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  • Shavonda Johnson

Hope Dealer: Healing Is My Hobby


Hello All!


So HAPPY to have gotten to this place where I can take some of my passions outside of an office. As you may have learned from looking through my site, my name is Shavonda Johnson and I am a licensed social worker (and a clinical social worker in the making). I am a therapist in Ohio. My day job is being a therapist in a correctional facility. Yes, you read that right! I slang HOPE for a living. I am also a contract therapist at a local private practice, where I primarily service Black women and teens.


You may be surprised, but I actually never wanted to be a therapist. When I was in college, I wanted to graduate and become a researcher. After a series of internships, summer research programs, and other opportunities as a student, I learned that I wanted to make large scale change in a different way.


One of my internships included working in a juvenile correctional facility. My late mentor, Dr. Cunningham allowed me to help structure a literacy and leadership program in the facility after doing research on the literacy among Black, male youth. While involved in that program, I started to learn more about the youth and their backgrounds. I learned that a lot of them grew up in environments similar to the one I grew up in which was "The HOOD". Though our neighborhoods mirrored one another, our home lives presented as very different. Many of the young men in that facility did not have relationships with their fathers, but my father and mother were married. Many of them experienced unstable living situations, and my parents still live in my childhood home today. Several of them were taught the message of "fast life and fast money", while my parents pressed the importance of education or trade being our way out of the hood. I also learned about many of the traumatic experiences they had endured over the short duration of their lives while building rapport with them.


Needless to say, I shifted my perspective. The research that I was doing, did not match the antidotal truths of the youth. Research made it seem as though poor = uneducated and that was it. There was a lot more to that story and I wanted to learn more.


After undergrad, I was at odds what I wanted to do, so my mentor suggested that I get my Master's in Social Work. It was a hard NO initially. My hood-ish upbringing allowed me to only see social workers in one role and that was being someone who took away children from their parents. After working with my mentor, I learned that social works do a little bit of everything, including research. Plus I could get a board license which would increase my chances of getting a job. Before long, I was enrolled and started my journey as a social worker.


My field placement/ internship for my program was with the Department of Corrections because that is where I was matched. Surprise right? In the beginning, I was working on curriculum development policy revision, and restructuring education and training for the mental health department. They offered me an option to stay and get PAID after my first semester and I ended up staying for the duration of my program. I started going into the prisons to observe groups that were being run by clinicians using the new curriculums that our team had selected. One day I had to fill in because the facilitator got wrapped up in an emergency. This was my first taste in doing work as a clinician.


The original facilitator shared that she had gotten good feedback from the offenders and offered to let me finish the group out as the primary facilitator. I knew it would be a challenge, but I offered to do it anyway. By the time I was in my last semester, I had a full caseload and was leading a group. I can only say that it was God giving me random courage to try something VERY different that what I originally thought I was going to do. Therapy is the career that found me, but I have grown to love it and I feel that it is a HUGE part of my purpose and calling.


Moving forward I want to take what I do in cells, offices, and zoom and implement it into more nontraditional settings. I believe that there is a place for mental health, especially as it relates to business, entrepreneurship, and personal development among the late teens, 20 and 30 somethings!


Mental health has the ability to be non-traditional, inclusive, effective AND do it all with a little bit of sauce. My goal is to help people develop healthy mindsets and become the mindset moguls of their own lives. I am a a dealer or HOPE.


It is my hope that you continue to check out the Blog for posts related to mental health, religion, Black culture, and everyday tips and tricks for managing YOUR mental health.


-Shavonda AKA The Mental Health Manager




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