How many people think counseling is only for “crazy” people or mental issues? That is not always the case. In life we all go through problems and sometimes events from our past still haunt our adulthood. Those childhood issues can form into traits or repeating cycle like lack of trust, acceptance, abandonment issues, molestation issues, domestic violence, self-esteem, etc. I have personally been to counseling before and I found it to be very helpful. My counselor made me participate in activities to help with my emotions (journal writing), understanding what I wanted in a relationship (vision board), and family tree of successful relationships (not as many as I thought). This process helped me to grow in the areas I was not as strong in.
People ask for advice all the time but some topics are heavier than what I am equipped to handle. Those conversations inspired this blog by focusing on the importance of counseling. I can only mentor so much but some cases a professional would be more beneficial. Therefore, I went to a professional to interview her about her perspective to gain a deeper insight. I also wanted to provide insight to those mentees either aspiring or
in this field. I will now introduce my intelligent line sister Dr. April E. Stewart in the following informative interview:
Dr. April Stewart what is your background (education and career)?
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I am licensed to independently practice Social Work at the advanced level in the state of Tennessee. I hold a Ph.D. in Human Services and Counseling Studies from Capella University, Master of Science in Social Work from UT-Knoxville, Bachelor of Social Work from Middle Tennessee State University, and I am currently completing a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green State University with an expected completion date of June 2017.
I went a step further by attaining various professional certifications through the National Association of Social Workers and the Center for Credentialing and Education that demonstrate my professional experience, practical knowledge, and commitment to my field. My certifications are as follows: Certified Social Worker in HealthCare, Academy of Certified Social Workers, and Human Services Board Certified Practitioner.
For nearly 10 years, I have worked as a Social Worker in the Human Service and Criminal Justice fields, providing support to families of children with special needs, adults requiring mental health services, recovering addicts, Military and Veterans, and men and women seeking to return to normal life after incarceration.
I am employed with the Tennessee Department of Correction as a Psychiatric Social Worker with 7 years of service, a part-time Emergency Room Social Worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs with 4 years of service, and 2 years of service as an Adjunct Professor with the University of Phoenix. Then last but not least, my newly founded private practice, Wholesome Life Counseling Solutions, LLC.
How can you be reached? What is your location? What type of services do you offer?
Wholesome Life Counseling Solutions is located in Murfreesboro, TN in “The Avenue Murfreesboro” shopping complex.
I can be reached by phone: (615) 423-7468, email: DrApril@Wholesomelifes.com, or my website www.wholesomelifecs.com
I offer individual, couples, and family therapy for those struggling with depression, anxiety/stress, relationship problems, and addiction. Services are offered face to face and by telephone, live video, email, and text message.
Who do you think "needs" counseling? What type of people "qualify"?
This may come as a surprise but most individuals that seek counseling do not have a serious mental illness. They have difficulty coping and adjusting to life stressors such as financial and relationship problems, death of a loved one, work stress, cultural assimilation, career issues, and health problems to name a few. Anyone that is experiencing significant emotional, physical, and mental distress is a great candidate for counseling services.
What do you think is the number one reason that holds people back from getting counseling?
The stigma of counseling. “If you go to counseling, you must be crazy”. The negative perception of counseling is the number one reason people shy away from pursuing needed services.
Why do you think counseling is seen as negative or not talked about publicly in the minority communities?
Many minorities in particularly African Americans, do not seek counseling due to the stigmatizing beliefs regarding mental illness. They are afraid of how they will be perceived by others and how it will affect their family. Back in the day older generations firmly stood on, “What happens in my house, stays in my house”. They did not feel it was appropriate or necessary to involve outsiders in family matters. This mentality has caused many minorities go years without treatment because they are unaware that they even had a mental illness.
Socioeconomic status also plays a major role in why many minorities do not seek counseling. Majority of low-income communities consists of minorities. Counseling rates are not affordable for individuals with low-income and those without insurance coverage. For individuals that cannot afford treatment, counseling is viewed as a financial burden instead of a necessity.
Lastly, minorities are not aware of the growing numbers of psychotherapists that exist who “look like them”. Their already flawed perception of counseling contributes to their ambivalence to seek help because they believe they would have a White therapist. That alone causes minorities to be very apprehensive about their ability to relate and trust a therapist with cultural differences.
How do you make clients feel comfortable?
