I have always been fascinated by other people's stories. What drives them? What made these folks who they are today? I am especially interested in the stories of those who dedicated their lives to serving others. Hence the interview with a therapist/mental health counselor that I am bringing you today.
Over the last few years, mental health counseling has become one of the most important elements of our well-being. We reach out to therapists when we are struggling with anxiety or depression. But we may also seek their help when we feel lost and need some guidance. Many of us think that mental health counselors know all the answers. Just like any other doctor is there to give people advice on how to take care of their physical bodies, therapists are there to guide us through the wilds of our minds.
However, we often forget there is a "regular" human behind a "therapist" title, just like you and I, who is also trying to figure it all out in life. So as a special edition for Mental Health Awareness Month, I've decided to take some time and interview a person who inspires me and most definitely will inspire you after this blog post. Mental health counselor, businesswoman, founder of Married to Navy Counseling Services, navy wife, and mother, it's an honor for me to introduce you to Dr. Trenye Black.
Becoming a Therapist
What was the pivotal moment in your life when you decided to become a mental health counselor?
I don’t think I had a particularly pivotal moment. In fact, there were many moments I can pinpoint that led me down the path of wanting to help others. I think many people see me as “she has her stuff together.” But let’s be real, I have worked hard to get to this point in my life—a point of peace and purpose. As a child, I endured abuse and neglect in all forms. As a Black child, I was taught never to share what goes on in our home or neighborhood. In my mind, I was like, well, what do I do with all this luggage I carry?
When I decided to become a mental health counselor, my oldest daughter was having behavior issues. I think she was about 12 years old, and I took her to see a mental health professional. That was my first experience with a counselor. She (the mental health professional) left a lasting impression. It just felt good to have a safe place to share our struggles and receive professional guidance. At that moment, becoming a mental health professional was just a mere thought.
On Mental Health and Therapy
Do you think that more people are struggling with mental health issues these days or more people can talk about it/seek help?
I think both play a role. With the onset of the pandemic, I do think more people are struggling with mental health issues. Research has shown the social support play a major role in self-actualization. At the onset of the pandemic, we were required to stay at home; therefore, the only real connection we had with others was technology. And let’s face it, the physical connection is a natural need and plays an important role in developing our sense of love and overall happiness and well-being.
As a result of the pandemic, many people were challenged with anxiety and depression due to the unknown or loss of employment.
Even before the pandemic, many were faced with adversity, specifically systemic racism, which exacerbated mental health and wellness symptoms. Therefore, many individuals were open to learning new skills as a way to cope.
Who do you think would benefit from mental health counseling the most?
To be honest, everyone can benefit from mental health counseling. I think many believe that there needs to be a mental health disorder to seek counseling. That is not necessarily true. Of course, therapists treat individuals diagnosed with PTSD, depression, etc. But some individuals are looking to maintain their wellness. I can't stress this enough; it is important not to wait until a worst-case mental health crisis. Progress from therapy does not happen overnight. Learn to be proactive and seek counseling, even if it is a once-a-month check-in to maintain skills or learn new skills to work through current challenges. Disclaimer: Insurance does not pay for services where there is no diagnosis. (That is another story for another day).
In your opinion, can mental health disorders be "cured" without medications?
Absolutely, "some" mental health disorders can be treated without medication. As a matter of fact, when I work with individuals, we explore what has and hasn't helped in the past. We focus on holistic approaches, such a physical activity, mindful self-care, hobbies, sunlight 20 mins a day, etc. Medication is usually the last case scenario if we've exhausted all options and symptoms are not improving. Of course, this is not a one size fits all type of situation. For example, if a client presents with signs and symptoms that put them at risk or if the symptoms affect their daily functioning, a psychiatric evaluation may be the best option to examine the effectiveness of the medication.
Many people think that therapy is too expensive, or/and it takes too much time/work, so they find it easier to take medications. What would be your advice to them?
Sure, therapy can be expensive and take too much time or work... Such is life. It is a matter of perspective of what is truly important to you, and are you willing to invest in yourself? Some programs/therapists offer sliding fee scale or probono services. For example, NAMI offers free support groups.
Again, this goes back to, how much are you worth? How much are peace and purpose worth to you? How much is self-healing worth? How much are healthy relationships worth?
Work and Coping with Stress
What is the hardest part of your profession?
There are many challenges in my profession. But by far, completing administrative work and all the behind-the-scenes stuff are my least favorite.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love meeting people and learning more about them as a person. But the true love of my job comes when I connect with individuals trying to redefine their purpose and path in life but don't know where to start. I get to see them grow as an individual, spouse, parent, etc. And because of the work they have done with me, they feel empowered to take on the next chapter of their life.
How do you cope with your stress?
There are many things I do to cope with my stress. I have created a routine for myself, where I indulge in things I enjoy. Mindful self-care is the act of supporting my needs and taking time to value my worth. I focus on my physical and emotional wants and needs. During the week, I start my day with a 30-45 min workout, my Coffee & Christ time, and a mile walk with my dog, Bruiser. I have an affectionate family. They help keep me grounded. That's one of the benefits of working from home. I can spend a lot of time with my hubby and twins because they are all working and schooling from home. I also have a therapist. Yep, a therapist has a therapist!
What would be your advice to those of us who would want to pursue the career of a mental health professional?
Connect with a mentor and provide volunteer services, preferably starting in high school. If I were able to change the hands of time before entering this profession, that is the one thing I would change. As a first-generation college graduate, it was hard navigating the path through college, then starting my practice.
Mental Health Awareness Month
What is the most important message you would want people to receive during Mental Health Awareness Month?
As I mentioned before, I love to read. And one thing that sticks out in my mind when thinking about your question... "you are your own best healer." A quote by Dr. Lepera from "How To Do The Work." Healing is a daily event and commitment. Along the self-healing journey, we need to be okay asking for help and not suffering in silence. The moment you realize you can't be everything to everybody is the moment you will put yourself first. This, my dear, is self-love.
Special thanks to Dr. Trenye Black, Ph.D., for taking the time to answer our questions for this interview. You can find more information about her work or schedule your appointment at marriedtonavycounselingservices.com. You can also follow Dr. Black on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.