| Jun 05, 2023
Emily St. Amant:
Welcome to The Voice of Counseling. I'm Emily St. Amant, and co-hosting
with me today is Christa Butler. We are going to be joined by three
counseling students. First guest is La'Porsha Timmons. She's a student
at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She's pursuing her master's in
clinical mental health counseling. She attended the Texas State
University and attained her undergraduate degree in exercise and sports
science, and she minored in psychology. She's an NBCC fellow and plans
to become an LPC and focus on the difficulties of minority women and
men, especially in relation to attending predominantly white
institutions of higher education.
Kwasi Asamoah is a graduate student in counseling at the University of
Mary Hardin-Baylor. He holds an MBA in executive leadership. He's also a
former US Naval officer. He serves as a board member of the Maternal
Rights of Ghana, a nonprofit organization operating in Ghana, West
Africa, the country of his birth. Brianna Tran is a master's degree
candidate in her last year at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She
currently serves as the president of her local chapter of Chi Sigma
Iota and student director of the Central Texas chapter of TXAPT. Thank
you all so much for joining us today. How are y'all doing?
Good. How are you doing?
Emily St. Amant:
We are doing great. We are so just excited to have you all join us
today. And to jump right into it, there are lots of different ways to
become a helper of some kind or even specifically a mental health
provider. So would y'all mind sharing what drew you to the counseling
I can share first. So I actually did my undergrad to do physical
therapy. I wanted to help. I thought the sports and body was
interesting, but I also thought it was really amazing how much your mind
can help you heal when you've had a serious injury. And so, that's how
I first got attracted. I took a sports psychology class while I was in my undergrad, and it blew my mind. And
I was like, "oh my gosh, I want to do this." So then, I went on the
track of trying to become a sports psychologist. I dived deep into it,
and then, I found out you can't call yourself that until you get your
doctorate. And I was like, "whoa, that is a long time." And so, I kind
of backpedaled, and I was like, "well, let me rethink this." And
counseling was something that I had thought of before PT, but I was
like, "no, I don't know if that'll support the kind of lifestyle that
I want to live."
And long story short, I couldn't run away from it. That was part of my
calling. And so, I kind of went back to it and went back to the
drawing board, and then, I found counseling. And I was like, "oh,
well, I love talking to people. I meet people all the time that I don't
know and have deep conversations about their life and they spill their
guts to me." And so, I was like, "well, maybe this is kind of part of my
calling, if I'm so good at this and it becomes so natural." And so far,
I am not as close to graduation, I still have a year and a half, so a
lot of work to do, but I am finding, so far, that, although it is hard
work, I think it will pay off. So that's part of how I grew close to
becoming a counselor.
Emily St. Amant:
Awesome. Thank you, La'Porsha.
I started an undergrad as a marketing major actually, and I just didn't
feel 100% about that path for myself. I felt, as La'Porsha had kind of said, a calling to do
something more on the helping side of the professions, and I just
couldn't figure out a way to make that work with marketing. My
passions did not lie in that. And so, I changed my major to sociology. I
thought it was interesting. I learned a lot about mental health and
society in that way, and it just so happens that, at the same time, I
had the best counselor ever, in my own personal healing and growth
journey. And so, she really inspired me and modeled for me kind of what
it's like to sit down with somebody, have a genuine conversation, and
really see them through these healing journeys. And that was that for
me. And I applied for grad school, and I was like, "this is what I want
to do forever."
Emily St. Amant:
Awesome. Thank you, Brianna. What about you, Kwasi?
Yeah, with me, so I'm a veteran first. And after, when I was
transitioning out into civilian life, just went through some tough times, which then, I didn't know anything about
counseling, mental health, because of my background, where I'm coming
from. But when I got out, I went into software consulting. But when I
got in there, I felt like, "nah, this is not what I want to do. I just
want to help people. I want to help other veterans who have been going
through the same thing that I went through." So I just asked around,
and I happened to live around where my school is. So I asked a friend
about how the school and the professors and everything, and so, they
happened to have this counseling program. And I was like, "you know
what? I already have a background in psychology, some decades ago. So
you know what? It's something that interests me, and I just want to do
that, help people through that." So that is how I got myself into the
counseling program, and I'm here and almost done with the program and
moving on to...
