A m r i t a K a t a r i a
L i c e n s e d P r o f e s s i o n a l
C l i n i c a l C o u n s e l o r &
W o m e n ' s E m p o w e r m e n t C o a c h
When did you begin your coaching and counseling journey?
I began my counseling journey about 12-13 years ago. I had just finished my B.A. in Criminal Law. I found a job at a local law firm. I had thought that I had wanted to become a lawyer and pursue my law degree, but little did I know that was not at all what aligned with me. I thought back to all my jobs and they all involved helping others, whether it was tutoring at my college, or volunteering at the Children's Homes Society, or working as a camp counselor over summers. This is how my journey as a therapist began.
Fast forward 13 years, and well here we are, this is where my coaching journey began. Through my work with the South Asian/Asian population over the last few years (beginning pandemic), I began to notice that a lot of people that were reaching out for therapy didn’t really have a “mental health diagnosis”. They would experience stressors, symptoms, but wouldn’t truly fit the criteria for a mental health diagnosis. I don’t believe in labeling my clients nor identifying them through their symptoms, but simply through their life circumstances. This is when I began doing some research on coaching, what coaching provides that therapy can’t, and how maybe some clients are not the right fit for therapy, but still need some guidance and tools.
Can you describe what an empowerment coach provides?
I truly believe this is the true definition of an empowerment coach:
An empowerment coach is a professional who works with individuals to help them identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. The role of an empowerment coach is to support, encourage, and empower their clients to take control of their lives and make positive changes. They help clients to identify their strengths, overcome limiting beliefs, develop new skills, and create action plans to achieve their goals. They provide guidance, accountability, and feedback to help their clients stay on track and achieve their desired outcomes. They work with individuals from various backgrounds and in different areas of life, including career, relationships, health, personal growth, and more. They use a range of coaching techniques, such as active listening, questioning, goal-setting, visualization, and other exercises to help their clients gain clarity, confidence, and motivation to achieve their goals. Also, I believe that empowerment coaches can help clients learn positive effective coping skills that they can apply to their daily lives.
What are the services that you offer as an empowerment coach and counselor?
As a therapist, I offer services to the South Asian/Asian population for individual and couples therapy. My focus is helping clients through major life transitions, such as being newly married and adjusting to married life, and understanding the cultural impact, and how to navigate cultural expectations. I teach clients how to set personal and professional boundaries in order to promote self-growth. I help couples learn how to communicate better, work through life adjustments, and work together as a unit.
As a coach, I currently have two programs that I offer. One program focuses on self-identity and how cultural conditioning can impact identity. My other program is for mothers who want to achieve some Balance in Bliss in being working mothers, but also being able to feel good about spending time with their children without the Mum-guilt.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a coach?
At this point, I would say I have not had to overcome any challenges other than being able to manage my therapy and coaching practice. That has been a little difficult working on two businesses. I definitely remind myself that I am capable of doing both, as well as being a mother. I practice reframing my mindset if I am feeling stuck.
What are some topics that you discuss on your Instagram live?
I have had the pleasure of meeting many lovely people and professionals on Instagram. I absolutely love connecting with others and learning from them. Some topics that I have discussed on my lives are around the South Asian culture, regarding self-identity, how to navigate cultural expectations, breaking-free from cultural conditioning, toxic positivity and how it is used today.
I have a private Facebook group where provide weekly live trainings on different topics from self identity, to self-care tips, tips on how to set boundaries, cope with anxiety, time management, and many more…
How has your culture influenced your professional career?
I feel my culture and my cultural competency has been such a blessing for my professional career. I did not realize how my South Asian people needed help and guidance. I feel I have such a good understanding with some of the issues and topics that come up. Mainly, because I have lived them all and I am currently experiencing them. I truly feel that I can relate, and help others to develop an understanding, give them encouragement, evidence-based tools, and truly help guide them through difficult times.
How can people navigate cultural expectations?
Be aware of your own cultural values and beliefs: Understanding your own cultural values and beliefs is essential to navigating cultural expectations. This awareness can help you identify areas of conflict and make decisions that align with your personal values and goals.
- Communicate openly and respectfully: Communication is key to navigating cultural expectations. Be open and respectful in your interactions with others, and take the time to listen to their perspectives.
- Seek to understand their cultural values and beliefs, and find common ground where possible.
