When it was time to prepare for our daughter’s birth this Spring, I had a lot of anxiety around my birth experience. I wrote in my last blog how I felt that members of my birth team hadn’t listened to me in the past. I felt traumatized by the experience and it was causing undue anxiety, fear, and pain. I knew that in order to have the healthiest pregnancy and birth I could, I needed a therapist! I asked my favorite doulas (Jacquelin Knighton and Emily Smith of Doulas of Capitol Hill and Doulas of PG County) and they provided me with the names of several local and highly recommended therapists. I reached out and based on my interactions, her experience and recommendations, I selected Shivonne Odom, LCPC, LPC.
Here Maternal Mental Health Therapist and Founder of Akoma Counseling Concepts, LLC shares her story:
First, what type of therapy do you do and what does your average day look like?
A maternal mental health therapist is therapist that specializes in providing counseling for perinatal mood disorders and anxiety. Perinatal mood disorders include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, infertility, pregnancy and infant loss. Therapy sessions can happen during pregnancy and postpartum. A maternal mental health therapist has completed post graduate training in perinatal mood disorders and anxiety.
My average day ranges, my favorite kind of day is filled with nothing but client care and seeing my therapy clients. An average day can include seeing therapy clients, providing clinical supervision to my graduate student interns, participating in clinical consultation meetings with maternal mental health therapists, and speaking to insurance companies about client benefits.
How did you know becoming a Therapist was the path for you?
I knew becoming a therapist was the path for me ever since the fifth grade. I always enjoyed helping others and helping my friends. When I went to college I enjoyed learning how the human brain works and exploring different psychology theories. I’ve now been licensed for 9 years.
Can you share more about your training?
I am passionate about helping improve the mental health of women, helping promote women’s empowerment and mental health awareness. I completed my bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and graduated with my masters degree in counseling psychology from Howard University. I hold several certifications and clinical licenses. I am licensed to practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Washington DC, a National Certified Counselor, a certified school counselor in Washington, DC and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Maryland. I am also a board Approved Clinical Supervisor by the Maryland Board of professional counselors and therapists.
I am not conducting any trainings on Black maternal mental health at this time and there are no recordings available. I hope to bring a new training in the future.
What was your path to becoming the founder/ owner of your business?
My path to creating Akoma Counseling Concepts, LLC began while working at a community health care clinic where I got to see prenatal patients as part of their prenatal visits. I noticed a major emphasis on their somatic care and minimal focus on their maternal mental health care. It was at this clinic I sought out and participated in certificate training for maternal mental health counseling. Upon completion of my training I tried to locate employment as a maternal mental health therapist but was unable to locate a position so I created Akoma Counseling Concepts, LLC.
I think what makes my practice stand out is that it focuses on counseling for mothers of color, education, and social justice advocacy for Black maternal mental health. I wanted to create a safe place for Black moms and create opportunities for therapists, graduate students of color to receive training in perinatal mood disorders. I hope to produce a larger number of Perinatal therapists of color locally via training and support from Akoma Counseling Concepts, LLC.
What do you wish patients/ parents knew about your services?
I wish patients/ parents knew that going to mental health counseling does not make one weak or a bad parent. I wish parents knew that counseling can help one reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Attending counseling does not mean one has to get admission into a psychiatric unit. Mental health counseling can be a form of holistic care.
What are things you say over and over to your patients that you wish could be shared with the masses?
I tell my clients that postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are treatable and can be resolved through therapy. Fully commit to the process because your selfcare is a priority.
Self care and going to mental health counseling is not selfish to practice as a mother. Self care is a form of survival.
I don’t believe in work life balance, but what are some of the ways you find harmony in your work and life?
I find harmony in my work and life by practicing boundaries. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! I will turn off social media notifications, turn my phone on “do not disturb“ when needed and I do not commit to work-related activities after work or on certain days of the week. I set these boundaries so that I can be more present in both my personal and professional life.