Emily St. Amant:
Yeah, wonderful. Thank you all for sharing, and thank you for your
service as well.
It's my pleasure.
It's really interesting how our different pathways and experiences may
lead us to the profession and how we may have other experiences in other
fields. You all mentioned marketing and being a veteran and sales and
how I heard, La'Porsha and Brianna, I heard the two of you specifically
say that you felt like it was a calling. And so, maybe there was other
higher powers involved in what you felt may have led you to be a
counselor. And I just want to say that it's so important that we have
folks from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and each of you bring
something unique that the counseling field certainly needs. And we
thank you all for sharing your experience and also being open to
helping others and to allowing your natural and your professional skills
to lead you into the path of becoming a counselor. And so, I'm really
curious, what other salient cultural identities that you hold membership
in, that may have shaped your experience in deciding and then, starting
that process to become a counselor?
So for me, first of all, I tell people, anytime people ask me who you
are, I just go, "my first identity is being a Christian." So that
influences whatever I do. As a Christian, a child of God, I have to
help other people. I have to be there for people. And that is one
aspect of it. And I know that, with mental health and Christianity, is
not that totally in sync. At this point, not everybody believes in that.
And I come from a culture that did not believe in that mental health
part of it. Being an African to an immigrant is one aspect, being a
veteran and a male. So all the things that I identify with kind of
like is we are now getting on board with mental health. So I felt like,
being there and going through this program, I didn't know before I got
But when I got into it, I was like, "wow, I can be there to help other
people who identify with me and who are so not on board with mental
health." So I can talk to other people, Christians, who believe that
may be mental health is only spiritual, from that point, that, "hey,
just like I go to the doctor for my headache or whatever it is, go to
the dentist for my toothache, I can also talk to a professional, that
God has placed on this earth, about things that are happening in my
life, my mental health." Even making decisions, just being able to
preach that part of mental health to them and also to other Africans,
that it's not always a witch or wizard, that is somebody bewitching you.
So, I think that, I'm happy with that, just coming from that aspect or
that part of culture, that is not so much into mental health and
telling them, "Hey, I identify with you to a certain degree. And I also
had the same thoughts coming into the program, but it is totally
different from how we see it out there."
I'd say one of my biggest ones is being a minority. Kind of like what
Kwasi said, going into this, I found that being a Black woman, how
important that was. One, because there's not very many of us, Black men
either, on the working side or as a client. And so, for me, that was
really important, just to showcase and embrace that and be an example, because that's very much
the type of leader that I am. I try to lead by example. So going to a
counselor for myself and sharing my experiences and then, going to
class and sharing what I've learned in class and just trying to help my
community in that way. I think there's still very much... I'm so happy
that there's so many people that go out now and are seeking help. And
I'm seeing that, as I work at a clinic myself, and there's, oh my gosh,
there's tons of people that are just needing help right now. And we just
don't have it.
But I think there's still a big stigma in my community about reaching
out for help. And I think it's more so on the side that we've just
been taught for so long that this is just the norm. You have to struggle
to make it through life, and that shouldn't be the norm. I want to help
change that idea that we have, that mindset that we have, in our
culture. So my biggest thing has been helping young minorities, whether
they look my skin tone or not, but helping minorities get the help that
they need and get the resources, whether that's mental healthcare or
just healthcare in general, because it's important. And we kind of need
to level the playing field, so that everybody can have the life that
they truly want and have the resources that they need.
I love what La'Porsha said about helping young minorities specifically
getting the resources of mental health help that they need. I think I
can kind of speak from that experience as well, coming from a similar
culture of there's a stigma about mental health. My parents are
Vietnamese immigrants, so they were refugees of the Vietnam War. And
there's a lot of trauma involved in that experience. And I think,
especially for Vietnamese women as well, I grew up hearing a lot about
my ancestors and the violence and the difficult experiences that they
went through. And so, we talk about a lot about generational trauma and
stuff. And that's something that made it very interesting for me to,
not only look in within myself as I'm going through the counseling
program, but also seeing things in my clients as well, as I transition
from just being a student to a counselor, how generational trauma,
racism, just the things that are very specific to culture, can play out
in your counseling experience.
