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Life and Work with Rakima Parson


Today we’d like to introduce you to Rakima Parson.

Rakima, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist currently living in Texas, but I’m a Louisiana native. I have spent the last several years providing services to individuals who are navigating mental health concerns and other personal obstacles. I’d say becoming a therapist was a calling more than anything. I didn’t know much about counseling until I took a work-study job in my undergraduate university’s psychological services center. I realized, quickly, that my next step in helping others would be attending graduate school and studying counseling.

In addition to providing therapeutic services, I have also delved into state-level advocacy, working to remedy some of the systemic obstacles people are facing. My earliest, concrete example challenging the status quo and disrupting inequitable systems began in middle school. It was 7th grade and my first year at a new school and I led a one-person protest about the school lunch. I tied a “No Justice, No Peace” sign around my neck and marched around the cafeteria. I guess I was fed up with the taste of the food and struggling to get the straw into the bag of chocolate milk. As you can imagine, this didn’t make me very popular with the other kids or the teachers. That day I lost my recess, but I gained my spark for speaking up for change, even when it’s not popular or easy.

Today, I love my work as a therapist and find it to be a privilege. I’ve often sought out opportunities to continuously invest in my training. I regularly share my knowledge by engaging in my community. I split my professional time seeing clients individually, working with families, interacting with school systems, advocating for policy change and speaking publicly about various mental health topics.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have gratitude for the journey. Not because it’s been easy or perfect, because I know what I’ve been put here to do is going to cost me some sweat equity. However, I have gained an abundant amount of joy, peace and love, too. I learned some very hard lessons from personal traumatic experiences. One of the hardest experiences happened before I began Kindergarten and I was separated from my parents due to their incarceration. As a child, I navigated school, but never really stood out academically. College felt academically hard, and I was already feeling the burnout of stress by the time I entered my freshman year. Junior year, thankfully, I got plugged into my purpose and started using my resources and thus my spark for lifelong learning began. Graduate school allowed me to focus only on what I was passionate about, so I found my groove academically. By the grace of God, and by inheriting values from the three strong women that raised me, I transcended my childhood experiences. My professional mission is to help others that are facing what they perceive as insurmountable odds.

My advice to women going after a goal would be to start training your mind to get comfortable with delayed gratification. Be willing to put in work and see your goals through, even when it feels hard and you feel like you are missing out. Get comfortable with missing out on the girl’s trips to Miami or the Maldives, if need be. My ability to do hard stuff without an immediate reward, is my “success superpower”. I’d also encourage women to stop letting the desire to be perceived as “smart”, stop them from asking questions. It’s counterproductive, in my opinion.

Please tell us about Centered Counseling and Consulting.
For the last six years, I have worked with clients of all ages, but I particularly have a special interest in treating trauma and chronic stress. As a Registered Play Therapist, I have advanced training in working with children and parents. Outside of the office, I’m engaged in public policy and I also serve on the boards of two non-profits. One focused on mental health and another focused on early childhood literacy.

I believe what sets me apart is my commitment to community engagement. Additionally, I’m proud of having both the extensive professional training in the field and the ability to draw on lived experience. When I advocate for people in communities of color, particularly, to connect to mental health resources, I am not asking individuals or groups to do something I haven’t done, myself. I believe that people can feel my genuine passion for the work, when we interact.

My goal in the coming years is to bring the mental health and wellness message to as many people, organizations and systems as possible. Not everyone will step into a counseling office, but I want to make it a point to step out of my office and share psychoeducation. I will be carving out more time to collaborate with individuals and organizations to present about various mental health and equity topics.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
One of the unfortunate barriers I’ve observed is that society has tried to normalize the idea that there can only be one woman at a time, in a role or at a particular level. If we buy into that idea we do everyone a disservice. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that there is enough room for all of us. I’d encourage women leaders to lift as they climb, mentor and collaborate. We can go further together.

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Image Credit:

Kimon Horne

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