Chez Leeby is the creator of Soul Life, a platform for community prevention and wellness education. She also created Soul Shine, a camp and weekly group initiative for teenage girls. She has authored three books and regularly presents programs at the link in Nocatee.
What is Soul Life?
I like to think of Soul Life as the “Walmart of Wellness.” It’s the one-stop shop for integrated and inspiring avenues to psychological health. Soul Life workshops, retreats and classes incorporate all the things I love, including art therapy and creative expression, music, breathwork, meditation and yoga. It is the perfect complement to my individual, couples, group and family therapy.
My mission is to teach individuals and families tools for healthy living from a multidisciplinary and experiential approach. I do not want my clients to simply hear or read about “what they should do.” Instead, I encourage and empower my clients by offering a variety of healing practices to try on.
I believe we are all heroic healers of self. We know the answers; sometimes, we simply need the support, inspiration and accountability to actualize and follow through with interventions or learn new strategies, backed by neuroscience.
I don’t believe in therapeutic paradigms that are stuck on a symptom of disease. Instead, I believe in planting seeds to ignite a life of choice while honoring areas of struggle as opportunities for growth.
How did you get the idea for Soul Life?
I created Soul Life with the dream of bringing a variety of modern and ancient healing modalities, teachers and practices from around the world, here to Northeast Florida.
I have visited and experienced many wellness centers, retreats and resorts, including those on the “best of” lists and the lesser known.
My husband and I have been happily married for 30 years and these wellness vacations keep our marriage and our family health in check. I knew my clients needed more and I wanted to offer adjunct therapies that could be experienced in groups for low costs.
My long-term hope is to build a Soul Life Center here in our community, a place to gather, hear lectures, connect with friends and neighbors in real ways while sipping on green juice or organic tea. I envision an open air, treehouse structure (think Costa Rica with A/C), surrounded by our beautiful nature. I’m saying this out loud so the wheels of manifestation drive this dream into motion. This hub of healing would incorporate all contemplative practices and therapies from all schools of thought so we can make our Soul Life our Whole Life.
Tell me about your background, your education and what led you to where you are today.
I am a Florida Licensed marriage and family therapist with over 35 years’ experience in mental health. I earned my undergraduate and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University and my Ph.D. from the University of Florida. I have experience working in both public and private psychiatric hospitals, detention centers, mental health and substance abuse recovery centers, and I was the former director of the Prince George’s County Sexual Assault Center in Chevery, Maryland.
I have been in private practice for over 15 years. I am certified in a variety of modalities as a psychotherapist, art and play therapist and parent educator. My experience with individuals with PTSD, anxiety and depression led me to want to find interventions that work. I lost my younger brother 34 years ago to suicide, and my grief guided me on the path I continue today.
As a world, we are not well. Global rates of anxiety and depression have increased over 25% since 2020 (WHO, 2022). Tragically, drug overdose deaths have increased by almost 30% (with over 100,000 deaths in 2020, CDC, 2021).
I am passionate about offering innovative interventions and early education in our schools so we can reduce these numbers. Again, not just by telling kids what to do, but letting them experience tools and strategies for themselves. This work is part of my Soul Life mission and I am eager to get these programs in our schools.
I understand you have some classes and workshops at the link. Can you tell me about those and how people can sign up?
I am thrilled to be a teacher and member of the link in Nocatee. My classes are listed on the link app, or people can reach out through my website (www.soullife.us).
Soul Life offers monthly meditation and sound bath classes in the Flagler Health Immersion Studio. Under the stars, we immerse ourselves in sound and re-set our central nervous systems. Meditation is often the very best medication for stress. Each time I do these classes, I observe the drastic shifts in energy and mood for our participants, before and after class. It’s fascinating to witness.
I also co-teach a class for writers called Booked on Tuesdays. This class combines both formal writing instruction and the psychology of writing for mental health and healing. We have writers of children’s books, fiction, memoirs, self-help, podcasts and poetry anthologies.
On Monday evenings, I co-teach YinLighten, a unique class combining yin yoga and psychology. The focus is on understanding our patterns, habits and default dysfunctional behaviors so we can act with more conscious choice. We use the body practices and group therapy to inform and transform the ways of the mind.
This summer, we will offer a youth camp at the link focused on emotional expression, communication skills and stress/distress busters. The camp classes are engaging and interactive using psychodrama, music, art and play therapy.
I also offer both online Soul Life groups and in-person healing circles (register at www.soullife.us). These structured groups follow my Lighten Your Life curriculum to discover the root of trauma and the path to our purpose. I have been collecting data on these initiatives for the past seven years so that I can better understand what actually works and why.
I will be speaking at the link with Sara Gaver, Ms. Wheelchair, Florida on Tuesday, May 17, at 7 p.m. This free author talk is about “The Heart of Inspiration.” Sara and I will share personal stories and invite listeners to experience inspiration and joy despite any life circumstance.
Did you move here from somewhere else?
I grew up in Pennsylvania and continued moving south until we settled here in beautiful Ponte Vedra. We have lived here for almost 22 years. We absolutely love this special little pocket of the world.
How do you like to spend your free time?
My family (husband Doug and two kids, ages 26 and 22) are my biggest source of laughter and joy, no matter what we are doing. I spend my free time doing exactly what I teach — I love writing, traveling, meeting people from all cultures, meditating, creating and bringing my dreams to life.
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