Emily St. Amant:
So I think you all spoke to your background, who you are, the
experiences you have, experiences your families have gone through as
well, that really gives you a perspective that a lot of people just
don't have. So for the clients that you're going to serve, they can walk
in the door and probably instantly feel seen, instantly feel
comfortable, and like, "okay, someone actually gets me, someone actually
understands where I'm coming from and what I'm going through." And I
think just that, in of itself, is just so incredibly powerful. And I
think you all shared about how your focus has been so much on other
people, but I would love to hear about how maybe going through your
program, having that support from maybe a counselor, maybe a professor,
maybe a peer, having an environment that was actually really supportive
and really affirming of who you are, all the various aspects of who
you are, how has that impacted you and then, consequently, the work
that you do with your clients.
The first thing that comes to mind for me, one, I'll say, I think
sometimes, it just really aligns for you, the right people, the right
time, the right place. And I think, for me, I am a spiritual person, so
I do believe that God has just aligned everything for me, up until
getting into this school. Because this was not a part of the game plan.
So I would definitely say the professors that we have at UMHB, right
now, I just feel so supported. And then, with my cohort, I feel so
supported. It's just a special bond that we have. It just feels like a family all the way around, from the people
that I sit in class with to I've made friends with people that are about
to graduate to talking to the professors and going through really hard
times, even within this first year and a half, and them being like,
"it's okay, we're going to figure it out."
We have just had so many people go through some really traumatic
experiences going through this program, and the amount of support and
help that we've gotten from the professors and understanding and the
times that you can just bust into their office and just burst into tears
and they're right there, like "It's okay, you're going to get through
this," it's been extremely helpful. And then, opportunities like this,
things that I never thought I would be doing, and expressing that to
my professors and saying, "Hey, I want to be able to do public
speaking, and I want to be able to do all these other things that I
have." And for them to support those dreams and to help me start off
at such a young point in my career has been mind blowing.
I am also a fellow with NBCC right now, and that was also with help
from professors and writing letters for me. So just the amount of
support has been amazing, because it's opened up so many doors that I
think, for me personally, as a minority woman, would not have been
opened up before, had I not had the support, had I not had the people
in my life that have connections and that can help me. So that has been
really important in my journey so far, so I've been extremely grateful
for all the people that have touched my life in some way.
So I kept on smiling when La'Porsha kept mentioned professors. They've
played a huge role in our lives as student counselors. And I say this
not to say, but I mean it from my heart. And I always tell them, when
you go to our professors, you can just go to them anytime, opening
door. I have gone to every professor, and I can walk to the office
anytime that I want. And I've had lunch with few of them, just to check
in on me, like "Hey, I want to check in on you, see how you're doing."
And I feel like they accept you for who you are. And we have that
diverse culture in our faculty, so you go in there and you can relate
to either of them anywhere. Regardless of where their background is,
they accept you. And I think that is a huge thing that, sometime, that
professor student relationship plays a huge part.
And that has, for me, been a huge influence too in my life and they
accepting me. And another thing that I cannot just go without
mentioning is my cohort. We started not knowing each other, but it got
to a point, we know each other. You can just talk to anybody,
especially after we did our group, when we went into a group course.
That is the best time that we all got to know each other, we all became
vulnerable to each other, started supporting each other, coming
together, go to people's houses, and just have time together, not
knowing anybody from anywhere. And we became so close that people
share what they're going through their personal life, and you are able
to ask them, "Hey, how are you doing? How's your family doing?" and
that. So being there and knowing what people think about you, the
feedback that they give to you. I know we did one assignment, one of our
classmates, she led a group, and what we did was just write something
about each and everyone in the group.
And it was amazing to see the things that people are writing about you.
And when you read that, you are like, "oh wow, I never thought of this
about me." So knowing that and seeing that feedback that your colleagues
are giving to you, being interested in what you're doing, "Hey, where
are you going to have your internship? How is it going?" and that, in
itself, has played a huge part and has, for me personally, helped me
feel welcome in the program. And I just want to also be able to do
the same thing for other students, maybe those cohorts afterwards. And
ultimately, for my clients, just support them. Just that support that
sometimes we all need. Yeah.
