed therapist, Francis was able to become a better model of healthy body image, not just for herself, but for her daughter. “I learned to appreciate what my body does for me rather than focus on how it looks. I give thanks and praise to my body. I don’t own a scale – I don’t even have a full-length mirror!”
This mindset is in part thanks to Francis’ work in clinical psychology. For 10 years, Francis worked at Scottsdale-based Psychological Counseling Services, where she became specialized in the treatment of body image. During her overall 20 years in the mental health field, Francis has broadened her focus to also encompass eating disorders, self-empowerment, relationships, trauma and infidelity.
After the birth of her third child in 2017, Francis, who received her master’s degree in community counseling from John Carroll University and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Arizona School of Professional Psychology, founded her own private practice, Scottsdale Premier Counseling, and has flourished ever since.
“I’ve since created multiple platforms where I am able to serve others outside of my therapy office,” Francis says. A frequent podcast guest, Francis also utilizes her experience in the mental health field in community workshops and as a regular relationship and sexual health commentator on FOX 10 Phoenix’s morning show and 12 News.
Prioritizing Mental Health
In all of her endeavors, Francis’ mission is to end the stigma behind mental health. “There needs to be more conversation out in the open because everyone is going through something,” she says.
Francis also stresses the importance of seeking out help in one’s mental health journey. “To think you should know how to fix your anxiety or depression yourself is nonsense,” she says. “I am not a dentist. I wouldn’t say to myself, ‘I can just figure out what to do with this cavity on my own.’ I would see my dentist as soon as possible. We all have doctors – cardiologists, gynecologists, orthodontists – and a psychologist is no different. It’s a doctor for your brain.”
In June, Francis launched her first online course, “Bye Bye Body Blame: You Deserve to Love Your Body Without Having to Lose Weight.” The at-home course employs practical and supportive guidance to help people cope with the current diet culture, break down negative thoughts, and start respecting their bodies.
“This is the course that I wish I had when I was struggling with my body image,” Francis says. “I define body image as our attitudes, beliefs, feelings and behaviors toward the way we think we look. Many people believe that once they lose weight, they can finally start to love themselves, yet that is the furthest thing from the truth. Body image starts from inside out, not the outside in.”
As someone who feels honored to contribute to the destigmatization of mental health, Francis understands that health starts at home. “Talking about our thoughts and feelings is pretty normal in our household,” she says. “There is no shame in our mental health game.”
In 2016, she was nominated for MASK’s Moms Making a Difference Unity Award, which led to an elected position on their Women of Influence board. As a working mother, Francis enjoys relaxing with her family on the weekends and values the fact that she gets to be a positive role model for her three children. “The best part of my day is when I come home from work and they run to hug me,” she says.
As a wife, mom, business owner and doctor, Francis shares that asking for help is vital to staying on top of it all.
“I think that many women struggle with thinking that they don’t want to burden others by asking for help, but we cannot do the hard things on our own,” Francis says. “There are many days where I feel overwhelmed, stressed and rushed, but I know I have babysitters, friends and my amazing husband to help me with pickup or getting dinner ready. Asking for help has been one of the greatest gifts I have given myself.”