We had the good fortune of connecting with Bertrina Olivia West Al-Mahdi, PhD, LPC and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Bertrina Olivia, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
As a woman of color, I grew up with negative stigmatization against seeking mental health therapy. I recall my mother saying, “Give it to God,” “Pray about it,” “Take it to the altar and leave it there,” or “What goes on in this house, stays in this house! You better NOT repeat anything that goes on in this house.” It was instilled in me at a young age, that I (we) weren’t supposed to talk about mental health issues. Rather, we were to be solely dependent on spiritual beliefs, as that outside of the home “the White man” did not have good intentions and only wanted to medicate us, call us crazy, and destroy the Black home.

This was solidified in me as an adult, where after experiencing a traumatic event in the military, I was ordered to see a psychologist (White female), who incorrectly diagnosed me with a personality disorder, rather than the accurate diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Thereafter, I recalled thinking, “See, this is why we don’t see psychologists. This happened to me, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know I’M NOT crazy!” Over the years, the dynamic of mental health therapy slowly began to shift. More and more People of Color were being therapists, and more and more people of color were seeking therapy. Barriers and stigmatizations surrounding seeking mental health treatment began to decrease. Eighteen years since my first therapeutic encounter, 10+ years of college and graduate school, friends, colleagues, and networking with 100‘s clinicians of color, serving 100’s clients of color, and through my own personal therapy journey; I began to believe that the stigmatization against mental health in communities of color was finally beginning to dissolve. However, while working in a South Atlanta community, through my nonprofit organization, ToGetHer Empowered, Inc., I met a lot of people of color, predominantly of the lower socio-economic class. Through my work and service to the community, I learned that the stigmatization against mental health therapy hasn’t changed; it has just been a shift. Stigmatization surrounding mental health shifted from race-based (people of color vs non) to economic. The saying “That’s not for us, that’s for them,” still existed. However, where the “Us” once meant “People of Color” and the “Them” meant “White People,” The “Them” is now “The Haves” and the “Us” are the “Have Nots.” “It’s not for us, it’s for them….folks who can afford it.” It is no longer based on race, but as the education and economic shift of many households of color shift, the influx of seeking mental healthcare is due to three factors: access, affordability, and education.

Thus OOTB was birthed. Our Mission is to provide Quality and Affordable Private Practice mental healthcare to all despite socio-economic status, race, creed, color, identity, orientation, language, ability, disability, age, sex, or origin; while also maintaining a sublime Quality of Life for our clinicians. There is a HUGE difference between the quality of mental healthcare services one can receive at a Private Practice mental healthcare facility and Community or Government-Sanctioned mental healthcare facility. We want to provide the same care and quality that a person would get paying $200 per 50 min. session, to a person paying $20 per 50 min. session; and not at the expense of our clinicians. The clients deserve quality care, and our clinicians deserve quality pay. One can’t happen without the other. We all know those who are overworked and underpaid are stressed and burnt out. How can you provide quality care if you’re worried about your own life stressor? It is also our mission to break barriers surrounding access to quality healthcare, thus (Pre-Pandemic) we offer in-office, telehealth, and community-based (we come to you) appointments (post-pandemic we only offer telehealth options with the hopes of offering office and community-based options in the future).

What should our readers know about your business?
I am the Founder and Clinical Director of Out of the Box, Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting. We are a not-for-profit private group practice with a mission to provide quality and affordable mental healthcare to all despite socio-economic status, race, creed, color, identity, orientation, language, ability, disability, age, sex, or origin; while also maintaining a sublime Quality of Life for our clinicians. What sets Out of the Box, CCC (OOTB) apart from other practices is our unorthodox out-of-the-box approach to therapy where we step away from traditional Westernized methodologies to therapy, taking a global worldview approach founded in my studies as an International Psychologist. We make every effort to be a fully inclusive group practice and represent that in our culturally diverse staff. We do not live in a homogeneous society, therefore our clinicians should not be homogeneous. We want our clinicians to represent the people within the communities in which we serve. Diversity is immensely important to us. We want all who visit OOTB to feel seen, heard, and respected.

Building the group practice, any business for that matter, is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, patience, and discipline. At OOTB, we face challenges every day. However, we continue to work hard, learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, collaborate and seek support from our community and continue to be committed to showing up every day. The journey is never easy, but there is Power in the Process.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There is so much to do in Atlanta! I am a foodie and I LOVE to eat. I also LOVE to dance. I would definitely take them to Auburn Ave. So much history there, and some great food! The Peachroll brunch would be great in the spring-fall. Of course, we would hit up all the sights of MLK and the civil rights movement in Atlanta. We would go to the Zoo, Aquarium, and of course the Coca-Cola museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Then we would walk across Cenntenioal Olympic Park to the SkyView. We would attend First Friday’s at the High Museum and visit Piedmont Park for an emphasis summer festival or concert. We would get a bucket of Mrs. Winner’s chicken and iced tea and head to Stone Mountain to climb to the top and enjoy a picnic while watching the fireworks show. We would ride around Buckhead and Bankhead. Hit up a few thrift shops in Little Five Points. Grab a nice glass of South African wine at Biltong Bar and enjoy the top of Ponce City Market. Of course hit up Slutty vegan (if we get there early), the Trap House Museum, and grab some Crack wings from The Bando. Roll past Tyler Perry Studio’s and of course stop by my boy’s Miya Bailey’s art studio and tattoo shop on Peters Street to check out a great art showing, get a wild tat, or enjoy one of their many weeknight shows at their coffee shop. We would definitely hit up a few of my favorite day parties and my favorite Thursday night spot Whiskey Mistress.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow, there are so many people who deserve recognition. First, of course, the Creator, God. Next my husband and children. They have supported me 100% all the way. They are the only ones who truly know the amount of blood, sweat, and tears it’s taken to build my organization. They have made many sacrifices and encouraged and supported me all the way. I would also like to shout out Commander, Jorge Jimenez-Rojo U.S, Navy, retired. While serving in the military he was the only person who believed in me. I thank him because, without his support, I would not be here today. I also want to thank Dr. Michael Hester, Sheryl (Powell) McCollum, and Dr. Robert Johnson. I met all of these esteemed professors while attending Bauder College for my Associates’s Degree in Criminal Justice. These 3 professors changed my life forever. They are the reason I pursued psychology and have guided and supported me throughout my journey. I want to thank my Mom and Dad for raising such an AMAZING, Intelligent, Beautiful daughter (RIP), my Godmom and Big Cuz Vicki for texting me every morning and genuinely meaning, “Good morning. Happy *Day of the Week* I Love You.” Of course, I  have to thank all of my past and present clients and staff at Out of the Box Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting. Without all of you, none of this will be possible. You have made me a better person, a better supervisor, and a better clinician. Thank you

Website: www.outoftheboxccc.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr_o_after_dark/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-bertrina-olivia-west-al-mahdi-652b636/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/therealDrOlivia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BertrinaO.West

Other: Watch Dr. O After Dark Thursdays at 9pm est on FB, YT, & IG live, where Dr. O host weekly candid conversations about Real life, Raw content, and Relevant topics that impact our everyday mental health

Image Credits
MrsM Williams

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