Emily St. Amant:
Yeah, absolutely. And what I heard you all say was that you all had the
environment that you saw, you had role models, you got to experience
the impact of someone being empathetic or someone being supportive when
you're going through a hard time, traumatic time even, what it was like
to have that nurturing, caring, support, and how that helped you
succeed. And therefore, we're not meant to just survive. We're meant to
thrive. Even us counselors, our wellbeing and success matters. And then,
I think that that has a ripple effect in the work that you are all are
going to do with your clients, with your community, is with
potentially students, if you become an educator yourself.
I just want to say that I think the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is
doing an amazing job. Hearing each of you, I just have to say that
just hearing each of you share your experience, I am so happy that
y'all have that. And I think that they are setting the example by not
just telling you "these are those things that help you as a professional
once you go from being the student to a professional," but they're
also, they're doing it. They're setting the path for you by providing
the experience of having a community of support, by having role models,
by having a support system, and by being a very strong support system
for each of you throughout your experience.
And each of those things, in terms of having a support system, is so
important as professionals, and it makes a big difference in your
transition from students to first time, your first year of working as a
counselor. And I think it's amazing that University of Mary
Hardin-Baylor, it's a mouthful, is doing all of the hard work to create
an experience that you all will be able to take from and co-create once
you are in the field. So I just want to shout them out. They're doing
amazing. They're doing amazing.
I believe the best counseling program. I've not been to any
counseling program, but I think to me, I'll just leave it like that.
Even when you look at the alumni though, now I work where an alumni went
to UMHB and she co- owns her facility. And then, she has another alumni
that works as an associate and has more coming on. So even when you look
at it on that scale, it's just amazing to see, "these people came from
where I came from, and they are doing the dang thing. They are writing
books, they are getting PhDs, and it's just really nice to see." It
warms my heart really.
Yes, it's amazing. It's warming my heart just hearing about it. So
we're currently experiencing a national mental health provider
shortage. And when it comes to having enough providers from diverse
backgrounds, which each of you represent, which is, again, amazing as
well, the situation is even worse. And so, I'm curious, what are some of
your ideas and thoughts that you have on how we can encourage more people of color, more people from diverse backgrounds,
to become counselors and to ensure that they have equitable access to
careers in mental health?
I think I'd like to see more counseling educators, that come from
diverse backgrounds. I think, partially, what drew me to UMHB was, when
I hopped on the interview, I saw a professor, a faculty, that looked
like me and had similar experiences of being... I was not an
immigrant, but my parents were. And so, being able to relate to her in
that way and then, just hearing how that plays out in her being a
counselor and her journey upwards, I think it's great to have role
models in the counselors that exist in this field already to kind of
draw that in from other people, just seeing more of our faces out
there, especially in our educators.
I definitely agree. Representation is a huge aspect, even when it comes
to getting clients to come to you. We're human, so we're going to do
it. You see somebody that looks like you, and you're going to feel
like, "oh, I can communicate with this person. They're kind of going to
understand where I'm coming from." So for me, that is a huge thing.
Having people that look similar to me or hearing experiences that are
similar to mine, that representation is entirely huge for me.
Yeah, I couldn't have said it any better. Yeah.
No, I think you all are... I agree. I think it's so important for us to
have representation in the field on all aspects of what it is to be a counselor, from counselor educators to
professionals to also within different areas of specialty. And
highlighting folks from diverse backgrounds and it not being the same
people, I think it really does help to showcase the diversity, that we
have in the field, and like you said, to attract you all. It's part of
what helped you to want to become a counselor is seeing folks that
you felt you had commonality with, folks that you felt that there was
some similarities with, and that being an inspiration to you. And you
all are inspiration to others, first of all. Just being here and
sharing and talking about your background, I think other students and
other folks that are interested in pursuing a degree in mental health
may hear this and hear that, "Okay, there's opportunities for all of
us." And I think it's wonderful that you all are having this
experience, but you're also providing the experience for others as
Emily St. Amant:
And I think that, while we have you all here, I'm curious if you have
any constructive feedback for the field, for even us here at the ACA,
but what are some things that we can do maybe a better job of,
supporting the future of our profession?
