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Check Out Kate Jennings’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Jennings.

Hi Kate, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My name is Kate Jennings, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have experience working in the inpatient unit, partial hospitalization program, and intake department for a local children’s hospital, at a residential psychiatric home, in the juvenile law world, and in multiple schools. I currently work with patients who have primary medical conditions in order to help with their mental health needs.

Specifically, I am a Clinical Therapist, which means I work for psychiatry but with a designated clinic, and my clinic is the Gastroenterology Clinic. About 75% of my patients have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or “IBD.” I am the President of the Fort Worth Leadership Board for the North Texas/Oklahoma chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and I serve as the Lead Mental Health Specialist for our summer camp exclusively for kids with Crohn’s and colitis, Camp Oasis. In 2017 I was the inaugural chair of a now annual event, Craft, where area bartenders come together to compete for the title of the Best Craft Cocktail in Cowtown, benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

In our first four years, we have raised over $360,000 for the Foundation while sipping delicious cocktails and raising awareness about IBD. I am a native of Fort Worth, where I graduated from Fort Worth Country Day School. When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my best friends died of complications from eating disorders. I decided then and there that I wanted to save the world from troubles and stress. I attended the University of Texas at Austin, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in education. I then went on to graduate school at Texas Christian University, where I earned my Masters of Education in Counseling. I am a momma of one strong-willed toddler girl (Junebug) and six-month-old baby boy (Wyatt Bee). While stuck at home in 2020 due to COVID precautions, in addition to my full-time job, I started an Instagram blog, The Bug and Bee, where I provide parenting tips and tricks and child/adolescent/teen therapy advice. Through The Bug and Bee, I am able to combine my passions for mental health, chronic illness, photography, creative social media (which I had done a lot of in promoting Craft), parenting, therapy, suicide awareness, and local networking and support.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As a parent, my two biggest struggles have been the following: 1. Our daughter’s NICU admission and 2. Her “three-nager” attitude! Our daughter, June, was born with Laryngomalicia, and we spent four days in the NICU helping her learn to eat and breathe well without aspirating. Any NICU stay is difficult and emotional, but the unexpected nature of it was extra challenging for me, especially working in the hospital and seeing so much devastation there. As for now, her sass has been quite the obstacle as parents, but that is part of why I created The Bug and Bee. I want parents to know that even as a child therapist, my children are not perfectly well-behaved little angel babies! I want other families to feel supported and cared for and know someone can empathize with them.

As far as obstacles/challenges with counseling, I think COVID has definitely changed things in my world. For a long time, all of my patients were switched to virtual patients, which was definitely an adjustment for all of us. Virtual therapy is very different from face-to-face, but it is also cool to see kiddos in their own space- they feel more comfortable because they’re lying on their bed with their dog versus sitting on a couch at the hospital. As far as obstacles/challenges with creating The Bug and Bee, there is certainly no lack of ideas for content. If anything, my list of “To Write About” is growing daily, but cranking out the content definitely takes planning and time management, especially when my full-time job comes first. I have actually picked up yet another side gig of seeing clients through the online platform Better Help, and that adds to my plate, also. So smooth, no, but I am certainly passionate about what I do, so it makes it worth it.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I think it is very rare for people to specialize in the combination of both mental and physical health. When explaining my full-time job to new patients, I say, “I help you manage your mental health so it doesn’t worsen your physical health. But also manage your physical health symptoms so they don’t bring down your mental health.” They are so intertwined, and in particular, the brain and gut are so intertwined. It can be challenging to explain how therapy can help physical symptoms, but we prove through our work that it can. I take my 16 years of experience and combine it all into a mix of real-life, hands-on, applicable information. I want to give families tips and tricks, little things they can say or do with their kids to help their kids be successful. Along the lines of Collaborative Problem Solving, I believe “Kids do well if they can,” but parents do well if they can, too! I try to keep my posts as open and honest as possible while providing professional support.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Empathy, the ability to build rapport and passion. Empathy- I explain the difference between empathy and sympathy as this. Sympathy I think of as more “feeling bad for someone. Ex. I feel bad this happened to her- I sympathize with her.” Empathy I think of as more “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ex. This happened to her, I imagine she feels sad, and I feel for her.” We have to be able to relate to each other if we want to help each other be successful. The ability to build rapport- I used to joke with my teenagers that I could build rapport quickly because I wasn’t much older than them, but now that I’m turning 35 this summer, I don’t think I can use that line anymore!

I have babysat and nannied all of my life. I have always wanted to work with kids in some form or fashion, and that’s all I’ve ever known. It comes absolutely naturally to me. I have always also known without a doubt that I was born to be a mom. So the fact that The Bug and Bee allows me to combine my ability to build rapport with others without even meeting them while also sharing a piece of my heart is absolutely essential to me. And last, easily comes the passion. You have to like what you’re doing or you will burn out or be miserable. When people would ask me if I was going back to work after maternity leave, I would tell them, “Of course! I love my patients too much to not come back!”

 Contact Info:

Image Credits
Headshot- Canon Sawyer Newborn pic in chair- Nikki Caviness Family picture in field- Nikki Caviness

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