- Set boundaries: It's important to set boundaries when cultural expectations conflict with your personal goals and desires. This may mean saying no to certain requests or activities, or finding ways to compromise that align with your values and goals.
- Seek support: Navigating cultural expectations can be difficult, so it's important to seek support from friends, family, or a coach or therapist. They can provide a sounding board for your ideas, and help you identify solutions to the challenges you face.
- Take small steps: Navigating cultural expectations can be overwhelming, so it's important to take small steps and celebrate your progress along the way. Break down your goals into smaller, achievable steps, and celebrate each step you take towards achieving them.
- Embrace your culture: I truly believe in embracing the parts of your culture, the things that align with you the most, whether it's the music, food, prayer, art etc...
"Be aware of your own cultural values and beliefs: Understanding your own cultural values and beliefs is essential to navigating cultural expectations. This awareness can help you identify areas of conflict and make decisions that align with your personal values and goals".
Has motherhood influenced how you approach coaching?
YES! I would definitely have to say YES to this. I truly feel as if I am living through some of my own coaching program. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I am practicing this program. I am LIVING it myself, and finding my pockets of peace with being able to balance working, and being a “good” mother.
What are some words of advice you can give to future coaches who want to start their own coaching business?
Don’t overthink it, and just do what aligns best with you!
Can you leave the reader with a daily self-esteem tip?
I truly believe in the power of positive self-talk, and having daily affirmations. I would have to say, “I am truly proud of who I am, my growth, and the person that I am becoming”.
Outside of your business, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
I have many things that I truly enjoy doing. My favorite one is to have dance parties with my little yorkie, and 3 year old gem of a daughter. I love to take walks with my little one and explore the outdoors. I love to read, rather it's a book for me or story time with my little one. I am a very family oriented person. I find that I am truly happy doing the simplest of tasks with my family.
L a c r i s h a H o l c o m b
Therapy is Light
When did you know that you wanted to pursue the path of becoming a licensed therapist?
Funny enough, I do not think I ever had that one magical moment where it made sense for me to become a licensed therapist. I remember seeking therapy as a distressed college student with a very vague understanding of what it was, but knowing I desperately needed support. Because I went to an HBCU (thee illustrious Howard University! *chuckles*), my psychologist was Black. My first career straight out of undergraduate was as a teacher in Teach For America. As a group, we went through a cathartic processing of our motivations to teach. I boo-hoo sobbed during my first collective sharing of many of the unaddressed childhood traumas I experienced in my youth, and how education was my refuge. It was liberating because we all were crying, all of us teachers-intraining. The gathering was essentially group therapy. I was stationed in Memphis, Tennessee, and the public schools there were in a dispiriting position.
A few months later, I found my way to a career counselor, who happened to be a Black man. I had never seen Black therapists in the media, but all the ones guiding me just happened to look like me too, and it was empowering. There was a little less explaining I had to do when it came to the structural isms, the oppression that was a quiet undertone of the struggles. I would describe
embracing my calling as a clinician more as a realization that I was the hero I was looking for. There was so much depression and anxiety in those early adulthood years, and I felt myself sinking. Only I could save myself; it had to be a decision. I committed to learning how people who help people, help people.
Tell us more about your organization Therapy is Light. What inspired you to start the organization?
Therapy Is Light is the evolution of The #HugLife Project, this nebulous hub of creative ideas and serving the community that I started working on in graduate school. It was the offspring of my self-published collection of poetry and prose titled Diagnosis Consciousness: The Insanely Sane Musings of a Sophisticated Ratchet Hippie Thug Scholar. In the book, I describe being in a dark place and
being inspired by the light of a future, favorite version of myself. Step by step, I was kind of rummaging around, looking for every crumb of faith and motivation to persevere through a plethora of obstacles. I did not have the blueprint or the resources, but I felt destined to birth something that combined mental health awareness, the arts, and culturally responsive content. This manifested first
as an educational social media platform, then blossomed into community organizing and speaking engagements. We are now all things wellness for historically-excluded and currently-underserved communities, with an emphasis on the unique plights of Black people and women. Therapy Is Light fosters mental health inclusivity, while destigmatizing therapy. Our offerings include personal and professional development services, consultations, corporate training, publications, merchandise, and more! Covered topics tend to involve social justice, the creative arts in therapy, health equity, mental wealth, self-care, generational trauma, and women’s empowerment. If they ask me to represent, I am going to represent!
