Student Story

Kimberly Mayes, LCSW '23DSW Combines Social Work and Psychotherapy to Support BIPOC Community

As a psychotherapist, social worker, and business owner, Kimberly Mayes, LCSW '23DSW holistically supports her clients in all aspects of her career. "Because I have first-hand knowledge of the impacts of social injustices within the [BIPOC] community," says Mayes, "I'm able to advocate and pivot in areas that are most impactful, specifically in relation to mental health."

Before becoming a social worker, Mayes worked in secondary education, managing 11 high schools and a juvenile detention center. Her focus was on ensuring students were attending school, safely and on time, and those who were truant, ensuring their safety by re-engaging them back in the learning process. Mayes always wanted a Doctorate degree; she just wasn't sure in what discipline. She worked in education for some time and began a Doctorate in Education, but soon realized that it wasn't the right fit for her.

"As I worked with clients experiencing family trauma, anxiety, depression, and life transitions, I wanted to research some of the practices that would help those individuals cope, specifically amongst BIPOC women." She decided to pursue a Doctorate in Social Work.

When Mayes began searching for a Doctor in Social Work program, most programs were clinical or research based. She wanted a program that would include elements she could implement in her practice as a social worker, as a clinical practitioner, and as an educator in higher education. "The Simmons DSW Program is definitely unique in the sense that it allows us as social workers to be able to dive into all of the areas of practice we value, advocacy, direct client practice, and education," says Mayes.

Mayes is halfway through the DSW program at Simmons. She greatly appreciates how the program has three areas of focus: leadership, clinical practice, and teaching in higher education. "I can absolutely say Simmons has given me an abundance of confidence and practical knowledge in the field of social work. Because the program has three tenets of practice, I am being equipped in all areas I desire to excel in beyond graduation," says Mayes.

As a psychotherapist, Mayes has the autonomy to support clients holistically, treating the whole person rather than just a part of them. "When you are in an organization, you're relegated to the program goals and the allocated budget," says Mayes, "That can place constraints on how you meet the needs of the clients you're serving. I love the fact that I have the autonomy to support my client not just mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, but also with resources beyond the therapy session."

Her research focuses on how a structured mind, body, and spirit self-care routine, including affirmations, yoga, and meditation can affect the anxiety and depression levels in women who identify as Black. "My hope is that my research will bring about an effective intervention to support the healing journey and identity of BIPOC women," says Mayes.

In December 2021, Mayes founded Essence Therapy and Wellness Center, a telehealth private practice that offers therapy, coaching, consulting, corporate training, crisis interventions, and immigration evaluations. Mayes states that "our mission is to recreate the definition of therapy and self-care for the BIPOC community through effective, relatable, and holistic therapeutic services."

Mayes' inspiration to develop her business was her upbringing. "I never felt there were inclusive spaces for someone who identifies as a Caribbean woman living in the U.S. I wanted to utilize holistic therapeutic practices, just like my family did when I was growing up. Meditation and holistic living have value, especially in conjunction with psychotherapy."

After learning many other women had these same desires, she developed the Essence Therapy and Wellness Center to support women on their healing journey. "Because my knack as a social worker is to identify gaps in services and support, adding a holistic component to the psychotherapy services we offer, supports treating the whole person, mind, body & spirit."

Right now, Essence Therapy and Wellness Center is a telehealth private practice but will have a physical location coming soon in Houston, Texas. In addition to psychotherapy services, the center will offer yoga, sound therapy, Reiki, and other holistic practices to support clients and their healing journey.

Her advice to BIPOC women who want to prioritize their own wellness is "to seek support in a therapeutic setting from a licensed clinician to discuss feelings and emotions, and process unaddressed traumas. Implementing a guilt-free mind, body, and spirit self-care routine also supports healthy coping skills outside of the therapeutic setting. You deserve the best, start with investing in yourself!"

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