How (to) I became a Therapist as a licensed Clinical Social Worker

How did I become a licensed clinical social work therapist is one of my top asked questions. Along with how long it took me. In this episode, Black Therapist Podcast host answers that question. In this episode I discuss the route it took me, why I became a licensed therapist and yes how long it took me.

Black In therapy Host Nikita Banks, LCSW is a New York Based Psychotherapist. In this episode she discusses How she became a therapist.

My name is Nikita Banks and welcome to our second episode of (Black Therapist Podcast formerly) Black In Therapy. Now if you haven’t yet listened to our first episode please go ***back and listen*** to it. Secondly please subscribe, like, subscribe, tweet us at everything “black in therapy” on Twitter, Instagram, and our Facebook fan page, also go to our website and sign up for our mailing list to find out what’s new in and exciting with black in therapy.

But now we’re on to our second episode. And this episode we’re gonna talk a little bit more about how I became a therapist which is one of the number one questions I get on social media. So sometime in telling my story I often talk about how I became a therapist and I sometimes say stuff like I got my master’s degree in a year and a half. And that is true but technically what happened was I took a two-year program in and crammed it into a year and a half. And so when people see that I got my master’s degree in that amount of time and then became a therapist you know, shortly thereafter they’re like what? How did that happen and I’m going to tell you how.

So as I stated previously I was in therapy and, I expressed an interest in becoming a therapist to my therapist and he was excited for me.

I don’t know one of my patients recently stated something to me about imposter syndrome. And I have never heard of it before which is one of the greatest things about having patients and dealing with different people from different walks of life, and different perspectives. Is that you learn a lot from your patients.

And so even part of doing this podcast for me I feel like I’m fronting. I feel like I’m a fraud. So on that day in the midst of my depression and you know just coming out of it and learning new skills and coping skills when I told my therapist I think I want to do what you do.

I felt like a complete jerk. Like what? You do what he does? I mean you have your own issues and your own problems, how you can help people solve problems. When that comment was met with excitement from him.

It got the ball rolling and it lit a fire underneath me to make sure that I was going to do everything in my power to make this dream a reality.

I know for me as a black person in this country. You know with everything that we see. With all the violence with this stupid stupid election. We are constantly under psychological attack. It makes sense to arm yourself in the best way possible with the tools that you need necessary to live a happier and healthier life. And for my friends, I saw that there was a lot of struggling going on. Mostly mentally with past problems and issues. So I wanted to find a way to create an action plan for myself to do something about it. And for me my therapist and that we actually talked about what was the best way for me to do that. So initially I thought I had to go back to school or I don’t know six years and become a psychotherapist or become a psychologist (psychologist, with a Ph.D.).

Which is what I thought a psychotherapist, was because I thought psychotherapy equaled psychology. What I didn’t know and what he explained to me was that you can go to school for six years and be a doctor with a whole bunch of debt. Which as a single mom it wasn’t something that I really want didn’t want to do. Or I can teach you how to do this in a year and a half. And I was like please short way, cheap way, please. So he suggested that I go to another CUNY school here which is nationally ranked. For social work which is Hunter College and I applied to Hunter college program.

I don’t know why I applied for and why I applied to NYU opposed to Colombia.

Colombia is the first school of social work in the country and obviously, Colombia’s an Ivy League school. However, I was a little dark-skinned girl from Brooklyn wanting to be Huxtable something about me said NYU was the way to go.

So I applied for Hunter which would have been cheap cheap cheap cheap for me and that was definitely what I was looking for. Being that I had an undergraduate degree that I graduated with absolutely no debt. Thank you Brooklyn College but I didn’t get in. Right cheap at that level is highly competitive for graduate school.

You rarely get any grants or scholarships. So I didn’t get a scholarship to go to school. And to go back and put my money where my mouth was.

And so probably maybe four or, five months after he and I had that conversation.  I started the application process but I did get into NYU. And I don’t think that I understood the gravity of going to NYU at the time. For me, it was pretty much a big deal but it took some friends of mine, to be like holy crap you’re going to you know NYU is a Huxtable school. And until I really got to get what it was about.

Why social work? obviously, I thought that psychology was the only way in and what he explained to me was that if you go to school right now and get a masters in psychology. You will not really be able to work.

I’m not sure how true that is he has this is. He has a PsyD (A doctorate of Psychology).

