Memoirs of Mental Health: Johnzelle Anderson

Part 1(Past):

A personality shaped by childhood

Childhood was characterized by both good and bad. Good: I made honor roll and did well in school. Bad: I was overweight, was often bullied, and struggled with social anxiety for most of my childhood. I believe this background contributed to me becoming introverted, assertive, and hardworking in the present. Since I didn’t fit in well with my peers, I became a natural people watcher; thus, giving me an interest in human behavior: a must for being an effective psychotherapist.

A breakdown in college

I attended a small liberal arts college with the intention of becoming an elementary school teacher. Academically, I thrived as I mastered the skills of lesson planning and organization needed to be a great teacher. Upon completing a few internships, I learned three years into my undergraduate education that I don’t like being around kids enough to devote my entire career to it.

Around that time, I was having upwards to 10 panic attacks daily. I was so miserable that I often hoped not to wake up in the morning. I saw a therapist for the first time at the college’s counseling center and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. During that time, I learned a lot about myself and how to cope with my anxiety and depression. Once I cleared some of that up, I was able to come up with an alternative plan for the psychology degree that I would graduate with.

Senior year

After surviving the most difficult year of college due to the mental health challenges, I returned for my senior year with a plan to find a new career path. I originally planned to become a school counselor in order to utilize my background in education; however, eventually settled on the plan to attend graduate school to get a professional counseling degree.

At this point in the story, I knew that I wanted my life of working to be something meaningful. I wanted to use the skills that I would gain in grad school to make a positive impact on the lives of others. I had also learned a lot about mental health through my own journey and had a desire to help others. With a psychology background and an interest in human behavior, I was excited for the next step towards becoming a therapist.

Part 2 (Present):

Graduate school/Internship

I chose to attend graduate school online and within two days of receiving my bachelor’s degree, I started my first semester. It took me a couple of semesters to hone in on the professional counseling degree, as I initially tried out the marriage and family therapy track. Graduate school wasn’t difficult for me. To be honest, it often felt more like a hoop to jump through in order to start getting some real experience.

For my second year of graduate school, I decided to devote the year to gaining experience in the mental health field. Though not required by the degree program, I learned that Virginia requires a person to have a year of full-time experience before they can work in most mental health jobs (regardless of degree). That was when I moved to Richmond, Virginia to pursue an internship position.

I spent the year working up to 40 hours a week (for free 😱) with clients in various settings: community-based counseling, groups, in 1×1 counseling, and in case management. I learned more from that internship than I ever did in my classes, which I was completing at the same time online. Though it was a challenging year, I learned that counseling was a profession that I truly loved and that I wanted to build my career in. I knew that eventually, I wanted to focus on psychotherapy in 1×1 counseling.

Community-based Counseling

Virginia makes you go through an expensive two-year residency process post-graduate-school in order to get your license to practice independently and to bill major insurance.

I secured my first paid 🙌🏽 mental health position about a month prior to graduating with my master’s degree. Ironically, it was as a counselor in a school setting (remember how I wanted nothing to do with kids?) From the year spent working with adolescents in a middle school, I learned that my niche in counseling is working with adolescents and young adults.

I’ve held various mental health jobs since then and have since completed my residency and passed the state licensure exam.

Part 3 (Future):

I completed the Virginia residency process for counseling licensure at the end of January. I took and passed the big exam earlier this month. I will now be granted my license in professional counseling (LPC). The LPC gives me the privilege to practice independently (previously, I had to work under the supervision of licensed people, which costs money).

My own business

The next step after becoming licensed was to start my business, Panoramic Counseling, LLC. My goal to start my own business isn’t solely for financial gain; rather, I’m tired of working for other people and dealing with the shady politics involved with many of the agencies by which I’ve been employed. I want to help people and I have the skills, determination, and passion to successfully run a solo practice for psychotherapy.

Introducing Panoramic Counseling! “Panoramic” means that a person has a wide view of their environment. Often, the goal of therapy is to bring someone from a clouded or narrow view of their circumstances into a wider, more aware vantage point.

Long-term plan

The long-term plan is simple. I want Panoramic Counseling to grow and to be successful. I want to positively impact the lives of those that I provide services to.

I will make it my duty to stay current with the latest developments in the mental health field through continued study and professional trainings. I don’t believe that achieving your dream is enough. You have to keep that dream alive and always strive to take it a step further.

Conclusion

If you’ve read all three parts, I hope that you’ve gained something from me sharing my story, goals, and plans.

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