It Only Takes A Spark

By Allyson Sutton

Sometimes the tiniest actions can spark the biggest change. For Liza Irvin, a licensed professional counselor at College of Charleston and the owner of Scentervention, the simple act of lighting a candle inspired a new passion — and a new business.

Liza always knew she wanted to be a therapist. But she never imagined adding “chandler” to her resume.

“I’ve always loved helping people. I can remember taking my friends to guidance counseling in middle school,” she says. “As I got older, therapy helped me through personal struggles with disordered eating and depression. I knew I wanted to offer that resource to others.”

After receiving a bachelor’s of science in psychology from College of Charleston and a master’s in clinical counseling from The Citadel, Liza spent several years providing trauma therapy at the Dorchester Children’s Advocacy Center.

But about a year into her role there, a challenging therapy session brought feelings of doubt and anxiety that many new counselors experience.

“I started thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” she says. “I was so overwhelmed that I finally just decided to take a moment and light a candle.”  

With the strike of a match, Liza immediately felt better. And then she felt inspired.

“In that moment, the candle brought a sense of peace. It made me calm. It was therapeutic,” she explains. “I started wondering what it might look like to combine therapy and aromatherapy in one. I had never made a single candle, but decided right then to learn how.”

After taking a weekend class at Candlefish, she quickly started ordering supplies and mixing up candles in a small workshop. Through trial and error, research and a few melted mishaps, Scentervention was born.

Each candle features an inspiring quote “to promote growth, change and emotional well-being,” an idea she pulled from her counseling practice.

While at the children’s advocacy center, Liza explored creative ways to make therapy more interactive and approachable. She often used board games or art projects to help kids express their emotions.

“If they couldn’t put things into words, they could draw or play and express it in that way so much better,” she says.

Another go-to activity involved creating what Liza calls a “gratitude box.” She’d give kids a plain shoebox and clippings from magazines, letting them choose quotes and pictures to paste all over the box. Later, they could fill the box with little notes or small trinkets that made them happy.

“A physical object that you can go to during difficult times — whether it’s a drawing, painting or collage — can help take your therapy a bit further than just coming into the office once a week,” Liza says.

Through quotes and aromatherapy, Liza hopes Scentervention candles become that physical object for her customers, a tangible reminder to slow down and reset.  

“In our society, it’s a badge of honor to be rundown and tired. It’s almost like it’s taboo to be happy or to take care of yourself, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she says. “I hope that when people light a candle, they’re taking a moment for themself. Those small actions can make a big difference in your mood, your outlook and how you’re feeling.”

Liza chooses scents with healing properties, like calming lavender, energizing citrus, and grounding aromas like moss, musk and cypress. Each candle is blended with 100 percent soy wax, natural essential oils and cotton wicks that are free from harsh chemicals.

“I wanted to create something that was clean and quality,” she says. “At the end of the day, mental health is really just health – what you seek for your mind and soul should also be good for your body.”

Tori Guglielmi, a local artist who has hosted a few pop-up shows with Liza, touts the therapeutic benefits of the candles.

“The quotes Liza picks for the vessel always hit home for me, and the candles offer a simple reminder to meditate, relax and breathe,” she says. “I also love that her brand is a byproduct of her counseling practice and that she’s using it to bring awareness to greater issues.”

For Liza, Scentervention goes beyond wax and wicks. She hopes the candles are a catalyst for open conversation about mental health.  

“This is the time to destigmatize mental health,” she says. “My hope is that the candles start that conversation.”

Liza is donating a portion of proceeds this month to nonprofits, including the Dorchester Children’s Advocacy Center. Learn more at scenterventioncandles.com.