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Kimberly Amazu, Counselor
I was born and raised in California. I spent my early childhood growing up in Compton, California and spent my adolescence in Southern California’s Inland Empire. I am the daughter of Tommie & Holly Stephens who were both born and raised in the south (Arkansas & Tennessee respectively) so although I am a Cali Girl I’m also a Southern Belle at heart. My father is a hard worker and entrepreneur, which is where I get my work ethic and hustle from. My mother, who joined the ancestors in 2004, was my emotional support, my rock, and one of the wisest and most dynamic women I have ever known. I get my quick wit and strong intuition from her. She always had a parable, quote, Bible verse, or country saying ready for any given occasion. She used to always say, “Character is what you do when you think nobody is looking.” I can still hear her voice guiding me to be a better person to this day. I have two older sisters, one older brother, and one younger sister. Although both of my parents have European and Indigenous blood in addition to their African ancestry, I have always considered myself Black, Blackity Black in fact! I am okay with being referred to as African American as well.
I attended California State University of San Bernardino, and although I dropped out at the end of my sophomore year to work full time, I returned to school in 2005 and received my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis on Early Childhood Development in 2007. I moved to NYC in 2008 and attended Long Island University at the Brooklyn Campus to study Mental Health Counseling. I received my Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling in 2011. I am not in school but I am currently pursuing state licensure. I have already received my certification from the National Board of Certified Counselors.
I went into counseling for two reasons. The first reason was to get a better understanding of myself and my family’s generational trauma. The second reason was because I sought grief counseling after my mother passed away and I had a horrible experience with the White male counselor. I felt judged and I felt that the counselor just didn’t get me or my culture. The clinic that I went to, and several others I tried to receive services from, did not have any Black therapists. I decided that I wanted to join the field and help “add some color” to the otherwise White male field. I believe that representation in the mental health field is key because there is so much stigma around seeking treatment in the Black community, so having therapists that share the same ethnic background can make a person more likely to seek treatment.
I am currently working as a School Mental Health Supervisor for the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), and have been working in schools on behalf of DOHMH since March of 2017 when I started as a School Mental Health Consultant before my promotion in 2018. Prior to joining DOHMH, I spent 3 years with The Door as a Resident Life Coach in the Supportive Housing Program, which serves formerly homeless LGBTQ youth/young adults with mental health needs. I have also worked as a School Crisis Counselor under the Project Hope Grant providing counseling services to the school community of Belle Harbor after Superstorm Sandy. Prior to that I worked as a Health Care Integrator and provided Intensive In-Home Counseling to children in the foster care system and their families as well. I have spent the last 10+ years in the mental health field dedicating myself to serving children, youth/young adults, and families in Black/Brown communities.
I care because Black people are MY people. My people have been through (historically and currently) so much racial and generational trauma that we have not healed from as a whole. We have conditioned ourselves to just “push through” or our faith has told us we can “pray it away”. We have been conditioned to just survive, but in order to live our best lives we must move out of survival mode and begin to thrive. The only way to do that is to do the emotional work within ourselves to start our healing journey. I truly desire to help other Black people start their path of healing and mental/emotional wellness as I continue down my path as well. Our community deserves healing, and I believe we can achieve it together. Like the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I have experienced racism throughout my life and my career. One of my earliest memories is being called the n-word by a grown White man when I was 6 years old, and even though I didn’t fully understand what it meant I knew that it must be bad after seeing my father fly into a fury after the man. My parents had “The Talk” with me that day, and continued educating me on the ways that White Supremacy rules our country. I’ve been called the n-word more times than I can count, but I’ve also experienced racial microaggressions as well. I’ve been called the “well-spoken Black girl”. I’ve been assumed to be unprofessional due to wearing my hair in its natural state. I’ve been told I’m “not like the others”. I’ve been in workplaces in which my knowledge has been challenged in ways that my White counterparts were not. I’ve been overlooked for promotions and told I was too “aggressive” or “intimidating” for saying/doing the same things my White colleagues did but they were seen as “passionate” and “assertive”. Often times I have been the only or one of few Black women in my class or at my job so I am no stranger to being the “angry Black woman”. I wish my younger self had the tools that I have now to combat and cope with racist people and their hate!
Therapeutically, I pull from multiple theoretical approaches to create my personal counseling style so that I can always adjust to the needs of my clients, but Person Centered Therapy is at the core of my general approach. I prefer for my sessions to be more conversational and less rigid and “clinical”, as clients seem to respond best to a more relaxed flow. I have received training in and utilize aspects of Psychodynamic therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Adlerian therapy, and Motivational Interviewing. I center Black experiences and emotions, and I empower clients to learn how to navigate their traumatic experiences and emotions. Whether clients are dealing with a crisis, experiencing depression or anxiety, struggling with life changes, want to learn stress management/mindfulness techniques, want to address unresolved trauma, having relationship issues, or want to discover how to unpack and cope with racism/sexism, I can assist them on their journey to healing.
My clients have said that I “keep it real”, that I’m “down to earth”, and “not stuffy like other therapists”. I have had clients tell me that they did not generally like therapists but that they trust me and “like my vibe.” I believe my clients can see that I am empathic, witty and I genuinely care about their well-being. My goal is to make my clients feel like their feelings are always validated, they are safe, and they are free from judgment during our time together.
I LOVE karaoke! I was introduced to it by a Filipino friend in high school, whose mom had an entire professional style karaoke system in her house, and since I grabbed that mic for the first time in the 90’s I’ve been hooked ever since. My friends and I still go karaoke as often as we can and we love to rent private rooms and sing our hearts out! Can I sing? Nope. But I can perform like nobody’s business!