What is your main goal when working with a client?
The primary goal when working with every client is to create a therapeutic alliance that can help each individual share difficulties and stressors they are experiencing within their personal lives and family systems. It is my hope to provide a multiculturally-sensitive environment, and assist clients in developing new skills and cognitive techniques for finding mental, physical, and spiritual balance within themselves, hopefully cultivating attitudes and awareness for mindful and peaceful thinking and living.
What is your approach and what methods do you employ?
Wellness-Systems Solution Focused Therapy (WSSFT, sounds like, “Wise-Fit”) is the counseling approach which I have developed as a holistic combination of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) and Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) that is customized for each client’s needs to enhance mental performance and promote mental, physical, and spiritual balance and health.
What age groups do you most often work with?
I work primarily with parents and their children, teenagers, or young adults who range in age from elementary school to early 30’s. Each session also has a family-systems approach found to be essential when working with parents and their kidsto improve communication, cooperation, and harmony with each family member while in the home, or out of the house in social or professional settings.
Are you passive or active in the session, what can a client typically expect sessions to be like while working with you?
I would consider myself an active counselor, in which I hope to facilitate a safe space that assists each client with sharing stressors and obstacles effecting their life success and happiness. Furthermore, while being active in session to guide the therapeutic process and build momentum for improvement, clients and I will createtherapeutic long-term and short-term goals to help improve their mental health performance, emotional balance, and life-success by creating and achieving small successive steps of improvement. Improvement each day and week is very possible, and I have found that mental health improvement can be strengthened with the therapeutic rejuvenation and growth of a client’s hope. Personal hopefocused in healthy directions helps to fuel a client’s willpower, and as willpower increases, new forms of motivation to develop skills for making healthy choices and changes in the present and future are more likely to occur.
What is your background and what are your credentials?
In May 2020, I completed my Clinical Internship in the College of Sciences Advising Services office (COSAS) at the University of Central Florida for my Rollins College Master’s degree program, facilitating an intervention program for COSAS students in academic decline. Each student-client was required to complete at least two sessions with me or another counselor. Interestingly, many of my clients continued to have appointments throughout the school year in addition to the required two sessions because they considered the counseling sessions to be helpful for improving their emotional, relational, and academic stress.
Additionally, while at Florida State University earning a second bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Sciences, I completed an internship working with young people on-site at an elementary school and middle school outside of Tallahassee, Florida. This particular internship experience certainly enhanced my knowledge and skills for working with children and families with mental health counseling needs. The work conducted with the elementary school students consisted of play therapy, narrative therapy, and academic coaching and was found to be an effective experience for the students and school personnel based on the principal’s and teachers’ self-reports. The middle school students participated in a group counseling format with separate groups for males in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade who were referred to the counselors from the school guidance office.
I have also worked in various clinical counseling treatment settings before Gilstrap & Associates. My past experiences consist of working as a psychiatric technical assistant at two different mental health hospital adolescent units, and as a recreation therapy assistant director while working on an adult residential unit at a behavioral health hospital in Central Florida.
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate academic experiences I have also worked as an expert human performance researcher, gaining experience in how to develop and facilitate empirically based research projects and presentations while studying at Florida State University and Rollins College. In the near future, I hope to collaborate with local universities and colleges in Central Florida to develop new research initiatives aimed at enhancing the mental health functioning of individuals and families within our local communities who are in great need of counseling services due to economic and systemic barriers.
Moreover, while completing my undergraduate education at FSU, I served the university as a student senator representing the College of Human Sciences in 2016. Presently, as I am now a clinical mental health counselor and a human rights advocate for people in need, I hope to participate in future work in public service by fostering communication between community members with local and state legislators. In doing so, I hope to create Florida state bills that support initiatives and projects which promote healthy changes for families and to help increase accessibility of clinical mental health counseling resources for families and children.
What is the reason you decided to get into counseling?
Working in the field of counseling services as a mental health counselor has been a long-term goal over the course of many years. While in high school, college, or after college, I consistently observed the difficulties and painful life events which friends, family, and acquaintances experienced in their own personal lives, but who did not seek out counseling services, or services were not provided to them when needed the most. It is essential for young people, young adults, and adults of all age ranges to share their emotional difficulties and to also learn coping skills for decreasing feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or symptoms related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The last several decades have also shown increases in the use of prescription medications for alleviating uncomfortable or negative feelings. Medications for ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms are very important for treatment management and success, however, medication and counseling therapeutic services combined have been found in research to be the most effective format for treating mental health dysfunction and distress. I hope to be a clinical counselor that optimizes a treatment team format while working with other clinical professionals to provide the best care possible to individuals and their families.
Tell us about your education.
I grew up here in Orlando, Florida in the same areas where most of our clients live, work, and go to school. After high school graduation, I attended Florida State University earning a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. Several years later after working in the field of counseling services as a psychiatric technical assistant, I returned to FSU in 2015 to earn a second Bachelors degree in Family and Child Sciences to attain the education and training needed to be accepted into a Clinical Counseling Master’s Degree program. I earned my Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College in May 2020 where I received an excellent training experience for enhancing my skills and abilities as a clinical counselor, and as a community advocate for those who have less resources and opportunities due to economic and systemic barriers.