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Meet Shanaz Ikonne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shanaz Ikonne. 

Hi Shanaz, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
After graduating from UNT with my master’s in Counseling I worked as an LPC intern in Fort Worth with adults at a physical therapy and rehabilitation center. It was not originally what I had in mind for my postgraduate focus but it turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding and holistic experience in terms of populations and learning more about trauma in the body. It created a foundation for understanding pain management, traumatic brain injuries, and how people recover and cope with physical and emotional pain. While I was interning at Fort Worth I also worked in Lewisville at a non-profit, community mental health center. I served mostly youth and families that were court-ordered or needed free sessions. I earned my required 3000 post-graduate hours and became fully licensed after that I got married and moved to Austin in 2016. In Austin, I worked in many settings/surrounding cities and found that trauma was a common thread of clients’ presenting issues. I started to focus more of my training around this and specialized in treating trauma in children, families, and staff in a local public school. I worked in community school-based mental health for 3 years and thoroughly enjoyed having autonomy to create and design a trauma-informed program at a high-risk school. It was an incredible challenge having to start from scratch but I focused on building relationships and trust in the school and created a successful trauma-informed program. I worked with teachers, parents, and students by providing therapy on campus so it resulted in less absences, increased regulation and reduced trauma-based responses, and increased overall mental wellness on campus. I took 3 months of maternity leave when my son was born in 2019 and when I returned in February 2020, I also served as training manager at the agency, and then a month later Covid changed the way I provided therapy. Overnight everything transitioned to virtual therapy, schools were closed and I adapted the best I could while recognizing that some of my clients did not have the privilege of wi-fi, access to technology, or a quiet space to conduct virtual sessions. I found a balance and way of checking in with students while trying to provide a sense of safety and refuge for them as they dealt with the unknown while dealing with my own fears of job security and how the pandemic was impacting my client’s overall mental health. During that time, I was furloughed to limited hours and started working at a group practice in Austin that focused on relational trauma work. After George Floyd’s death, I saw an influx of people seeking therapy and realized that life is so short and not guaranteed. In my own introspective work, birthing experience, and reflection I did not feel supported as a therapist of color. I recognized that there was more work and support needed for marginalized communities, specifically in maternal mental healthcare. My focus and my niche is serving women, mothers, and young professionals. I enjoy working with college-aged adults either in graduate school or those finding their way and identity, in addition to supporting perinatal and postpartum women in their journey of balancing multiple roles, facing stressors of having it all together, and helping them reclaim their most authentic lives. I’m facilitating support groups focused on maternal mental health in Spring 2022 so please check out the website (www.shanazikonne.com) if you or someone you know could benefit. In addition to groups, I am hosting free events in the community designed for all moms so they can grow their support system. Nobody hands you the keys and an instruction manual to being a parent and whether this is your first, second or third baby, each mother needs to learn how to take care of their children and herself. Moms are expected to multitask now more than ever, splitting time for herself and children, along with other identities and roles to fulfill daily. Sometimes sitting with mom guilt and frustration for not having “it always together” or suffering in silence from the stigma of social pressures or not recognizing your own depression and anxiety. Moms need time to develop a new mindset that allows them to love themself, including changes both mentally and physically. Motherhood is an all-encompassing journey – one that you don’t have to walk alone. In our support group, we learn to grow, adapt and become the best version of ourselves in the process. My goal is to help moms feel connected, be seen, heard, valued, and feel loved while providing them with tools and strategies that can benefit their emotional wellness and increase their bond/relationship with their family.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It was definitely a bumpy ride and I would not have changed it for anything because of the resiliency and strength I developed along the way. I recognize my need for Jesus Christ each day and that without Him I can’t do the work. Being a therapist is rewarding and can also be mentally exhausting at times especially due to serving clients with increased trauma including grief and loss, depression, anxiety, and isolation from Covid. In order to help overcome these challenges, I engage in daily meditation and mindful practices to stay grounded and focused. I also have morning rituals and coping strategies that I incorporate in my day such as exercise, family time and connecting in nature. I have a wonderful community that I also lean on during challenging times. Also setting boundaries between my various roles gives me peace and allows me to enjoy the journey.

In addition to overcoming my own challenges I recognize community challenges as well and find a greater need for therapists of color and having representation matters in finding a therapist that understands your challenges and experiences. These personal and professional challenges deepen my empathy and understanding for the clients I serve and since becoming a mother, I realize that women and mothers need more support and advocacy so they can have better perinatal and postpartum care and outcomes. I also offer free events in the community to help bridge the gap between income levels and access to mental health support. Please look at my website for upcoming events.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m a licensed professional and nationally board-certified counselor in Texas. I currently provide services virtually which allows me to serve anyone in Texas. I help women navigate life challenges related to identity, self-worth, and trauma wounding live their most authentic lives. I specialize in women’s mental health and am passionate about serving BIPOC communities and am an LGBTQIA2S+ ally. My other passion outside of counseling is speaking at events to reduce stigma in marginalized communities and bringing awareness to mental health issues. I have a special focus with perinatal and postpartum women and help women advocate for equitable care and mental health wellness. I know from my own personal birthing experiences that minorities and people of lower socio-economic statuses are treated differently when it comes to health care and it creates unnecessary birth trauma, longer aftercare recovery, and higher chances of postpartum depression/anxiety. I believe the level of care, empathy, and understanding for these specific issues sets me apart from general practitioners. I also provide trauma-informed and inclusive approaches to my work and offer brain spotting which is a modality for identifying, processing, and releasing emotional/somatic/body pain and trauma associated with the activating event. I incorporate this into my practice and offer other holistic mind-body approaches.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I think in almost everything we do it requires some level of risk. Whether we change jobs, end unhealthy relationships, or focus on a new goal it takes a level of vulnerability and risk to make a change. Leaving a salary job that provided consistent security in monetary terms was a risk that ultimately brought more autonomy and creativity to my life. I get to spend more time with my family and build my life on my terms. I am also diving deeper into consulting and offer this for agencies that do not have mental health care provided to their employees. The risk of having your own business can keep you from living your dreams and calling but I encourage you to step out of the conventional path and trust the process. In private practice, I chose to focus more on building my workaround clients that bring me joy and also on how I can reach more people in the community through social media, speaking events, and consulting. I have more time to pour into my community and volunteer. I left agency mental health care and took the risk of all that comes with being in private practice. I would not change any of that because the risk really drives me to expand my skill set, stepping outside of my comfort zone and networking, finding new ways to market myself, and really relying on my faith in Jesus Christ that He will continue to take care of all my needs-personally and professionally.

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Image Credits
Jeremy Harris

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