He knows. I don’t know anything about what’s the best or worst you know, degree for you to go after.

I just know that this was the advice that I was given. However, I do remember being in NYU in the library and a gentleman who was in our psychology masters program. Asked me why I choose social work over psychology. What I planned on doing after graduation.

What I told him was that I can go to work and get licensed and I’m going to be a psychotherapist. And he was a little shocked to hear that right after school that, that was my plan. And he was like you’re not going to go back? You’re not gonna get your doctorate?

And I was like maybe you know I want to be a D.R. I would like for people to call me doctor.

But I don’t know I’m a single mom and I don’t know if that’s my way of getting in. I just really want to work and he was kind of shocked that with a master’s level social work degree I was going to be able to be a psychotherapist. And psychotherapists means that I’m able to give one on one therapy. I’m able to use psychological evidence-based practice theories in able to help people resolve their issues.

And I’m also able to do diagnosis as well as treatment of people who have a mental illness. But what I like about social work is sometimes my work doesn’t only involve people who have mental health illnesses. Sometimes it involves giving them social action plans in order to help resolve their issues.

A major goal of social work and social workers is to help people resolve social issues and social activism and I’m a little disappointed, to be honest with you at NYU’s program because there was not enough social activism in the program which I would like to help them improving and talk about ways to get that changed.

I know that there are other social work schools in New York City that does, more community organizing and community-based activities that helps them expand.

But my job involved problem-solving skills the fact that I know how to navigate social services in New York City and I’m aware of different social agencies and social programs. That helps my patients resolve their matters.

So I’ve been able to intervene with some of my clients who I see, who have mental illness resolve some of their housing issues. I’ve been able to help refer them to legal services. I’ve been able to help one guy by just doing his resume.

Right, when he came in he was having all these problems and a lot of them were monetary.

And a lot of them had to do with what was going on in his life. And so I helped him do his resume and set up his email address. These are some of the things that I can do that are concrete solutions to mental health issues, and help reducing anxiety.

So that’s just something that I love about social work. It’s not just about theories. And “tell me how you’re feeling.” And “what does that make you feel,” It’s also okay let’s see what your goals are less breakdown your plans, partialize them.

Create an action plan that connects you with people that you need to help you get to where you gotta go and let’s fix it. And then we’ll deal with your mental health stuff.

So I’m not quite sure how you (familiar) you guys are with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But Abraham Maslow of was a psychologist and he developed a theory of human motivation and part of that theory (and it’s symbol) it’s a triangle. You can Google it: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and you’ll be able to see the symbol, which is a triangle.

At the very bottom it is physiological (needs). So when people when they’re dealing with the most primal needs, right. Like to stay alive, to eat, food, shelter, health.

You can’t think too far past that. At the very top of the pyramid on Maslow’s needs is self-actualization. Well for most of us our passion, our purpose in life, the greater good, why we are here.

Why we were born right. And so that’s where you find (out) who you are.

The problem is that not a lot of people get to that point because they’re dealing with the very bottom of the pyramid. Which are biological needs right.

So if you are fighting for survival, food, shelter, clothing, (or) basic necessities. You can’t begin to start thinking about well what is my purpose or, what is the meaning of life.

Or a bunch of philosophical stuff right? Because you’re too busy trying to live. And so my goal as a therapist is to kind of help people who are still stuck in that bottom stage, get them to the point that they can move up the ladder.

Okay and onto other parts of the pyramid. Right above those needs are biological needs which are just straight-up survival is safety.

And a lot of people of color, I believe they struggle with that safety piece. And for me growing up in a neighborhood where I have experienced a lot of trauma. I think you know being in Brooklyn the majority of my life.

I’ve had almost every single home I’ve ever lived in broken into. And I really believe the part of that is because I’ve lived in single-parent households led by women.

Majority of the time and you know we didn’t have anybody to protect us, right?

So safety for me is a big big issue. And its something that I still struggle (anxiety) with.

But I think that it’s a constant struggle but I’ve also been able to move up the ladder to getting to the point of love and belonging.

And developing a healthy level of self-esteem and to the point that I know what my purpose is? And my purpose is to do what I’m doing here today.

Okay, so I hope that answers some of your questions about, how I became a therapist. Why I became a therapist and the route I took to do what I do today. And if you have any more questions you can email us.

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