You know the first thing that comes to mind for me, I like to joke, I
like to laugh. I like to have fun. I feel like if you can't do those
things in life, you're going to have a really tough time because times
get very hard. And if you can't laugh, oooo baby. So to me it's important to keep
that that livelihood and a little bit of your youth.
I think some people get kind of stale to those raw emotions that they
had when they first started out. And I think it's important to tap back
into that. And how excited you were when you first started, when you, when you were nervous still to meet people. I think after you do it for
so long, some of that kind of goes away.
And then your interactions with people, you know, it kind of dwindles
down and that spark kind of goes away. But I think it's important to
give yourself rest and to make sure you're, you're utilizing self-care
tools to make sure that you're still, you know, youthful and lively in
the career that you're in, because we people need that.
For me, think there's this movement that is going on to that is very
important. So when it comes to, like I said, I identify as a Christian,
and we have so many others who have that pushback when it comes to
mental health. So being able to reach out to those people, let them
know that... Especially incorporating spirituality into counseling, it's
a huge thing. Knowing that these are not parts, they are things that can
coexist together. Our mental health involves our spirituality as part
of it. And knowing that and being able to, me personally, as personal
faith, being able to reach out to people like that, and ACA also
supporting people who identify with that culture, to be able to pull
these people in, I think is a huge thing that can help get other people
into the field. And I know that we talked about, how can we get other
people in a minority into this field?
And one thing that comes into mind also is what we do in the counseling
room is a huge thing, because there's research that says that, I
think, about 50% of African Americans that comes in for the first
session might not come back. So what happens in the first session is
very important, that we, as a minority, what do we do when these people
come in? How are we presenting counseling to them? It plays a huge
part. So if we are able to also do that, we can recruit people. I know
Brianna talk about her counselor played a huge impact in her decision
to be in the field. So what are we doing out there, not just people in
the minority? I know that there are other people in the majority who
are also rooting for the minority to have more of us in there, in the
So when we go into sessions with other minorities, how we presenting
the profession to them, and that can be a huge recruiting tool for
them. So if ACA can also look at that, how can we get more people just
through...? Because many of us counselors, those who are already in the
field, and students have experienced counseling on their own. And it's
amazing how, in the first session, you can just talk to the student and
be like, "Hey, how was your experience with your counselor?" And be
like, "I didn't like this counselor. I liked that counselor." And it
happens, and it is a way to market the profession, to let them know.
So ACA can do a good work on that, regarding we all as counselors can
market it when we are in the therapy room.
And I guess one last thing to add to that is that more things like this
would be great. Just being able to put out not just younger voices, but
diverse voices has, I think, has a really good impact on not just us students that are going through this process, but new professionals and
old professionals alike, old professionals looking like, really
seasoned, seasoned professionals that, you know.
Being able to just hear fresher perspectives can really open us up to a
lot of cool things that can happen in this field. And I'm already seeing
a little bit of it now. And again, I'm just so thankful to be able to be
a part of that newer voice.
Emily St. Amant:
If you want to quickly share if people are interested in getting in
touch with you or learning more about you, if y'all would like to share
that, we'll wrap up with that.
I don't have my platform, that'll be coming, but I'll put my email.
Emily St. Amant:
It's laporsha.timmons. So L-A-P-O-R-S-H-A dot T-I-M-M-O-N-S @gmail.com.
And the rest is, it'll come. It'll come.
I'm also reachable by email. It's my name, Brianna,
So mine will be K-B and my last name Asamoah, A-S-A-M-O-A-H @ymail.com.
Emily St. Amant:
Yeah. We are so thankful for all of you for sharing with us, for
joining us today, and for challenging us too, because I think that, no
matter how long we've been in this field, Christa and I can speak from
experience, the work doesn't stop. And we have to... What, La'Porsha,
you said, really spoke to me was, you have to keep your spark. So what
do you need to do to keep your spark?
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