Photo provided by Shani T

“In my spare time, I vlog on my YouTube channel ‘Simply Marvellous.’ I take you through my daily life with hopes of inspiring you. We are capable of using our inspirations to motivate ourselves to pursue our dreams,” shares Shani T, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Parkside who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.

“I received my master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in educational psychology with an emphasis on community counseling.

“I am a licensed professional counselor who has a private practice in Golden Valley, Minnesota through a company called Birch Counseling. In addition to working with individuals, I work closely with parents of at risk youth ages 12 to 17 to keep them in their homes, off the streets, off probation, and out of group homes,” she says.

Here’s our interview.

What inspired you to work in the area of mental health?
My first reaction is a personal question for me. However, I have to be honest and it’s because I struggled myself. I don’t remember much about my childhood but the stuff that I do remember put me in a dark place in college. I contemplated suicide many times. I lacked self-worth and I consistently placed my happiness in the hands of others.

I actually tried to major in theater at first. [The] theater was my outlet because it allowed me to escape my pain by portraying other characters. Unfortunately, the program I wanted to be a part of wasn’t Black people friendly; they rarely cast Black people as main characters. So, I thought to myself well there has to be a way that I can touch people and still use my voice. I went back to one of my first loves, psychology. All I knew is I never wanted anyone to feel the loneliness that I felt when I was in college. I spent many nights crying in my closet alone. Staring at pill bottles, debating how much it would take to put me to sleep peacefully. When I went to therapy, I hated the way I was looked at. I felt my therapist lacked true empathy. They lacked the ability to look at me as a human and allow me to tell my story.

I love hearing people’s stories. I love the ownership in it. The pain, the struggle, the rawness and the breakthrough of discovering it is your story. When someone tells me how they hurt and when they hurt and who hurt them, there is something about being there in the moment with someone when they are at their most vulnerable time and to sit there with them in that. It’s beautiful, refreshing and real. I wouldn’t trade listening to people’s story for anything.

How can we encourage more African Americans to seek help when it comes to mental health?
It may take more than once. I get people that see me in my private practice and tell me that they are happy to have found someone that is real. Seeing a therapist is like building a relationship. If you don’t trust the person you are going to hold back and not progress. Sometimes, you have to weed through the therapists to find your right one. Don’t be afraid to go. We, therapists, are sometimes nervous too in the first session. Lastly, therapy isn’t just for when you are going through the rough stuff, nothing wrong with seeing someone because things are going well. I look at therapy as finding someone to be in your corner. You might have to fire a few therapists to find the right one and that is okay.

What advice would you give someone striving to work in the mental health profession?
They are human. Mental health professionals can sometimes start to look at people as clients but before they are a client they are human. Be there with people. We all have “stuff.” Remember why you go into the field and let that be your constant inspiration to continue to help people in their journeys. Self-care. Too easily in this field, we become burned out. We have to love ourselves as much as we love our work. Pour a glass a wine, take a kickboxing class, travel, do whatever you need to do to live life. And lastly, don’t take it personally. When your client shows up late, don’t take it personally, When you have no-shows, don’t take it personally. When the client tells you off, don’t take it personally. That person is in therapy because they are working on something, If people were perfect, then therapists wouldn’t have a job. [I’m] just saying.

What inspired you to co-author a book with your father titled, Baby Daddy?
Me, all me. I’m a daughter of a father who wasn’t a part of my life. I know what it is like to not have a relationship with your father and that being the road map to how you view your self-worth. That being how you see love. It hurts. You try to run from it and say I don’t need to deal with it but ultimately it shows up over and over again. I wanted to be daddy’s little girl. I remember when I was in college, I pretended the credit card I had was given to me by my dad. I would treat my friends and say it’s on my dad. A verbal expression of saying, my dad loves me so much he’s willing to treat all you to late night Taco Bell. When in reality, I could barely get my dad to pay for my books.

My father and I had conversations about our relationship and it just came about. There wasn’t any aha moment. It just happened.

How has the book impacted people thus far?
People are in need of truth. My Baby Daddy book isn’t from some research study, or stories of other people. No. This is my real, raw, work with my father. If I can discover my worth, then anybody can.

What’s next for your career path?
First, I have to wrap of my second book which talks about my personal like and how broken is beautiful. Then, big stuff. I’m talking inspirational speaker. I’m about to sell out arenas. If Kevin Hart can do it, I can too. I don’t have a comedy skit, but I’m a hell of a storyteller. Seriously though, I just want to inspire people through YouTube, my books and my life. I’m just a girl who refuses to let her story go untold.

Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.