All clients have an initial assessment where they meet me in person and ask questions. This meeting gives clients an opportunity to see the office, surroundings, and interact with me to determine, if we are compatible.
I am supportive, encouraging, and genuine. I do not overwhelm my clients by using professional terminology. I build rapport with eye contact, smiles, and laughter.
I make sure sessions are individualized to meet the needs of that specific client. The client is always a part of their treatment. I do not tell the client what to do. I provide encouragement, guidance, and professional insight. They select what topics we focus on in therapy and a pace that is comfortable for them.
I created a cozy office space with bright colors that is safe and relaxing. My clients also have access to complimentary beverages and snacks for every session.
How can insurance work with counseling?
Health insurance assists with the cost of counseling sessions. When therapists are credentialed with insurance companies as a provider, their insurance can be billed for counseling services. The insurance provider determines how many sessions are approved and the pay rate allotted to the therapist. The client is responsible for only paying their co-payment. The insurance company pays the remaining balance after the therapist files an insurance claim.
What are the benefits /outcomes of counseling? How can someone get the most out of their counseling experience?
Counseling is an invaluable investment that encourages and supports the client on their journey to becoming a better them! They are provided with tools that will teach them how to apply and maintain healthy coping skills, effectively communicate, so they can appropriately express themselves and understand others, and learn the importance of focusing on “self” by building self-esteem and incorporating self-care.
The overall goal of counseling is for the client to be able to function independently where therapy is no longer needed. The client should leave counseling with feelings of empowerment, acceptance, self-confidence, and self-determination. They should see improvements in their relationship with themselves and others.
The best way to reap the full benefits and experience of counseling is for the client to be honest with themselves. They must be receptive to change and constructive feedback. Most importantly, they must be committed and trust the process.
What resources help people to look for a counselor in their perspective cities?
Individuals with an interest in counseling services can seek guidance from their primary care doctor, insurance provider, and Employee Assistance Program about respective therapists that specialize in their area of need. They can also conduct their own research and review therapist’s profiles by utilizing online therapist directories such as “Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Network Therapy, and Better Help”.
What is the most rewarding aspect about being a psychotherapist?
The mission of wholesome Life Counseling Solutions is to provide safe and respectable integrated therapy and counseling services that support individuals, couples, and families during their quest to restore, enhance, and maintain their overall quality of life.
What I love most about being a psychotherapist is meeting different people. I enjoy working with people from all walks of life. I genuinely care about the well-being of others. I understand and embrace the fact that everyone is unique in his or her own way. We all need someone we can trust and talk to in moments of need.
As an African American psychotherapist, it is rewarding to be in a position where I can advocate for minorities in need of mental health services. I want them to know there are many therapists that look just like them. I want them to know that they do not have to be ashamed of participating in counseling. In order to thrive as a community and world, it is vital that no one is left out. I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself and this is what God assigned me to do. And I love it!
What advice would you give mentees in that major or looking to start a counseling career?
Counseling is a profession that can quickly cause burnout. Set realistic and feasible goals. Do not pursue the profession with the mindset of saving people or telling them what to do.
Research counseling and /or social work programs that highlight your interests and aligns with your career track. Make sure the program is accredited and will be accepted for licensure.
If you have an interest in becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, you must have a Master’s degree in Social Work to pursue the LCSW licensure. Degrees in related fields are not accepted.
What advice would you give a mentee wanting to start their own practice?
Research…Research…Research! There is a lot of legwork involved with starting a private practice such as having the proper license, startup budget, securing a location, name, business entity formation, malpractice insurance, obtaining an employer identification number, creating clinical forms, billing software, and the list goes on. I located a private practice checklist online from www.realpsychpractice.com/checklist-for-starting-private-practice that was very helpful. I used it as a guide to get started.
I also recommend attending workshops on the fundamentals of starting and managing a private practice. It is very important to be cognizant of the statues and rules of your professions’ licensure board. You definitely do not want to do anything unethical or illegal that would jeopardize your licensure and ability to practice.
Lastly, do not allow anyone to discourage you! Some days there will be a flow of emails and calls from potential clients and some days you will not receive any at all. Do not let that get you down. Utilize that time by researching new marketing strategies, ways to expand your practice, and apply self-care to prevent burnout. Have fun and enjoy what you are doing. When things get rough remember the reason why you wanted to start a private practice in the first place and keep going!