My name is Reese Jefferson. I am a native of Huntsville, Alabama. I enjoy reading, exercising, and riding my motorcycle. My parents instilled in me at an early age to work hard and to persevere. I was able to work a full-time job while going through college. I graduated with my undergraduate and graduate degree Magna Cum Laude. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. I furthered my academic career by pursuing a graduate degree. While also working a full-time job, I was able to obtain my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Alabama A & M University. I am currently working on my Doctorate degree in Higher Education Leadership.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor. I have worked in the mental health field for over 15 years now. This field, I think, choose me. Early on, I was the friend that everyone came to for advice, help, and encouragement. It was at this point that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: help people! This summary seems like it is straight forward; however, it is important to mention the struggle along with way.
I am a Black woman. I say that proudly now, but that was not the case some years ago. I am not sure how I knew, but I knew at an early age that being Black meant that I would go through rough times as it pertained to opportunities in life. My parents never really talked about the experience of being Black, so I am not sure how at a young age I was able to conclude that. I would find myself sometimes hating myself because of the color of my skin. I would often think of the times when I prayed to be any other color than Black. I can remember struggling with my identity early in life all the way up until college.
When I started college, I was fortunate to meet someone who became very special to me. I was not fond of him initially, but the more time we spent together it became apparent that we had more in common than I thought. We spent a lot of time together. During these times, I came to notice that he would find appreciation in the little things. He would often get up in the morning and go sit outside, rain or shine, while drinking a cup of coffee. Me being curious, one day I asked him why he would often sit outside first thing in the morning and drink his coffee. He explained to me that it was important to begin the day with thanks—thanks to God. He would say “you thank him for the little things even just being who you are …you learn a sense of gratitude and appreciation…. there were so many who did not wake up today to do this…but I did so I want to give thanks.” Time went on and he continued to do his morning ritual……. until one day. He battled a genetic disease that unfortunately took his life in June of 2010. It’s been years now since his passing, but I still remember his words. “you thank him for the little things even just being who you are …you learn a sense of gratitude and appreciation….” Losing someone you really love is very difficult. It was extremely difficult given the timing. I mean, no time is ever a good time. However, it was an extremely difficult time because I was still in school and he was my biggest supporter, besides my parents. So, this made it very difficult. I felt like giving up. There was a point, where I began to isolate myself because the pain of not having him physically here on Earth was too much. At that point, even though I felt like quitting would be easier, I began to put things into perspective. I dug deep and did some soul searching. I began to ask myself questions like-Do I continue to fight against this or do I go with it? That is, do I began to accept, not agree with but accept, and live a better life or do I continue to feel this pain and self-defeat.
Despite losing my best friend, I persevered and was able to pull through. I was able to graduate and I started working for a local mental health center, where I provided mental health services to adolescents and adults who were experienced a diagnosis of a serious mental illness. There I learned the importance of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I worked very hard and was very passionate about my clients as well as the whole mental health field. I was very humbled at the fact that there was nothing that really separated or made any difference between me and my clients. That is, mental health does not discriminate against gender, race, economic status, or sexual orientation. I realized that I could have very well been in their position in dealing with mental illness personally. Within a few years, I climbed up in rank and position within that local mental health center. I realized that the more you move up in rank the more pulled away you are from directly dealing with clients. I became unhappy as I loved the interaction between my clients and I. Because my parents instilled in me hard work and perseverance, I found it hard to just quit my current position. So, I made the best of it and served as an advocate for my clients via policies and procedures within the company as well as in the community. The stigma of mental health is so strong; I felt, and still feel, the need to for a lack of a better term fight the good fight.
I decided that I can have the best of both worlds: working with clients directly and also advocating for them. So, I recently opened up my own private practice. I work with adolescents and adults who experience anxiety, depression, addiction, psychosis, trauma, grief and loss, relationship skill difficulties, communication style issues, adjustment issues, and other mental health needs. I provide consultations, life coaching, and individual and group therapy. I also present lectures, workshops, and discussions on a variety of mental health and psychoeducation topics. I have been trained in different evidence-based counseling therapies. I have been trained in cognitive-behavioral therapies, which have been useful in treating depression and anxiety. I have been trained in dialectical behavioral therapy, which has been researched to be useful with individuals who have difficulty handling their emotions and interpersonal relationships. I have also been trained in eye movement desensitization reprocessing, which is useful in working with individuals who have experienced trauma. Lastly, I have been trained in motivational interviewing, which is useful for individuals who have ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation to change behavior. I am Board Certified through the Center for Credentialing and Education to provide Telemental Health Services as well. Because I dealt with my own sense of identity, I specialize in working with clients who have lost a sense of who they are and are holding on to resentful feelings.
Some time has passed now. It is funny how things come full circle sometimes. My friend’s words resonate with me more and more each day. “thank him for the little things even just being who you are…. learn a sense of gratitude and appreciation…”. I have done just that. With my identity, I am thankful for who I am. I appreciate who I am—ethnicity, race, and all. With the loss of my good friend, I say to myself instead of why did this happen to me and to my dear friend, I say instead I appreciate and am grateful for the time I did get to spend with my good friend.
I see myself in my clients at times—that self that was insecure, lost, resentful, and anxious. At times my clients do feel a sense of identity loss or may be dealing with symptoms of mental illness. We laugh, cry, and at times celebrate. Overall, we persevere. I celebrate them and their character, not by their mental illness or any other obstacles they may have faced. They matter! I matter! We all matter! I am humbled, grateful, and appreciative of the opportunity to work with them each and every day!
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