We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Coats and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
Being a therapist means that the personal is professional, and the professional is personal. Most entrepreneurs, no matter their industry, will agree that the professional is personal. We pour our time, energy, hearts, and souls into our work. It is deeply personal to a business owner that their business thrives. Owning a business often means that work hours go way beyond 9-5 and require more of us to pursue our passions and goals. In short, it’s personal. What I think is unique about a therapist’s experience is that the opposite is also true. For us, our personal is also professional. I’ll explain. Most therapists will have similar experiences in training. We are required to go to school for a certain number of years, to learn about a wide variety of clinical work, and to continue our education after school to make sure we are up to date on the most proven therapeutic interventions. Many of us learn the same things, take the same tests to get our licensure, and study the same theories. However, just because we learn much of the same material, it does not mean we deliver it in the same systematically formatted way. For example, you can visit 20 different therapists to learn about self-care, and while you will most likely get similar themes, you will get 20 different experiences and views. That is because therapists build relationships for a living. It is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. Granted, it is a very different type of relationship than a friendship or family relationship. But it is a relationship none the less. That means that when you see a therapist, you are getting not only their training, but also their personal experiences, personalities, quirks, and life lessons that will be different from therapist to therapist. Now, most therapists (hopefully!) will not be sharing all of their personal information with you. The therapeutic process should always be about the client more than it is about the therapist. I am not saying that you should look for a therapist that talks about themselves all the time. In fact, please see another therapist if you find yourself in that situation! However, my life experiences, my personality, my struggles, my triumphs, my journey through life will accompany my work in my office. Even if I do not talk about these things in sessions, they are still with me and influence my work. They help me build a relationship with my clients that will be very different than the therapist in the office next to me, even though we had similar training. I love this about my job. All of those personal aspects of my life make me relatable. Although I will never fully understand my clients’ exact feelings, I can understand pain, joy, sadness, anxiety, courage, and growth on a deeper level than what my textbooks taught me. I can empathize. I can show compassion. And so often, compassion is precisely what we need from someone else when we can’t seem to give it to ourselves. My professional life is personal to me, and my personal life reaches into my professional life in such a beautiful way.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Coats Counseling is a therapy practice with two locations in Atlanta. We focus on helping our clients reach mental and emotional wellness through individual, relationship, and group counseling. Our therapists treat a variety of issues ranging from anxiety and depression, to relationship and couples work, as well as sex therapy for sexual health concerns. When someone asks me what I do, I say that I get to build relationships for a living and I am 150% in love with my job. I am most proud of this business when I see my clients doing the challenging emotional work that leads to change and wellness. Our business provides a space for change, connection, and empathy that many people don’t experience elsewhere. Seeing our clients take the courageous steps toward growth is fulfilling and incredibly hopeful. Building this business has absolutely had its challenges. For a long time, I was Coats Counseling’s only clinical, marketing, finance, and branding departments all in one! Twice I had to restart my business after moving to different states. And there were some months I put in hours and hours of work not knowing if I would get a paycheck. But it is a labor of love and in order to overcome some of these challenges I had to learn to ask for help, rest, and practice self-care (and all of the other skills I teach my clients!). These things gave me the energy to get back up and try again…and again.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Lately, I have enjoyed being out in nature and although Atlanta is a major city, we still have much to offer as far as the outdoors are concerned. Piedmont Park is always a pleasure in summertime. With so many good restaurants around the park and so much space to stretch your legs, it is a perfect self-care spot. I also love kayaking on the Chattahoochee. There are many great kayaking and tubing places so you can take a break from city life and enjoy the quiet of the river. One of my other favorite self-care activities is enjoying the shopping and restaurants in downtown Roswell. There are so many unique gems for entertainment, home and wardrobe shopping, and delicious food that you can spend half a day at least wandering and relaxing. It’s also a great opportunity to support local businesses!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My first shout out goes to WholeHeart Psychotherapy in Atlanta, particularly Dr. Erika Pluhar who has been my guide through my training as a sex therapist and a wonderful mentor. WholeHeart has a number of wonderful counselors that help their clients develop mental and emotional wellness. They also dedicate time and energy to help therapists train and develop their practices. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Dr. Pluhar’s and WholeHeart’s support. Second, a big shoutout to Ariane Byron, APC. Ariane recently started at Coats Counseling and is accepting new clients. She is an excellent therapist who’s work on emotional intelligence is top-notch. She helps her clients navigate their emotions to find connection, wellness, clarity, and lasting change. We are fortunate to have her as a part of the team! Finally, a third shout out to two amazing professional networks I’m a member of – the American Academy of Psychotherapists and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. I have grown so much in my personal and professional development due to my amazing connections in these organizations. If you are looking for quality therapists, you will find them in these networks, so visit their websites!

Website: www.coatscounseling.com
Instagram: @coatscounseling
Facebook: Coats Counseling, LLC