It took me 30 years to determine my purpose, and over a decade of difficult professional experience to acquire the skill set necessary to actively begin my journey as a mental health professional. To briefly summarize my career goals, I aim to use a humanistic and social psychology-based approach to holistically develop individuals into citizens of character, purpose, and conviction. I believe that a key issue faced in our nation’s mental health battle is an inability to communicate, and that the incorporation of literature, philosophy, music, history, and more can be an effective way to remind people how to communicate first with themselves and subsequently, with others. By also introducing practical skills and activities such as hiking, yoga, martial arts, writing, and more, we can illustrate the self-regulation process necessary to help individuals maintain homeostasis.
My initial foray into entrepreneurship has been focused on this endeavor, and has been encouraging, but each step in the process has been incredibly educational and has revealed new questions and goals to be answered and met throughout my career. Luckily, I’m on the path, so the only remaining tasks are to strategize and execute in order to come as close as I can to revolutionizing mental health for my community, and perhaps for our nation over the course of my lifetime using the framework of my business, East Tennessee Mentorship Association, LLC. It isn’t a savior complex, it’s a war strategy from someone who acknowledges the true state of our nation’s mental health systems and sees an executable path forward.
My professional timeline began in many ways with my enlistment in the United States Navy as an Intelligence Specialist in 2011. I was trained as a human intelligence collector, which involved extensive education in body language, elicitation, interrogation, cultural considerations, rapport building, and ultimately, the ability to manipulate conversation with the end goal of collecting specific information for military applications. Since my ultimate task as a professional is to relate to humans, one could argue that my earlier experiences with divorce, neglect, and abuse were also part of the training, but for the sake of remaining succinct, I used my education at Roane State Community College to study the humanities and refine my experiences into digestible lessons following my enlistment.
I graduated in the summer of 2020 with an A.S. in History, and enrolled immediately into MTSU’s B.S. of Psychology program, which I am projected to graduate from in Fall of 2022. My minors are Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Writing, and my current GPA is 3.75. Professionally, I transitioned from working in government contracting, personnel management, and security in early 2021 to managing a private therapy practice, where I learned a lot about the mental health industry and was able to begin work with clients as a mentorship program manager. In August of 2021, I established East TN Mentorship Association, and I opened my own commercial location in October of 2021.
Moving forward, my goal is to gain stability as a new business owner in 2022 by achieving profitability while completing my bachelor’s degree. I frankly agree with a recent quote by Elon Musk, who stated that “the purpose of modern education is to prove you can do your chores” and that “if the true goal is education, most information is publicly available.” Rather than continuing to read watered-down interpretations and criticisms of innovators like Freud and Jung, my aim is to focus on self-help methodologies but applied in an environment of community where I can study what is useful my clients by actually working with clients. So far, the business reviews are encouraging. I hope to acquire a passenger van for use during experiential activities, and to continue to network and build opportunities to solve practical problems for clients, such as helping them find work or resources which will enable them to focus on achieving their mental health goals.
I’m still interested in completing graduate school via the University of Tennessee’s Masters in Experimental Psychology program to enrich my professional knowledge, but I want to approach that portion of my education as an empowered professional with a proven system. I don’t want to ask if my methods will work, in other words, I’d rather prove that they do work and then study why that is the case. To an empiricist, that might sound dangerous or even offensive, but I know what worked to help me self-actualize (and it’s taken me a long time and a lot of work to be comfortable using that word), and so far it’s also applicable for clients. I don’t believe that psychology is all about being able to write a doctorate level thesis about the underlying methodologies of clinical treatment. We’re at a time in history where people need help, and sometimes action is the most reasonable path forward.
I’m approaching my calling for what it is: it’s a passion to help people grow. I know I’m not a therapist, nor do I wish to operate within that framework, and I make that extremely clear to my clients. That said, I value my education and often draw from my studies in my work, but I’m not and will never be a clinician. I’m a mentor, and I’m approaching this stage of my career as a research project on leadership and mentorship. I believe if you take a warrior and educate them as a philosopher, you end up with a leader, and I believe it’s going to take leadership as much as clinical psychology to lead our nation out of its current mental health dilemmas.
In the end, I’d like for ETMA to be a place where social problems are solved. I’d like to have a small team of 3-4 mentors working with me to network within the community, to compile resources, and to work with politicians and legislators to solve practical issues. Why are opiates prescribed to recovering addicts following painful surgeries? Why isn’t that process monitored from start to finish? Why are people unaware of neurodivergence and how it affects the social skills and interactions of community members? Why is there still a stigma around mental health issues when literally everyone deals with them? How can faith be used as a source of positivity when the underlying tones of atonement imply a dangerous self-hate and shame? How can people maintain their humanity while technology forces us forward into a metaverse? How can we teach therapists about self-regulation so they don’t try to simply contain their clients’ emotions like a new interrogator would in an interrogation room? How do we prevent societal polarization in a world driven by social media communication where people don’t actually try to understand those who disagree with them, they only try to combat them?
I believe that, in so far as a person is capable of recognizing and responding to patterns, it is their duty to do so for the sake of the collective. My life hasn’t been easy, but it has enabled me to see the world both empathetically, and as a rational problem solver. My career goal isn’t some abstract dream…it is my actual intent to change the world for the better to the best of my ability using lessons from the leaders, educators, and mentors who developed me into the person I am today.