How do you integrate art, music, and comedy into your therapy practices?
Art, music, and comedy are integrated into my therapy practices due to my most powerful tool being being myself. I encourage the same authenticity with my clients. Inquiring on their hobbies and interests by utilizing a person-centered and psychodynamic approach results in learning more about their worldview and the stories they tell themselves, about themselves. I find other mediums to be variants of storytelling and thus harness the events going on in the culture. Unpacking a client’s favorite movie, or a song that soothed them during a challenging time can shed so much insight. Narrative therapy is a modality that similarly promotes clients externalizing their issues while discovering protective skills.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a therapist?
Plenty! No idea where to start! I think the most paradigm shifting challenge has been regularly acknowledging my humanity and prioritizing my self-care. Sometimes we get so caught up in teaching the work that we forget to be mindful and active participants of our own healing. There is a martyr complex that can trap many helpers into believing their worth and value are connected to minimizing themselves to perpetually serve other people and that is not true or fair. I have also found there to be a surprising amount of people who are dedicated to misunderstanding and misinterpreting therapists due to their own insecurities related to the profession; individuals who willfully discount everything you say and overanalyze everything you do. We are more than our job titles. Boundaries have become my best friend. My effectiveness is top-tier when my wellness is top-tier.
"Boundaries have become my best friend. My effectiveness is top-tier when my wellness is top-tier".
How did you balance helping others while also being conscious of your own self-care?
I treat my self-care like it is a full-time job because it is! Rejuvenating activities are non-negotiables that are plugged into my daily calendar every single day—a combination of going to the gym or a walk in nature, reading, journaling, positive affirmations, and chatting with loved ones. I plan at least one extra spicy event or outing to look forward to each month, and vacations at least once a quarter—even if it is just a quick weekend getaway. I consider it my duty to be present, joyful, and emotionally available in order to help others.
Why is social justice and equity important to you?
Social justice and equity are important to me because there is literally not one day that can go by that I am not painfully aware that I am existing in this world as a Black woman, with myriad other adjectives I could cushion beside and around that description, which would all bring with them extra sources of discrimination and systemic oppression. The resistance is daily. The infractions are daily. The microaggressions are daily. The trauma is daily. It is embedded into mainstream cultures, and I am too informed not to notice it all. When you are constantly sitting at tables in which the covert expectation is for you to be silent, and you are spoken to like a child or lesser person, denied normal
expressions of your humanity that you see other people partaking in with no issues--it really begins to weigh on you. It simply is not right. I crave justice in my DNA. In a different world or a few years, maybe I am a lawyer! My training at HBCUs has enhanced my cognitions in a way that it would be irresponsible for me not to be a changemaker in every space I occupy. I am tired of us (Black people, women, disenfranchised “minorities”) having to fight for basic human rights in a system that was designed to be this way. In my work, I also see the disparities when it comes to access to treatment in healthcare. We need restorative justice and reform.
What are some words of advice you can give to future therapists who want to start their own practice or business?
Mentorship, mentorship, mentorship! Internships! Friendships! All the ships! Networking, researching, and exploring are invaluable. There are a variety of directions your career can take, and sometimes you do not know what you like or do not like until you do it! Or meet someone else who has done it. You can save so much time and energy by being intentional from the beginning and
receiving first-person accounts from people whose careers you admire. I would also say that starting one’s own practice or business is no small task, so be careful not to dismiss the advantage of being an enthusiastic employee. Absorb all that you can at your places of employments, the good and the bad, so you can decrease the risks and shortcomings when your time to shine as an entrepreneur comes! Begin to develop your niche and do not be afraid to invest in yourself!
Can you leave the readers with one daily mental health tip that they can take with them?
Gratitude is a magnet for more things to be grateful for: focus on all that you do have and everything that you “get” to do!
"Gratitude is a magnet for more things to be grateful for: focus on all that you do have and everything that you “get” to do!"
Outside of your business, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
I feel like I am that person who can do almost any activity one time, just to say I did it! I’m extremely interested in the arts and culture so I love museums, open mics, concerts/live music, theater, paint and sips, movies, comedy shows, traveling, and reading!Follow at:
Facebook: Therapy is Light, LLC