We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandtrice D. Russell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sandtrice D., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started Unique Destiny Counseling and the Self Aware & F**ked Up Podcast because I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. We are all born with unique traits, gifts, and talents that make us who we are. My role as a counselor and coach is to help them tap into their true potential in order to live their happiest, healthiest lives. I wanted to inspire people who look like me or have similar life experiences as mine to step outside of their comfort zone and not be limited by their lack of privilege, finances, or upbringing.

In the African-American community, mental health has always been a bit of a taboo topic. One of the key goals of my organization is to normalize seeking mental health services within the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community. I created the Self Aware & F**ked Up Podcast in order to fill that gap and create a larger platform for advocacy and education in mental health and to help remove the stigma of mental health within BIPOC communities.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a licensed professional counselor in the state of Georgia with over 17 years of experience in the mental health field. I fell in love with the idea of being a counselor when I was in the 6th grade because I wanted to be able to help other kids who experienced different traumas similar to the ones that I faced growing up. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate with a bachelors and master’s degree and immediately after undergrad in 2004, I began working with adolescents who were in an inpatient treatment program. As I grew older, my focus shifted and I found my niche working in suicide prevention and crisis intervention.

What sets me apart from others is the fact that I bring humanity to the counseling experience, and I have a deep love and passion for helping others that started during my childhood years. I grew with my clients and while I serve individuals ages 18 and up, I can relate to most people about most things because of my life experience. I know what it feels like to deal with an abandonment wound, sexual trauma, and anxiety and depression, so it allows me to connect better with clients because I just sort of get it.

I’m honestly most proud of my recent work with my CE workshop: The Bigger Picture: Understanding the Role of Historical Trauma in African American Identity Development that I presented at the LPCA-GA conference in May 2022. I’m passionate about many issues in mental health, but I chose to create a workshop to educate others on improving the African American experience in counseling. African Americans are one of the most under-served and misdiagnosed communities and there is a shortage of BIPOC counselors, social workers, and psychologists. In this workshop, I highlight ways for non-BIPOC and BIPOC counselors to connect with African Americans and provide culturally competent care. I also explore how historical traumas like slavery, the civil rights movement, and most recently the increase in police shootings has on our mental health.

It’s been a long journey to get to where I am currently within my profession. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of tears through undergrad, grad school, and the process of becoming fully licensed to practice. I cried every Wednesday during grad school because I had a 90-minute commute from my job in Griffin, Georgia to my school in Phenix City, AL. I also had a lot of setbacks along the way due to personal failures, legal issues, and dealing with a bit of imposter syndrome at times. I always knew that I had a gift and that I was supposed to use my influence to facilitate change, but I think I struggled with it mentally because I didn’t think others would see my value because of where I come from.

I overcame those challenges by focusing on my end goal. I wanted to change the way we do mental health within my community. Honestly, initially my plan was to start an LGBTQIA+ independent living home for teenagers who had been kicked out of their homes by their parents because of their sexual identity or gender identity. My goal was to turn the home that I purchased in 2014 into that space and buy another home somewhere else. When things didn’t work out with that plan, I pivoted and found other ways to be an advocate within all of my communities. As a triple minority (black, lesbian, female), I feel that it’s my responsibility as a clinician to be a voice for all parts of myself that are under-represented in the world.

How you start doesn’t have to be how you finish. You have the ability to create your own narrative, your own story. I never in a million years thought that I would actually be able to do a third of the things that I do every single day 10 years ago. I’ve learned over the years that I am my biggest critic and because of that I have to be my biggest supporter. I’ve learned to not limit myself because of my fears because the only thing that someone can do is tell me no. Fear held me back for quite some time, which when I look back is crazy because the things that I accomplished at 23 when I started my first company Divine Inspirations Enterprises were things that the average 23-year-old wasn’t doing before the height of social media. I wrote, directed, and produced my first (and only) full length stage play “So Called Christian” right after my 24th birthday and then I ended up in an abusive relationship for three years and I lost myself and all of that confidence that I had prior to going into that relationship. It took me over a decade to get back to the mental level that I was on prior to losing myself around 2007.

I want people to know that Unique Destiny isn’t just a name. Everyone has a unique destiny, it’s up to you to tap into the uniqueness that is within you. We all have gifts, skills, and talents, it’s up to us to create our own story. Tap into your passion and that will lead you to your purpose, and that will lead you to your Unique Destiny. I’m just a little black girl from the eastside of LaGrange, who believed that she didn’t have to be limited by the generational curses that she was born into. Break the stigma, break the generational curses, and take care of your mental health! Periodt.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sunday night, we’d probably hit up Kat’s Cafe or Apache Cafe for a little poetry or comedy depending on the venue, Monday, we’d check out the World of Coke and the Aquarium and do a twofer, Tuesday- we’re hitting up a Taco Tuesday at Bar Taco because those freshly made Margaritas are on point and then heading over to The Clermont Lounge for Karaoke Tuesday. Wednesday, we’ll take a stroll through Ponce City Market and then we’re pulling up at MJQ for Wobble Wednesdays. Thursday we’ll visit the MLK monument and stroll through Little Five Points and stop at the Vortex for a burger. Friday, we’ll sit at the bar at JR Crickets in Union City and eat a 10 piece lunch special and then grab some drinks for happy hour at Nouveau in College Park and then drive down to Chairs in East Point for a good time. Saturday, it’s we’ll spend the day at Piedmont and bar hop a bit before heading to My Sisters Room to end the night.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shout out all of my childhood mentors for helping me tap into my potential. I was born and raised in a low-income neighborhood in LaGrange, Georgia by my paternal great-grandmother, Carrie O. Boykin and paternal great aunt, Jeanne Boykin.

I had a lot of anger as a child because of my abandonment issues, but one of my mentors at the church I grew up in, Ericka Davis, saw past the hard exterior and helped push me into my purpose. She put me in a play at the church when I was about eight or nine years old, and it ignited my love for the arts and education. She saw something in me that no one else could see in me at that age and that helped me to break out of my shell and start to believe in myself.

Over the years, I looked to  Ericka as an example of how I wanted to be when I grew up.  Ericka was a bit of a local celebrity in my eyes. She was on the local television station TV33 in Lagrange as an anchor and as a little black girl, seeing a black woman on television believe in you, that definitely changed the trajectory of my life.

I’d also like to shoutout my wife, Jade Varner. She has definitely been a huge source of support since she came into my life. From day one, she saw my true potential and she’s been my cheerleader and is my number #1 fan. She gave me the idea for the Podcast- Self Aware & F**cked Up and she came up with the name. On my worst days when I feel like giving up on everything, she reminds me of my value to the mental health field, my clients, and the world at large. She deserves so much credit for pushing me to step outside of my comfort zone even before I was ready to spread my wings and fly.

Last, but not least, my besties from every walk of my life, Cassy Gates, Kenneth Jordan, LaShondra Jones, Pontress Bailey, & Erika Alexander. They are all a very important part of my journey at different stages of my life and each of them have a Unique Destiny too!

Website: https://www.uniquedestiny.org/

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

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandtrice-russell-lpc-cpcs-90533282/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/treethelpc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TreetheLPC

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC01hz2oKClfosqpvP1zu2WQ

Other: https://anchor.fm/treethelpc Self Aware & F**cked Up Podcast

Image Credits
Tourvoisier Zachary

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